As I write this letter my thoughts turn to March and to the season of Lent. Lent is always a special time for prayer, because we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness praying.
Pray? Why pray?
What can praying do?
Praying really changes things, arranges life anew.
It's good for your digestion, gives peaceful sleep at night
And fills the grayest, gloomiest day-with rays of glowing light.
Helen Steiner Rice
Jesus put a great deal of importance upon prayer because it was the way that he communicated with His Father in Heaven. Prayer is a wonderful gift to us from God. As Billy Graham puts it: "Prayer is the rope that pulls God and man together. But it doesn't pull God down to us: it pulls us up to him." Prayer is an act of faith, but prayer also encourages faith. Yet all of us find it difficult to pray at times.
Leslie Weatherhead tells the story of an old Scot who was quite ill, and the family called for their minister. As he entered the sick room and sat down, he noticed another chair on the opposite side of the bed, a chair which had also been drawn close. The pastor said, "Well, Donald, I see I'm not your first visitor for the day."
The old man looked up, was puzzled for a moment, then recognized from the nod of the head that the pastor had noticed the empty chair. "Well, Pastor, I'll tell you about that chair. Many years ago I found it quite difficult to pray, so one day I shared this problem with my pastor. He told me not to worry about kneeling or about placing myself in some pious posture. Instead, he said, 'Just sit down, put a chair opposite you, and imagine Jesus sitting in it, then talk with Him as you would a friend."' The aged Scot then added, "I've been doing that ever since."
A short time later the daughter of the Scot telephoned the pastor. When he answered, she informed him that her father had died very suddenly and she was quite shaken for she had no idea death was so near. Then she continued, "I had just gone to lie down for an hour or two, for he seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. When I went back he was dead." Then she added thoughtfully, "Except now his hand was on the empty chair at the side of the bed. Isn't that strange?". The minister said, "No, it's not so strange. I understand."
Praying should be about us talking to God as a friend. Our Lent course this year is entitled "Help us to Pray". We are planning that it will be led in small groups with 5 weekly sessions starting week commencing 1st March. The emphasis of the course is on sharing our prayer experiences, learning new techniques, and encouraging each other to enrich and develop our prayer lives.
Why don't you consider joining us - if you would like to, simply contact me.