(We are now in the new Lectionary Year B)
Isaiah 64. 1-9; Psalm 80. 1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13, 24-37
As we begin a New Year the best New Year Resolution is surely to try one’s best to be more Christ-like? Not easy! We are in the season of preparation once again and our prayers are offered with that very much in view. This is not yet the time for celebration…
The Gelasian Sacramentary is an early source for much of the material which was adapted to became the Book of Common Prayer so it probably seems vaguely familiar:
Stir up our hearts we beseech you, to prepare ourselves to receive your Son. When he comes and knocks may he find us not sleeping in sin but awake to righteousness, ceaselessly rejoicing in his love. May our hearts and minds be so purified, that we may be ready to receive his promise of eternal life.
The following prayer is a few cetntiries later (the 10th) but enlarges on some of the thoughts of Pope Gelasius
You are our eternal salvation,
the unfailing life of the world.
You are truly our redemption.
Grieving that the human race was perishing
through the tempter’s power, without leaving the heights
Readily taking our humanity by your own gracious will,
restoring joy to the world.
Redeem our souls and bodies, O Christ,
and so possess us as your shining dwellings.
By your first coming, make us righteous;
At your second coming, set us free:
so that, when the world is filled with light
and you judge all things,
we may be clad in spotles robes
and follow in your steps, O King,
into the heavenly hall.
If you feel that is all a bit remote and old, how about this?
Ar Advent we should oil the key to our hrart’s door. It may have gathered rust. If so, now is the time to oil it, in otder that the heart’s door may open more easily when the Lord Jesus wants to enter at Christmas time!l Lord, oil the hinges of our hearts’ doors that they may swing gently and easuly to welcome your coming.
Christ the King
Ezekiel 34. 11-16,20-24; Psalm 95. 1-7a; Ephesians 1. 15-23; Matthew 25.31-46
This Sunday marks the end of the Liturgical Year. We now celebrate it with Christ the King, a modern innovation which, in some ways, has its drawbacks. Many of the kings we read about in the Bible are not exactly good examples for us to follow or admire. I know, Christ isn’t like them, so why do we call him a King? He could hardly be called a President! Let’s explore how earlier generations dealt with this, starting with Frank Colquhoun.
Lord Christ, when you were here on earth
you stilled the storm.fed the hungry,
healed the sick and cast out demons.
You are the same yesterday, today and for ever.
So make known to us now, O Lord ,your grace and power.
Speak to our restless hearts your word of peace.
Satisfy the hunger of our souls.
Make our lives whole and strong,
and rescue us from the power of evil;
for the glory of your great name. Amen
One of those commemorated this week is Charles de Foucauld, hermit of the Sahara. He came to be a revered figure in Algeria, killed in 1916 by a tribesman who resented Charles’s influence. In a meditation on the Lord’s Prayer he had this to say on ‘Thy Kingdom come’
In these simple words, I am asking that you reveal the fullness of your glory, and that you make all people holy. Your kingdom will come when all people acknowledge you as Master, seeking with all their hearts to love you, and with all their energies to serve you.So in saying those words, I am committing myself to spread the knowledge of your glory to all mankind.
So it’s all about a different kind of King, isn’t it?
Patronal Festivals are there to be celebrated:
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ and brought his brother wih him
call us by your holy word
and give us grace to follow without delay
and to tell the good news of your kingdom:
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the holy Spirit
one God, now and for ever. Amen
Second before Advent
Zechariah 1.7,12-18; Psalm 90.1-8, [9-11] 12;1 Thessalonians 5.1 -11; Matthew 25.14-30
We are poised on the edge of Advent and many of the readings in recent weeks have been focussed on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It may be difficult to regard that event with quite the degree of urgency that was clearly felt in the years immediately following the Resurrection and Ascension. Nevertheless, these weeks are a time of thoughtful preparation encapsulated as usual in this Sunday’s Collect
whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil,
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure
that when he shall appear in powert and great glory
we may be made like him
in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns wirh you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amongst those remembered in this week’s lectionary is Mechtild of Magdeburg. Like Hildegard of Bingen rwo generations before her, she had mystic experiences which later resulted in a poetic composition of songs and prayers, refreshingly different
O sweet and loving God,
when I stay asleep too long,
oblivious to all your blessings,
Then, please, wake me up,
and sing to me your joyful song.
It is a song without noise or notes.
It is a song of love beyond words,
of faith beyond the power of human telling ,
I can hear it in my soul,
when you awaken me to your presence. Amen
Hebrews 10.11-25; Psalm 16; Mark 13.1-6
It is sometimes hard for those of us born before the outbreak of World War II to realise that for our children and grandchildren ‘all that stuff’ is history. For us who survived, such memories as bombing raids... constantly hearing broadcasts of deaths and disasters… .f the voice of ‘Lord Haw-Haw’… first learning of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Japan.. All these are vivid memories. The list could be continued: the Korean war, the Suez debacle, ; The mad ambitions and cruelties of mankind have continued. For us World War I is history too!We can only Mourn, Remember, Ask God’s forgiveness for our follies and seek his loving power to bring peace
A prayer of commemoration for the fallen
Father of all, remember your holy promise,
and look with love on all your people, living and departed.
On this day we especially ask that you would hold forever
all who have suffered during war, those who returned scarred by warfare,
those who waited anxiously at home,
and those who returned wounded, and disillusioned;
those who mourned, and those communities that were diminished and suffered loss.
Remember too those who acted with kindly compassion,
those who bravely risked their own lives for their comrades,
and those who in the aftermath of war, worked tirelessly for a more peaceful world.
And as you remember them, remember us, O Lord;
grant us peace in our time and a longing for the day when people of every language, race, and nation will be brought into the unity of Christ’s kingdom.
This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Almighty God, from whose love in Christ
we cannot be parted, by death or by life hear our prayer
and thanks givings for those whom we remembe this day
Fulfil in them the purpose of your love;
and bring us, with them, to your eternal joy
through Jesus Christ our Lotd.
We remember with pride and gratitude
those who fought and died .
to make peace and freedom possible
and we pray that the memory of their ssacrifice
may inspire in us resolve to seek your kingdom
and to do your will for the world of our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
A prayer for World peace
O God of the nations,
as we look to that day when you will gather people
from north and south, east and west,
into the unity of your peaceable Kingdom,
guide with your just and gentle wisdom all who take counsel
for the nations of the world,
that all your people may spend their days in security, freedom, and peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fourth before Advent
Micah 3.5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2.9-13; Matthew 24.1-24
Whilst prayer about forgiveness for those ostensibly in charge of our country when Covid 19 first struck is necessary, all that pales into insignificance in face of the violence unleashed by Hamas on Israel and the suffering of the Palestinian people it has provoked.
Father of mercies, whose Son here on earth ministered to those in need:
remember for good all those who suffer through war
by loss of home or health,
by loss of friends or loved ones,
by loss of freedom and security,
by loss of faith and hope.
Look upon our world, still torn apart by violence, and prosper the work of all who are striving for peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Have mercy, O God,on those who are victims of man’s inhumanity to man:
defenceless people in hideous war zones:
families robbed of those they love;
prisoners of war, ill-treated and tortured;
old people and children dying of starvation;
and those who still bear the scars of former wars.
Deepen our pity, O Lord, into creative prayer which will inspire us to positive action, for the sake of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
(New Every Morning)
The story, Lord, is as old as history, as remorseless as man:
Man the raider. man the plunderer, the terrorist, the conqueror,
Defiling the light of dawn with the conspiracies of night,
Perverting to evil the instruments of nature,
Dealing fear among the tents, the homesteads of the unsuspecting of the weak, confiscating, devastating.
The passions are more subtle in our time -
The fire-power of bombs for the dust-clouds of cavalry,
napalm and incendiary and machines in the skies,
Devices for wars decrying the stars,
New skills with the same curse of destruction,
The sanctity of mankind in the jeopardy of techniques,
Gracelessness against the majesty on high.
By the truth of the eternal exposure,
by the reckoning of the eternal justice,
by compassion upon kin and kind,
by the awe of your sovereignty,
turn our deeds, O good Lord,
repair our ravages,
Forgive our perversities.
O God, give peace, grateful peace.
Psalm 119. 89-104; Isaiah 55. 1-11;Luke 4.14-30
The arrival of the last Sunday after Trinity marks the beginning of a more focused season in the Church calendar. Involvement with the Bible Society’s Open the Book and use of Bible Reading Fellowship material can be a regular stimulus to reading the Bible and learning to appreciate different and valid ways in which it can be understood. We must always remember that it was not written in English but have to thank generations of scholars for their efforts to bring us authentic versions of the word of God.
Grant unto us, O merciful God, knowledge and true understanding of thy Word, that we may know what thy will is, and also may show forth in our lives those things that we do know; that we be not only knowers of thy Word, but doers of the same; by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
(Prayer from the household of Henry VIII)
Lord, here is my Bible,
Here is the quiet room, here is this quiet time, and here am I
Open my eyes, open my mind, open my heart and speak. Amen
All Saints Day
Revelation 7. 9-17; Psalm 34. 1-10; 1 John 3. 1-3; Matthew 5. 1-12
O King, eternal, immortal, invisible, who in the righteousness of thy saints has given us an example of godly life, and in their blessedness a glorious pledge of the hope of our calling, we beseech thee that, being compassed [Unknown A1] about by so great a cloud of witnesses, we may run with patience the race that is set before us, and with them receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
All Souls Day
Eternal God, Lord of heaven and earth, we remember with thanksgiving, and commend to your infinite love, those faithful souls who having served you here on earth are now at rest, especially those most dear to us.
Give us grace to follow their faith and good examples that
we may share their joy, and at last be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting, through the mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Isaiah 45. 1-7; Psalm 96.1-9[10-13]; Thessalonians 1.1-10;
History teaches us that no nation, no civilisation, is free from utter failure to treat other nations, other civilisations with kindness, with consideration, with peaceful intent.
Christians undertook Crusades to the Holy Land with moral fervour and great cruelty. Modern Israel, with equal intensity, treats the Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank as interlopers to be bottled up and then disposable. The unspeakable behaviour of Hamas who wish to destroy the State of Israel is clear for all to see.
And yet… . and yet we are all children of Abraham. The following prayers are Christian (George Appleton) Jewish and Muslim respectively. All illustrate our common knowlerge of a God of love and peace and so may they lead us to offer to our brothers and sisters a sign of peace…
Grant us to look with your eyes of compassion’
O Lord God, at the long travail of mankind,
the wars, the hungry millions,
the countless refugees,
the national disasters,
the cruel and needless deaths,
men’s inhumanity to one another,
the heartbreak and hopelessness of so many lives.
Hasten the coming of the Messianic age
when the nations shall be at peace,
and men shall live free from fear and free from want
and there shall be no more pain and no more tears,
in the security of your will,
the assurance of your love,
the coming of your kingdom,
O God of righteousness, O Lord of compassion.
Grant us peace, and goodness and blessing; life, grace and kindness, justice and mercy. Our Father , bless us all together with the light of your presence, for in the light of Your presence You give us, Lord our God, law and life, love and kindness, justice and mercy, blessing and peace. And in your eyes it is good to bless your people Israel with strength and peace.
Our Father in heaven, may your name be sanctified; your commandment stretches over heaven and earth;, may your compassion come upon earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us our sin and wrongdoings. You, the Lord of all good things, cause your mercy to descend upon us, your healing upon this sickness, and it will be healed.
Isaiah 25.1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4.1-9; Matthew 22.1-14
What desperate situations hunanjty gets itself into! We learnt at Diocesan Synod that many members of General Synod feel betrayed by the House of Bishops over ‘Living in Love and Faith’.The ancient Jewish writers raise the issue of freedom in their account of Adam and Eve in Eden. The abusive behaviour of Donald Trump fades into insignificance when we see Hamas exercising its freedom to hate Israel and, it has to be said, Israel forcibly settling hundreds of thousands of its people in the Occupied West Bank. Now read the Epistle about Euodia and Syntyche…
The following long prayer from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa in New Zealand glves us the chance to pray comprehen giely about freedom , its abuse, and our way to tackle it in God’s love
O God of many names,
lover of all people;
we pray for peace
in our hearts and homes,
in our nations and in our world;
the peace of your will, the peace of our need,
Dear Christ, our friend and our guide,
pioneer through the shadow of death,
passing through darkness to make it light,
be our companion that we may fear no evil,
and bring us to life and glory.
For the hungry and the overfed
May we have enough.
For the mourners and the mockers
May we laugh together.
For the victims and the oppressots
May we share power wisely.
For the peacemakers and the warmongers
May clear truth and stern love lead us to harmony,
For the silenced and the propangadists
May we speak our own words in truth.
For the unemployed and the overworked
May our impress on the earth be kindly and creative.
For the troubled and the sleek
May we live together as wounded healers.
For the homeless amd the cosseted
May our homes be simple, warm and welcoming.
For the vibran and the dying
May we all die to live
May God kindle in us the fire of love
to bring us alive and give warmth to the world.
Lead me from death to life
From falsehood to truth;
lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill out hearts
our world, our universe.
Isaiah 5. 1-7; Psalm 80.7-15; Philippians 3.4b-14;Matthew 21.33-46
This is Prisons Week when Elizabeth Fry is amongst those remembered in our Lectionary. We shall address first those who are imprisoned for having committed crime.
God of mercy, You know the secrets of our hearts
better than we do ourselves,
Give those convicted of crimes penitent and contrite hearts
to face the evil they have done with honesty and remorse.
May they use the time ahead to turn away from sin
and rebuild their lives on your sure foundation
that they may learn once more to walk in your ways
and live with respect for themselves and others.
And with humility accept the help they need
to take their place in society as people of blessing and peace,
through Jesus Christ our redeemer and guide. Amen
We think too of the other kind of prisoner – the prisoner of conscience - all too often a political prisoner, such as Alexei Navalny in Russia today and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer’s prayers are searing in their honesty and despair, but let us go today with one whose approach as a Lithuanian Soviet dissident imprisoned in Gulags and other Russian prisons, Victoras Petkus is uplifting
You come through thick stone walls, armed guards and bars; you bring me a starry night and ask about this and that, You are the Redeemer.. I recognise you. You are my way, my truth and my life .Even my cellar blooms with stars and peace and light pours forth. You sprinkle beautiful words on me like flowers. “Son, what are you afraid of? I am with you!”
In the middle of the 17th century there lived a man who became an Anglican priest. He wrote ‘Centuries of Meditations’ only published over 200 years after his death in 1674. His name, Thomas Traherne, is also in the lectionary for this week. One commentator wrote “ his ‘prayers sparkle with hope and love’
Let the same mind be in me that is in Christ Jesus. For he that is not led by the spirit of Christ is none of his. Holy Jesus I admire thy love unto me also. O that I could see it through all those wounds!/ O that I could feel it in all those stripes! O that I could hear it in all those groans! O that I could taste it beneath the gall and vinegar! O that I could smell all the savour of thy sweet ointments even in this Golgotha, or place of a skull. I pray thee teach me first thy love unto me, and then unto mankind! But in thy love unto mankind,! I am loved’
Either Deuteronomy 8.7-18 or Deuteronomy 28.1-14; Psalm 65;
2 Corinthians 9. 6-15; either Luke 12.26-30 or Luke 17.11-19
As one who has lived in a parish where the churchwarden was the local farmer I have experienced full frontal harvest but equally treasure the imaginative ways in which urban parishes like ours seek to express their thanks for God’s loving kindness. We too thank him for providing us with the riches of his bounty from potatoes to caviar and from music to books, from wool to timber.
Our first prayer reflects what many parishes are now seeking to do.
We dare not ask you bless out harvest feast
Till it is spread for poorest and for least
We dare not bring our harvest gifts to you
Unless our hungry brothers share them too.
Not only at this time, Lord: every day
Those whom you love are dying while we pray,
Teach us to do with less, and so to share
From our abundance more than we can spare.
Now with this harvest plenty round us piled
Show us the Christ in every starving child;
Speak, as you spoke of old in Galilee,
You feed, or refuse, not them, but me.
The news has just broken that our new Bishop has been chosen. We are to welcome some time in the new year The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, currently Bishop of Southampton. ACCM produced a prayer which, although wide-ranging, enables us to include Debbie as a focus:
O God, you have chosen women and men to serve you in the ministry of your Church and have given them a perfect example in the person of your Son Jesus Christ.
We ask your blessing on all bishops, priests and deacons especially in this diocese of Peterborough John our Acting Bishop and Debbie our Bishop Designate
Let all never forget the privilege of their calling, nor shirk its responsibilities.
Keep them in your love, that they may be good shepherds of your people and true servants of him who is your great High Priest, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A loved Saint is remembered this week: St Francis of Assisi. He produced a prayer which applies to us all, not just the clergy!
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us the desire to do only what pleases you, and the strength to do only what you command. Cleanse our souls , enlighten our minds and inflame our hearts with your Holy Spirit, that we may follow in the footsteps of ypur beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Jonah 3.10-4.11;Psalm 145.1-8; Philippians 1.21-30;
The Church of England is seeking to provide a framework of guidance offering thematic material for various seasons,. As we approach Harvest Festival season, ‘Generosity Week’ is listed. We can readily identify God’s love shown to us. Such a title for the week sounds faintly American but let’s offset that with a prayer pointing us to generosity from William Law, born and bred in Kings Cliffe!
O God, in whom nothing can live , but as it lives in love,
grant us the spirit of love, which does not want to be rewarded, honoured or esteemed, but only to become the blessing and happiness of everything that wants it; love which is the very joy of life, and thine own goodness and truth within the soul, who thyself art Love, and by love our Redeemer, from eternity to eternity. Amen
We continue the theme, with a brief prayer by Lancelot Andrewes,
Bishop of Ely and then of Winchester, remembered on Monday. As one of the main translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible he produced streams of clearly focussed prayers in beautiful language:
Thou that gavest food for all flesh
which feedst the young ravens that cry unto thee
and has nourished us from our youth up:
fill our hearts with good and gladness
and establish our hearts with peace
This week we celebrate St Michael and All Angels. Many churches dedicated to St Michael are built on hilltops including the glorious Mont St Michel in Normandy . They stand as enduring witness to the struggle against evil. Those of us with a military background cherish St Michael as the patron saint of soldiers.
Almighty God, sovereign of all creation, we praise your name for those who, with angels, have joined in the war against the powers of evil
Most of all we praise you for the cross of your Son Jesus Christ which ensures the final victory.
Grant that we who are marked with the sign of that victory may continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants to our lives’ end.
Amen (Basil; Naylor)
Isaiah 51. 1-16; Psalm 138; Romans 12.1-8; Matthew 16. 13-20.
This week's Gospel is a clear example of why the Church's description of this season as 'Ordinary Time' is a misnomer. Peter's declaration of faith means we should think of this as 'Extraordinary Time'.
We have a couple of commemorations coming up and each person offers declarations of faith too. We'll start at the easy end with our neighbour in place, if not in time, John Bunyan.
By that place stood a Cross , and a little below, in the bottom, a Sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross his burden loosed from off his shoulders , and fell from his back and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the Sepulchre, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome.
Charles Wesley offers a wide range of memorable hymns but in this one follows close on Peter's declaration
Christ, my life, my only treasure, thou alone, mould thine own
After thy good pleasure.
Thou, who paid my price, direct me!
Thine I am Holy Lamb
Save, and always save me.
Order thou my whole condition
Choose my state,
Fix my fate
By thy wise decision.
From all earthly expectation
Set me free,
Seize for thee
All my strength of passion.
A bit tougher with Bonaventura who offers something active to follow the meditation
Lord Jesus, as God’s Spirit came down and rested upon you, may the same Spirit rest upon us, bestowing his sevenfold gifts.
First, grant us the gift of understanding, by which your precepts may enlighten our minds.
Second, grant us counsel, by which we may follow in your footsteps on the path of righteousness
Third, grant us courage, by which we may ward off the Enemy’s attacks
Fourth, grant us knowledge , by which we may distinguish good from evil
Fifth, grant us piety, by which we may acquire compassionate hearts
Sixth, grant us fear, by which we may draw back from evil and submit to what is good
Seventh, grant us wisdom that we may taste fully the life-giving sweetness of your love
Isaiah 56. 1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11. 1-2a,29-32; Matthew 15[10-20]21-28
This week's readings point to the all-embracing love of God and of Jesus. The historic persecution of the Jews, still found today in anti-Semitism, sadly reflects the anti-Gentile attitude of the Jews of Christ's day. Christ came to understand that those Gentile "dogs" who had faith in God would be saved when the Jewish establishment rejected him.. Paul was able to argue successfully that even 'established' Jews such as he had been, by God's grace, and in faith through Christ, could be saved too. through Christ's self-sacrificing love
Our first prayer, adapted from one by Walter Barker, follows that line of thought
O God our Father, we thank you for inspiring Hebrew writers to give us the Bible, and Hebrew prophets to prepare the way of Christ. We thank you for the Jewish disciples who were the first missionaries and preachers
of the good news.
Above all we thank you for Jesus, your Son born of a Jewish mother.
Help us to repay so great a debt by doing all we can to offer the message of Jesus Christ back to the Jewish people.. We ask this in his name. Amen.
Our second prayer by David Adam, with its image of the incoming tide, puts all this in a wider context
O God, give us yourself above all things.
it is in your coming alone that we are enriched
It is in your coming that your true gifts come,
Come, Lord, that we may share the gifts of your presence
Come, Lord, with healing of the past,
Come and calm our memories,
Come with joy for the present,
Come and give life to our existence,
Come with hope for the future,
Come and give a sense of eternity.
Come with strength for our wills,
Come with power for our thoughts,
Come with love for our hearts,
Come and give affection to our being.
Come, Lord, give yourself above all things..
The commemorations this week include Bernard of Clairvaux who inspired more than one translation of his prayers. Both John Mason Neale and Edward Caswall produced versions of Bernard's prayer about the sweetness of Jesus..On this occasion Caswall gets my vote!
Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast,
But sweeter still thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
Jesus, our only joy be thou
As thou our prize wilt be
Jesus, be thou our glory now
And through eternity.
1 Kings 19. 9-18; Psalm 85. 8-13; Romans 10. 5-15; Matthew 14. 22-33
The theme of this week's readings is Righteousness - dedication to God . The all-too human Peter displays it when his faith appears to desert him but finally, in despair, his faith leads him to call on Christ to save him.
We have prayers by two men who fell from comfortable positions to relative obscurity but whose faith deepened and still shines through. First, though, we join in commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Almighty God, who chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of our Lord, we thank you for her trust and love,, and for her ready obedience to your will.
Give us grace to follow the example of her devotion, and to serve you with pure hearts and minds; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
George Herbert lost his influential political position when the king turned against but in his quiet rural parish he wrote memorable poems, many of which we sing today as hymns. This familiar first verse should be looked up and the remaining verses serve as a prayer and dedication to God:
King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
Thos hast heard me;
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.
Jeremy Taylor (who is commemorated this week) lost his powerful position when Charles I lost his head. Jeremy escaped and moved to Wales where he became a domestic chaplain. His prayers also have a depth springing too ,perhaps, from quietness allowing for meditation. Surprisingly relevant today!,
Hear our prayers, O Lord, and consider our desires. Give unto us true humility, a meek and quiet spirit, a loving and friendly, a holy and a useful manner of life bearing the burdens of our neighbours, denying ourselves and studying to benefit others, and to please thee in all things. Grant us to be righteous in performing promises , loving to our relatives, careful of our charges: to be gentle and easy to be entreated, slow to anger, and readily prepared for every good work.
(Let's sneak in another of Jeremy's:)
Teach us to pray often, that we may pray oftener.
Trinity 6 - Disability Awareness
Isaiah 55. 10-13; Psalm 65[1-8]9-13; Romans 1-11; Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23
As today is marked as Disability Awareness Day we shall concentrate on that topic starting with a prayer from the MU:
O God, the Father of the helpless, we pray for handicapped people and all who suffer from any kind of disability.
Give them fresh courage to face each day, and the comfort of the knowledge that you love and care for them.
Open our eyes and touch our hearts, that we may be sensitive to their needs and do all that we can to help them; for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen
We follow with a simple but profound prayer by 'BB' Denys Watkins-Pitchford the nature writer, who lived in Sudborough, near Thrapston, and is buried in Cranford churchyard:
O God, we ask your blessing on those who cannot see the beauties of nature or hear the sounds of life. Help them to feel your presence. Guide their hands and feet in safety. Help them to find the gifts which you have given them instead of sight and hearing, so that they may use then to your glory, for the sake of him who healed the blind and the deaf, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Many of you will be saddened by the news about Huw Edwards. Although this prayer by John Gunstone is used to apply to him, it reflects the level of anxiety, stress and depression experienced by many people today. You may wish to add the names of others known to you.
Jesus, our Lord and Shepherd, youu had compassion on the weak and disabled, the two blind beggars, the crippled at Bethesda, the deaf, the dumb, the mentally ill, and those troubled by evil spirits.
By the anointing of your Holy Spirit bring comfort , peace and healing to Huw Edwards in his distress.
May he have patience to accept what cannot be changed and faith to receive the healing which you offer him
in body, mind and spirit.
Equip us with discernment and love to encourage him to respond to you, to the honour and glory of the heavenly Father. Amen
The seven devils that wracked Mary Magdalen (commemorated on July 22nd) very probably centred on mental illness, but what a wonderful outcome!
Most merciful Father, whose compassion was revealed to Mary of Magdala in transforming power, cast out from our hearts all that is evil and make us new in Christ; and grant us such gratitude for your love that we, like her, may minister to the needs of your people and be witnesses to our risen Lord. In his name we ask it.
The other commemoration is a St Gregory. I found the following prayer by another St Gregory, a contemporary which is too positive not to offer :
Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. As I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen
Isaiah 44. 6-8; Psalm 86.11-17; Romans 6. 12-25; Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
Years ago when Greenbelt was held at Castle Ashby our children used to go there. Several other gatherings of a similar kind take place each year: at Keswick, Taize and elsewhere. They seek to provide spiritual food through Bible readings, commentaries. worship with hymns and songs. This week it's the turn of New Wine in their festival at Maidstone:
Dear Father God, we pray to you for the successful outcome of the United festival being held in kent this week. Give strength and encouragement to New Wine as they seek to lead those attending in enlivening their home parishes to attract more people to hear your word and learn and accept the message of love given by Jesus. Bless and strengthen all such festivals which spread the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Those of us old enough to remember will never forget the bewilderment and fear we suffered during the Second World War. It may have helped some of us to develop
resilience in later life but it gives us a particular understanding of what the people of Ukraine are suffering today:
Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of war:
for the injured and disabled,
For the mentally distressed
and for those whose faith in God and in man has been broken or destroyed...
for the homeless and refugees,
for those who are hungry
and for all who have lost their livelihood and security...
for those who mourn their dead,,
those who have lost their husband or wife, children or parents,
and especially for those who have no hope in Christ to sustain them in their grief...
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, infinite in wisdom, love and power have compassion on those for whom we pray' and help us to use all suffering in the cause of your kingdom, through him who gave himself for us on the cross. Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. Amen
Over the road from my college in Cambridge is the redundant church known to us as 'St Opposites' but, more importantly,there is the theological college known as Westcott House This week we hold Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, in mind. Many of his prayers are still in regular use. This one has a positive feel to it that encourages and inspires:
Bless us in all we think or do, seeking to know the light of your truth, and to taste of your love. The world is too much with us; help us to get nearer to you and to the things and thoughts that die not, evermore you have promised that you will hear and answer the prayer of your children in their needs. Save us from ourselves at all times, O our God, and keep us for your kingdom.Amen
Sunday 2nd July - Trinity 5
Isaiah 55.10-13; Psalm 65. [1-8] 9-13; Roman 8. 1-11; Matthew 13, 1-9,18-23
As a benefice we rejoiced last Sunday being with Andrew as he presided at Holy Communion for the first time. We also thanked Rob for his effective witness during his short stay with us as he moves towards ordination. We have Worship Teams some members of which aspire to greater commitment. This surely leads us to pray for all who feel the stirrings of vocation of any kind.
O Lord Jesus Christ who called people from their daily work
Saying to them 'Come ye after me'
May your children hear today your voice and gladly answer your call
To give their lives to you, to serve your Church, to offer their gifts
And give away their hearts to you only.
Bless their hopes, the first tiny stirrings of desire
The little resolve to go forward, the small vision of what might be.
Deal gently with their fears, the hesitation of uncertainty,
The darkness of the unknown
The lack of confidence in their own capacity
And turn it all to trust in you
(Gabrielle Hadingham, USPG)
Two interesting men in the lectionary this week St Benedict of Nursia and John Keble.
Saint Benedict is another of those of whom it is written "Little is known of his life" (he died at Monte Cassino in the middle of the 6th century after all) but his monastic rule was widely adopted. He is regarded as the patriarch of Western monks. The following prayer is attributed to him and certainly reflects his approach to the monastic life (but applies to us today and is not to be confined to monks!):
Almighty God, give us wisdom to perceive you, intellect to understand you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you and life to proclaim you, through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Some might say of John Keble that too much is known of his life! He was born in 1792 and went up to the University of Oxford at the age of 15 and gained a double first at 18. He was an accepted poet, became ordained and was one of the founders of the Oxford Movement which re-established the catholic tradition in the Church of England. He wrote a whole series of verses which were gathered together in 'The Christian Year' which has been described as 'The Prayer Book in verse' He died in 1866. One or the most familiar of his hymns is:
New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought
Renewed to life and power and thought.
New mercies each returning day
Hover around us as we pray,
New perils past, new sins forgiven
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
Jeremiah 28.5-9; Psalm 89, 1-4, 15-18; Romans 6.12-23; Matthew 10.40-42
Some of the older ones among us will remember Thora Hird. She was an actress and in her later years took an active part in many religious programmes on TV. She dug up quite a few interesting prayers and here’s part of one of them described as bein g by a seventeenth century nun
I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing Humility,
and a lessening of cocksureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memory of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken
Keep me reasonably sweet ,
I do not want to be a saint
(some of them are so hard to live with)
but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
and talents in unexpected people
and give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
As this is the week when the Apostle Thomas - “Doubting Thomas” is commemorated, a prayer reflecting the troublous times in which we live seems appropriate:
In times of doubt and questions, when our belief is perplexed by new teaching, new thought, when our faith is strained by creeds, by doctrines, by mysteries beyond our understanding, give us the faithfulness of learners, and the courage of believers in thee; give us boldness to examine and faith to trust all truth, stability to hold fast our tradition with enlightened interpretation, to grasp new knowledge and combine it loyally and honestly with old; alike from stubborn rejection of new revelation and from hasty assurance that we are wiser than our fathers, save us and help us, O Lord. Amen
Let us move from doubt, turmoil and uncertainty with an evening prayer of quiet faith by George Appleton
My God, as I come to the end of another day, I lift a grateful heart to thee. I thank thee for thy presence with me, for the love of family and friends, for the kindness that I have received today, for the joy of living and for the satisfaction of daily work. I thank thee for thy patience with me, for thy forgiveness and for the grace made available for me through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen
Exodus 19. 2-8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5.1-8; Matthew 9.35-10.8 ,19-23
The prayers may have a slightly different flavour about them this time, but I will explain why as we go along.
We start off in the official format because I am speaking about a person listed in the lectionary for this week Saint Alban, He labours under the traditional problem that “very little is known about him”. He was active in about the year 350. It is said that he protected a Christian priest from being arrested and tortured. As a result, he himself was beheaded. He is given the status of being the first British Christian martyr. British society today is less violent perhaps, but the Collect reminds us that our Christian witness is still called for.
Personal note I lived briefly in Saint Albans during the 1950s
when the gospel of Christ first came to our land
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban
by making him the first to win a martyr’s crown:
grant that, following his example,
in the fellowship of the Saints
we may worship you, the living God,
and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
one one Cod now and for ever. Amen
We are still with the lectionary, because we have come forward almost exactly 1300 years but we are going to be looking at a version of Psalm 100 that was produced by a Brit, possibly a Scot, his name was William Kethe and he wrote a metrical version of the psalm. This formed part of the first British collection of metrical psalms produced by a man called Daye .The object of this was to provide the congregation with the opportunity of singing at a time when the tradition was still to leave that sort of thing in complicated form,to the choir.
All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice
Him serve with fear, his praise forth tell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.
The Lord ,ye know, is God indeed
Without our aid he did us make
We are his folk, he doth us feed
And for his sheep he doth us take.
Personal note: I have always found it difficult to sing the tune known as The Old Hundreth with a cheerful voice...
If you look at a secular calendar you will see “Father's Day”. I see this purely as a commercial operation, designed to extract money from your pocket. I feel the same about the so-called Mother's Day. Mothering Sunday is something very different.
I am blessed in sharing with Janet three children, six grandchildren, each with a wife or partner and now two great- grandchildren. The family is where my prayers are directed.
Father, how can I express what I owe to my family?
I have shared so much of life with them, old and young,
Even when they are far from me, we are bound closely together when I am angry or frustrated, they rescue me from myself, when I doubt, they rekindle my faith.
My family make demands on my time and energy they remind me that I am still wanted.
(More Everyday Prayers) Finally, generationally adapted
Thank you, God, for the gift of great grandchildren I love them to come and stay. And thank you, God, for that blessed peace that descends when they've gone away (Jean Crowther)
Festival of Saint Barnabas
The lectionary offers alternative readings for this Festival they are
either Job 29.11-16; Psalm 112; Acts 11.19-30; John15.12- 17
or Acts 11.19-30; Psalm 112; Galatians 2.1-10; John 15.12-17
The collect for Saint Barnabas Day is particularly well constructed and goes like this:
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts,
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas
and gave him grace to encourage others;
help us, by his example,
to be generous in our judgments
and unselfish in our service:
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
The ever-reliable Frank Colquhoun also offers his take on our Encurager:
Christ our Lord, we remember today with thanksgiving your servant Barnabas, that generous and warm-hearted man who was a true Son of Consolation in the Apostolic Church.
Help us by your grace to follow his faith, the faith that works through love; and like him, make us generous in our giving, in our judgments and in our friendship.
Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of your name. Amen
Like many others my thoughts over the past few days have been with the people who live on the banks of the river Dnipro. The destruction of the Nova Khaknovka Dam has been an act of wickedness committed probably by men who believe they are doing their Christian duty in fighting against threats from western materialism. I do not ignore the sufferers, please pray for them, but the following prayer of unknown origin and dating back 1000 years comes down to us in the context of the Holy Trinity but serves as a reminder that we are all sinners.
Perhaps St Barnabas reminded his hearers of this, and pointed out that if we acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness, there is hope for all who believe in our salvation through Christ.
Receive, O Holy Trinity, those these oblations which I, a sinner, offer both for myself and for the whole Christian people, for our brothers and sisters and for those who remember us regularly in their prayers, so that in this present world we may deserve to receive forgiveness of all our sins, and in the next may deserve to attain eternal res,t through you, Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen
Psalms 97,98; Exodus 34, 1-10; Mark 1. 1 to 13
Many clergy, bless them, struggle to find analogies for three in one and one in three, but it is easier just to think of the way in which our God manifests himself by looking at how we fit him into in our day-to-day living and in our spiritual lives. Brian Wren encapsulates this:
beginning and end
giver of food and drink,
clothing and warmth, love and hope
life in all its goodnes -
we praise and adore you
Jesus, Wisdom and Word,
lover of outcasts, friend of the poor,
one of us yet one with God;
crucified and risen;
life in the midst of death -
we praise and adore you
storm and breath of love;
waker of the oppressed,
unseen and unexpected, untamable energy of life -
we praise and adore you
whose nature is community
source of all sharing
in whom we love and meet and know our neighbour
life in all its fullness making all things new
we praise and adore you
Bishop Ken (commemorated this week) was partiocilarly gifted in finding ways in which to put this across. He was a entering a Christian hospital and he uttered this prayer at the door - which applies just as much to our church doors
O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy pride and strife; make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the Temper’s power. God make the door of this house the gateway to thine eternal Kingdom. Amen
If you find Brian disturbing thenThomas Ken may be more digestible:
To God the Father, who first loved us, and made us acceptable in the Beloved
To God the Son, who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood To God the Holy Ghost, who sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts. Be all love and glory for time and eternity. Amen
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2.1-21; Psalm 104.24-34, 35b;1 Corinthians 12. 3b –13; John 20.19-23 or John 7. 37-39
Pentecost is a complicated way for us to describe this Festival. It indicates (in Latin!) celebration in the Jewish faith the festival marking the fiftieth day after the second day of the Passover. Let’s call it the day of the Holy Spirit!
The Spirit has clearly been at work – borne out by the number of prayers each generation has been inspired to create.
Wind of God keep on blowing,
sail over the barriers that we build
to divide ourselves from each other
Pick up your seeds of freedom and truth
wherever they flourish carry them across frontiers
to be planted in other soil,
to begin fresh growth and new forms
Blow from the South
to the ears of Northern peoples,
blow away the blinkers
which keep our eyes focused only on the past,
repeating its violence deepening its divisions
and adding to its to its despair ,
Reveal the new future you have in mind for us
Fire of God, keep on burning
smoluder in the hearts of people
where oppression keeps them in chains,
where unemployment and poverty devalue their humanity
and where hunger weakens the spirit
Burn in them like Moses’ bush
and do not let them be destroyed.
Tongue of God, keep on speaking
so that the peoples of earth
can speak your language to each other
and all can hear you in their own.
Speak peace where nations meet,
justice where ideas clash,
mercy where power reigns,
healing where minds and bodies hurt,
and love where churches seek your unity,
and wherever else Babel drowns out the sound of Pentecost.
There's a great deal packed in by Graham, Ian Black offers a a simple and straightforward alternative –but it’s not as simple as it first appears:
Holy Spirit of God,
breathe into your followers
new life and confidence
as you did in the upper room..
Pour upon your whole church
the gifts of your grace
that it may live and work
to your praise and glory Amen
Easter 7 (Sunday after Ascension Day)
Acts 1.6-14; Psalm 68.1-10,32-35; 1 Peter 4.12-14; 5.6-11; John 17.1-11
The Roman god Janus had two heads – one looked forward, the other looked back. This Sunday is similar! We look back to the glories of Easter and forward to the risen Christ alive here for us today and every day, Charles Wesley (who, together with brother John, is commemorated this week) reflects that in his hymn:
Hail the day that sees him rise
Glorious to his native skies
Christ a while to mortals given
Enters now the highest heaven.
See! The heaven its Lord receives
Yet he loves the earth he leaves
Though returning to his throne
Still he calls mankind his own
See! He lifts his hands above
See! He shows his prints of love
Hark! His gracious lips bestow
Blessings on hic Church below.
Which leads quite naturally to our next prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the service to us by Donald, our Bishop for over a decade. We pray for John, our present Bishop, with the heavy burden he has to carry. Support him with your love and power to withstand the many pressures over the coming months. Be close to those whose task it is to discern your wishes for our new bishop as they seek your help. May we be blessed with a man or woman ready to lead, ready to listen and always open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We ask this in your beloved name, Amen
Having looked forward to an event probably 12 months ahead let us look forward just one Sunday to Pentecost! The words are familiar but powerful:
O Lord, who has taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth, send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the very bond of peace and virtues without which whosoever lives is counted dead before you; grant us this for your Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen
Acts 7.55-60; Psalm 31.1-5,15-16; 1 Peter 2. 2-10; John 14.1-14
Our Gospel passage includes that wonderful reassurance that accompanies a coffin as it enters the church. Jesus Christ tells his disciples that he will be playing the role of a dragoman in going ahead, fixing up their next accommodation, and assuring them that ‘all will be well’ Whilst we remain in the Easter Season, we have other events to think about this week! On Monday we remember Julian of Norwich. She has been very much in my mind as, over the Bank Holiday, we visited the house we lived in in Norwich 50 years ago. Let’s begin with Easter however with John Chrysostom and Basil the Great:
Let our mouth be filled with thy praise, O Lord, that we may sing of thy glory, for that thou hast counted us worthy to partake of thy holy, divine, immortal and life-giving mysteries: preserve thou us in thy holiness that we may learn of thy righteousness long. Alleluia, Alleluia .
Now for Julian who re-emerged from relative obscurity during our Norwich years
I learned that love was our Lord’s
And I saw for certain both here and elsewhere that before ever he made us, God loved .
In this love all his works have been he has made everything serve us: and in this love our life is everlasting
Our beginning was when we were made but the love in which he made us never had beginning. In it we have our beginning. All this we shall see in God for ever. May Jesus grant this.
King Charles and Queen Camilla will be very much in our thoughts and prayers this week. Charles will be the first to admit that the power he exercises is ‘soft’. Let's spread the net wider with Lilian Cox
King of kings and Lord of lords,
We pray today for statesmen, rulers and leaders
May they be quiet in spirit, clear in understand the issues that face them. May they of the common people on whose behalf they must think and act May they remember that in keeping thy laws is man’s good and happiness.
Grant them patience, grant them their anxieties be their their opportunities thou their their plans and their actions may thy kingdom
Acts 2.42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2,19-25. John 10.1-10
The Psalmist was writing for a society where agriculture was a normal and significant feature of daily life. We are more likely today to know a car mechanic than a shepherd. I have come across several ‘modern’ versions of Psalm 23 including this one:
The Lord is I have everything I want He me see a country of justice and peace and directs my steps towards this land. He gives me power He guides me in the paths of victory, as he has promised. Even if a full-scale violent confrontation breaks out, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s power and love protect. You prepare for me my freedom where all my enemies can see it
You welcome me as an guest and fill my cup with righteousness and peace I know that your goodness and love
will be with me all my life and your liberating love will be my home as long as I live. (Pastor Kameela)
That is in the passive form of the If you prefer a more active approach
Lord Jesus, the shepherd of the sheep, have compassion on those who have wandered from you feed those who are hungry; Cause the weary to lie down in your pastures;
bind up those who are broken in heart and lead us all, O Lord, In the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.
(New Every Morning)
Here's another offering and based on Hebrews 13
God of peace , whose Son, our Lord Jesus was brought back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant : equip us to do your will in everything that is good, that our ;lives may always be acceptable Amen
Acts 14a,36-41; Psalm 116. 1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1. 17-23; Luke 24.13-35
Whilst Easter is imbued with miraculous events, unbelievable (except that we do believe!) Luke gives a heartwarming story which has produced many wonderful prayers. John Pritchard is always more than worthwhile but excels himself here:
Lord of the Emmaus Road, we thank you for this stunning good news! Like the two disciples on that road, we are often despondent. Our best plans and highest hopes evaporate, and we’re left with dust in our mouths on that weary journey back to where we started. Walk with us, Lord. listen our story; and then let us hear yours straight from the empty tomb.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia
Lord of the journey, you opened the Scriptures to those disciples as you walked, and their hearts burned within them. Help us to listen to the good news of Scripture, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it, so that our palates are not jaded with too much familiarity but rather inspired by the vitality and truth that we find there. Walk with us, Lord, and let us hear your story straight from the empty tomb.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia
Lord of the open door, you accepted the hospitality of strangers who urged you warmly to stay a while with them. May we show a similar enthusiasm to welcome the stranger, to open our homes, our churches and our country to those in need. As we offer such hospitality may find that we also have been we have entertained you unawares. Sit with us, Lord, and us hear your story straight from the empty tomb.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia
Lord of the broken bread and the blessed wine, you performed those familiar and the two disciples suddenly knew who you were. As we come to your table week by week, may we too know the shock of recognition and blessing, as you share the life that is within you and that is available to us. Give us confidence to invite others to the banquet, in anticipation of the Meal at the end of the World in your heavenly kingdom. Preside at our table. Lord, and let us hear and experience your story straight from the empty tomb.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia
Acts 10.34-43 or Jeremiah 11.1-6; Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24; Colossians 1.1-4 or Acts 10. 34-43; John 20. 1-18 or Matthew 28.1-10
The celebrations, thankfulness and joy span the centuries. Rome produced prayers in the third century which still influence liturgies today
Christ is risen
The world below lies desolate
Christ is risen
The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is risen
The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is risen
The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is risen from the dead
The first of the sleepers
Glory and power are his for ever and ever.
We remember Miles Coverdale first and foremost as a translator of the Bible into English. Although he was writing in the 16th century his clarity and simplicity still work for us
Christ is now risen again
From his death and all his pain
will we merry be
And rejoice with him gladly
Had he not risen again,
We had been this is plain:
But since he is risen
Let us love him with all speed
Now is a time of gladness,
To sing of the Lord’s goodness:
Therefore, glad now will we be
And rejoice in him only
For modern day clarity we can look to the Mothers’ Union
God Almighty, we praise your holy name in this joyful Eastertide. We thank you, Lord, because, through your death and resurrection, won the victory and your redeeming grace and love. Loving Father God, fill us with new life so that we may love one another and do what you want us to do in sharing your love with those who don’t know you, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Matthew 2614-27.66 or Matthew 27.11-54
Let’s start with Ian Black who, as usual, gets to the point
With shouts of joy Jubiliation
You entered your city.
Lord shouts of anger and hatred
You carried your cross to your death.
With a cry you breathed your last
And bought for us salvation and peace.
May these palm crosses remind us that
the while our love may be like the morning mist
that vanishes so early , yours remains constant and true.
In this is our hope and confidence to stand before you.
Keep us faithful through times of trouble and peace
and may we rejoice in your eternity. Amen
Here’s an approach from the Eastern Orthodox Church that is refreshingly different in thought and expression
Let the mountains and all the hills
Break out into great rejoicing at the mercy of
And let the trees of the forest clap their hands.
Give praise to Christ, all
Magnify him, all peoples, crying
Glory to thy power, O Lord.
Seated in heaven upon thy throne
And on earth upon a foal, O Christ our
Thou hast accepted the praise of the angels
Blessed art thou that to call back Adam
And the songs of the children who cried out to thee:
Blessed art thou that to call back Adam.
Now back to the UK with Bishop Handley Moule, a 19th century
Bishop of Durham
As on this day we keep the special memory of our redeemer’s entry into the city, so grant, O Lord, that now and ever he may triumph in our hearts. Let the king of grace and glory enter let us lay ourselves and all we are in full joyful homage before him; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Exodus 2.1-10 or I Samuel 1. 20-28; Psalm 34. 11-20 or Psalm 127. 1-4; 2 Corinthians 1. 3-7 or Colossians 3. 12-17; Luke 2.33-35 or John 19. 25-27
As a child in a military family I spent much of the Second World War in the care of my mother whilst my father served our country overseas. There were times also when my mother was absent and I had two other family members who thought of themselves as my “second mum”. How blessed I have been to have received such loving care. Mothering Sunday is always difficult for a very happy reason – there are so many lovely prayers that express some of that for me and, I hope, for others! Here are just a few of them:
Thank you, Lord, for our mothers. We remember today their loving care, and their ceaseless love for us.. May we show them by our gifts, our words and our actions that we love them and care about them too. Father, we thank you for the family of the church. May they know your blessing and strength as they care for others.
God our Mother, you hold our life within you,
Nourish us at your breast, and teach us to walk alone.
Help us to receive your tenderness
and respond to your challenge
that others may draw life from us in your name.
There is a danger of being one-dimensional so let’s look sideways
Loving Father, on this day when we give thanks for our mothers
we pray for those who find it hard to do so. Those mothers who,
through selfishness, illness or malice, have neglected or abused
their children were often victims themselves. We bring before you
those unhappy families where lives are blighted by a lack of love.
Help us through the power of your Holy Spirit to bring them to a
knowledge of your boundless love as shown to us in Jesus Christ
our Saviour. Amen
Back on track with Frank Colquhoun!
Lord Jesus, who came to share our life here on earth and made your
home among us at Nazareth, we thank you for our homes and families, a
nd especially today for our mothers and for all that they mean to us.
Bless them, O Lord, and bless our homes; and help us to find our true
happiness in loving and serving one another for your sake, our Master
and our Friend. Amen
Exodus 17. 1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5.1-11; John 4. 5-42
The basic theme of our readings is water but the most profound
is the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus. The well is deep
she tells us, and so are the meanings flowing from the story. As
it is a well the water percolates, infiltrates – it is living water – not
like the water that is poured into a cistern which is stagnant. So
Christ’s living water is a gift not to be stored but kept flowing –
What a call to evangelism! We all receive some of that living
water at our baptism. Alcuin of York offers a Lenten approach
to the value of that water in our lives:
Almighty and merciful God, the fountain of all goodness, who
;knowest the thoughts of our hearts; we confess that we have
sinned against thee, and done evil in thy sight. Wash us, we beseech thee, from the stains of our past sins, and give us grace
and power to put away all hurtful things, that, being delivered from
the bondage of sin, we may bring forth fruits worthy of repentance,
and at the last enter into thy promised joy; through the mercy of
thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
We’ll move on some 1200 years to join with Frederick Macnutt
In one of his valuable Lenten prayers:
Into thy hands, O Lord, we commend our souls and bodies this Lent.
Draw nigh to us as we draw nigh to Thee, and enlighten us by
thy Holy Spirit. Be present with us in our worship and abide with us
amidst the cares and duties of our daily lives; and draw us after Thee
to follow whithersoever Thou wilt lead us in thy way of faith and love:
and abide with us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let’s have, after all that complexity, a simple, straightforward summary
prayer. This is from Enriching the Christian Year:
Joy with peace, amendment of life, time for repentance, the grace
and comfort of the Holy Spirit, and perseverance in good works,
grant us, O almighty and merciful Lord. Amen
Genesis 12, 1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4.1-5, 13-17; John 3. 1-7
The Genesis reading always prompts a recognition of the greatness
of God and the spread of his arms to embrace all those who share in the faith of Abraham.
We get two for the price of one in this, a Muslim’s first prayer as a Christian
O God, I am Mustapha the tailor and I work in the shop of Muhammed
Ali. The whole day long I sit and pull the needle and the thread through
the cloth. O God, you are the needle and I am the thread. I am attached
to you and I follow you. When the thread tries to slip away from the
needle it becomes tangled and must be cut so that it can be put back in
the right place. O God, help me to follow you wherever you may lead me.
for I am really only Mustapha the tailor and I work in the shop of Muhammed
If that offers a picture that is different, the next prayer treads on familiar ground
but in a disturbing way:
You, Lord Jesus, knew great power,
To heal, to transform, to proclaim the reign of God.
So you met great temptations.
The wrong way, glittering and possible was open;
You could rule if you chose, in majesty and wonder,
More victorious than Alexander
More imperial than Caesar,
But you said No,
Simply, decisively, for ever, for us.
We pray for the Church, tempted like its Head,
When the Church seeks political power,
Jesus, stay with us.
When the Church longs to become wealthy,
Jesus, speak to us
When the Church strives to impress with splendour,
Jesus, give us simplicity
When the Church wanders from the way of sacrifice
Jesus, hold us.
When the Church listens to the call for cheap grace,
Jesus, keep us always in your way.
Holy Spirit of God, enable us to respond to temptation
With the strength of your Word within us,
So that we may hold firm to our calling
And take your better way in faithfulness.
Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5. 12-19; Matthew 4.1-11
In Christ’s time the wilderness was thought of as the home of evil spirits
so he went there knowing he would be challenged. His answers to the
devil are all taken from Deuteronomy which relates to the time when
the Israelites were in the desert wilderness during Exodus so he identified himself fwith humanity from the outset. Lent is the season when we try to identify ourselves with Christ. Our prayers are ones on recognition and aspiration. A simple prayer from The Gelasian Sacramentary
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that by the observance of this Lent we
may advance in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, and show forth
his mind in conduct worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We move forward some 1600 years and we have a modern approach with
the aspirations we find more specific and very demanding at a personal
level. This is George Appleton, adapted, praying, as should we all, to recognize From Genesis our fallen nature and strive become more Christlike
Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my
Being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which you planted in me at my making. Out of the deeps I cry to you O God.
That prayer is hard!. Let’s find another modern one that makes similar
demands but at a less penetrating level This is from ‘Contemporary Prayers for Public Worship’
Lord God, save us from the hurt pride that leads to anger so that we nurse our grudges and resentments and refuse to love and forgive. By the power of the Holy Spirit help us to do as Jesus did – love our enemies, pray for our and forgive others the wrongs they have done. In his name we ask it. Amen
Second Sunday before Lent
Genesis 1.1- 2.3; Psalm 136 OR Psalm 136. 1-9, 23-26; Romans 8.18-25; Matthew 6. 25-34
The fundamental truth behind the Genesis reading is a vision of God as creator. This is so whether you believe that the world was created in seven days or that the writers were expressing in poetic form something they offered to their Jewish readers to put into words the inexplicable but wonderful place they found humanity to be in.
Two short prayers move us from simple thanks-giving for the gift to acknowledgement of the obligation it places upon us:
Grant us, O God, to see beyond the beauty of the earth the glory that is of thee. Open our eyes to all the signs of thy love. Enable us so to live that we may hold all created things in reverence for thy sake . Amen (New Every Morning)
Eternal Father, source of life and light, whose love extends to all people, all creatures, all things; grant us that reverence for life which becomes those who believe in you; lest we despise it, degrade it, or come callously to destroy it. Rather let us save it, serve it and sanctify it, after the example of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen (Archbishop Donald Runcie)
Are you, like me, struggling to reconcile this with the terrible earthquake in Syria and Turkey? I have used this prayer by John Pritchard previously. It’s long and I have slightly adapted it, but for me it’s honest. There is a Jewish tradition of telling God off. This doesn’t go that far, but bumps uncomfortably up against the earlier prayers
Lord we’ve heard the news and seen the pictures from Turkey and Syria. It seems so tragic, so pointless, so desperate. We’ve heard the sobbing and shouting of grief and we feel so helpless.
Sometimes we rage, sometimes accept it with dull fatalism – it’s tectonic plates doing their job.
And so we say, O God, why?
In the meantime our prayers seem futile, like stones in our mouths. Words of any kind seem trivial and clumsy. How can we pray in these situations? How can we frame anything worth saying? How did Mary pray at the crucifixion?
And so we say, O God, why?
We believe you’re somehow there in the mess of it all. But is that enough? We know you are helping the helpless, as well as helping the helpers, but
the point is – it all seems too late.
And so we say, O God, why?
We’ll do our best to clear up the mess, and we’ll move on. But there are many who won’t be able to move on because of the way they have suffered. We know you will stay with them and will be at full stretch with healing power. All we can do is light a candle in the darkness and let it be a sign of your love and grace, shining in our present darkness.
Make us impatient for that day when the whole creation shall be renewed and we have a new heaven and a new earth
And we shall no longer say O God why?
Isaiah 58.1-9a[b-12]; Psalm 112.1-9; 1 Corinthians 2. 1-12[13-16]; Matthew 5.13-20
We have arrived at a slightly odd moment liturgically. We have left the Epiphany season but haven’t quite reached the specific Sundays before Lent. It’s all provided for, of course, as part of ‘Ordinary Time’. How time can ever be ordinary for a Christian I haven’t yet worked out, but we are offered the readings listed above in our lectionary with the theme of ‘light’
As you would expect from Isaiah light comes in the form of enlightenment for the exiles, and we open with a request which matches it:
Shine into our hearts, O loving Master, by the pure light of the knowledge of yourself and open the eyes of our minds to your teaching: that in all things we may both think and act according to your good pleasure, and, meditating on those things that are holy, may continually live in your light. Amen
(From the Dawn Office of the Eastern and Leonine Churches)
On a superficial reading our Psalm gives the impression that behaving yourself will earn large financial rewards for your descendants, but when you get to the bit about light the message is that your personal integrity will have a beneficial effect on the society and the community of which you are part. The later verses provide a direct and positive call to Christian stewardship.
As you might expect Frank Colquhoun produced a highly suitable prayer that coalesces around the idea of the Light of Christ
We praise you, O God, that the light of Christ shines amid the darkness of our world and that the darkness has not overcome it; and we pray that the light may shine more and more into our own lives illuminating our minds with the knowledge of the truth and enabling us to walk in the way of holiness and love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Many of us feel that we are going through dark times at the moment with so many strikes going on. The Scripture Union prayer on the problem, sadly, is not new but applies equally, albeit more widely (with slight adaptation) to our times as it did in earlier days:
O God our Father, whose Son, Jesus Christ, worked in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, we pray for all engaged in industry, in caring professions and other occupations throughout the country. Grant increase of understanding and cooperation between government, management and those employed by them that together they may seek what is just and wise and work in harmony for the benefit of society through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It's difficult to leave light and darkness just like that. Let’s finish this time with a a few familiar words from the Book of Common Prayer, frequently used by Bishop Donald
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great
mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
1 Kings 17. 8-16; Psalm 36. 5-10; 1 Corinthians 1.18-31; John 2.1-11
Epiphany shouldn’t go out with a whimper, so let’s share our final thoughts on the season with Ian Black
Generous God, everything we have and are comes from you;
In adoration we lay before you the sweet fragrance of our worship
for you alone are worthy of our praise and thanksgiving;
in service we lay before you our money, power and choices,
for in your will we find true freedom and direction;
in trust we lay before you our pains and longing for healing,
for you hold the goal of our lives’ journey
and the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ,
King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen
January 29th is now well established as World Leprosy Day
Please pray for a triumphant day, where the dignity and pride of persons affected by leprosy is central to everything that is said. Pray that more people will join the fight to defeat leprosy.
Neville Smith in his Prayers for People in Hospital offers a wider view based in our culture and patterns of morbidity - on operations and treatments that bring about loss of body image - but it points also to those 200,000 people elsewhere who still catch leprosy each year:
Father, we give thanks
that you have called us to be your people
that you have fashioned us in your image,
and that Jesus your Son
shared our human form and likeness.
Be close to all those whose bodies are altered
by sickness and disease, by surgery,
by the effects of radical treatment.
Though they feel diminished in their own eyes
and others may find them difficult to look upon,
may they be upheld and affirmed
by knowing that they are ever
infinitely perfect and acceptable
to you, the Creator and maker of all. Amen
Isaiah 9.1-4; Psalm 27.1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1,10-18; Matthew 4. 12-23
Whilst we are still in the season of Epiphany, hasn’t the time come for us begin to use our intelligence to ask whether we are using the gifts Jesus Christ has given us as thoughtfully as those wise men pondered over the gifts they offered him?
Lord Jesus, our Master, go with us while we travel to the heavenly country: that, following your star, we may not wander in the darkness of this world’s night, while you, who are our Way, and Truth, and Life shine within us to our journey’s end; for your mercy’s sake. Amen
The death of her late Majesty is still fresh in our memories as are the arcane ceremonies relating to the Accession of King Charles III. The same happened on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the following prayer from the Accession Service for George I. speaks powerfully of unity but, very much the Christian aspiration of its time. We need to contrast it with our modern context as a multi-ethnic society but with the same added stress of strongly diverging political views.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy division. Take away all hatred and prejudice and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
We are at the point where each year we pray for Christian unity and Christ must surely watch with sorrow as we wander in the darkness of this world’s night, spending time and energy on finding differences between us. We are perhaps a more open (if more secular) society three centuries on.
The MU as usual have recognised this and produced positive constructive prayers which point in the right direction by not imposing, as in 1714, but offering. Here’s one of them
Lord, we unite together in our mission to show our Christian faith by the sustainable transformation of communities worldwide. Help us bring this about by nurturing strong relationships at all levels, and promoting peace and reconciliation locally, nationally and globally. Amen
Isaiah 49.1-7; Psalm 40. 1-11; I Corinthians 1.1-9; John 1.29-42
Epiphany is a season that seems to inspire hymn writers and prayer makers alike. A simple example from my childhood to a simple tune called ‘Dix’, may be familiar to you:
As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Beaming onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to thee.
Simplicity is valuable indeed if it leads people to God.
The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East offers a simple prayer with the subtle twist of seeking inclusion for the not so simple:
O God, who by a star guided the wise men to the worship of your Son; we pray you to lead to yourself the wise and the great of every land, that unto you every knee may bow, and every thought be brought into captivity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Frank Colquhoun hits another nail on the head with this offering:
Lord Jesus, may your light shine upon our way,
as once it guided the steps of the magi:
that we too may be led into your presence and worship you,
the Child of Mary,
the Word of the Father,
the King of nations,
the Saviour of mankind to whom be glory for ever. Amen
This week we have been hearing about Christians Against Poverty, an organisation devoting its energies to providing practical solutions to many of the problems bearing down day by day on those who are in debt. It is a charity that received strong and consistent support from Bishop Donald throughout his time with us. Whilst CAP may issue their own prayers the vagaries of computers are denying me access so I have found a more general one which conveys something of what they are about.
Forgive us, Father, that we are so eager to make our own lives
comfortable while others must suffer hunger and want.
Bless the little which we have done, and multiply it, in your mercy, to serve the needs of many unknown to us, but known and loved by you: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalms 96,97; Isaiah 49.1-13; John 4.7-26
There is an Epiphany hymn with effective words by Bishop John Wordsworth – the last line of the refrain “God in man made manifest” – but can someone please find a better tune for me ?
To make manifest here is the action of God working through the faith of those receiving the message who then perceive what God has done. This offers the perfect formula for intercessions: God acts, we acknowledge and then we ask to be led to perform.
We start with a traditional format, but well marshalled and with satisfying metaphors:
O God, our Father, Creator of the universe, whose Son, Jesus Christ, came to our world, pour your Holy Spirit upon your Church, that all the people of our world, being led through the knowledge of your truth to worship you, may offer the gold of intellect, the frankincense of devotion and the myrrh of discipline to him who is with you and the Holy Spirit who liveth and reigneth for ever, one God, world without end. Amen
(Church of Sri Lanka)
The following digs more deeply into the human condition:
God of gold, we seek your glory: the richness that transforms our drabness into colour,
and brightens our dullness with vibrant light; your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.
God of incense, we offer you our prayer; our spoken and unspeakable longings, our questioning of truth,
our search for your mystery deep within.
God of myrrh, we cry out to you in our suffering:
the pain of all our rejections and bereavements,
our baffled despair at undeserved suffering,
our rage at continuing injustice;
and we embrace you, God-with-us,
in our wealth, our yearning, our anger and loss.
The human condition always seems to involve conflict and disagreement. Currently this is painfully obvious both internationally and within our own country. Our time is never wasted if we pray about it! We can start with Bishop Harries and take it on from there: Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Palestine…The NHS, Royal Mail the railways, strikes generally…
God, grant that now, even at this late hour, you would unlock our two prickly prides, our two warring wills, our two opposing forces, and open the way to a negotiated settlement which we cannot find but which assuredly resides in you, for you are the source of both justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Isaiah 7.10-16; Psalm 80.1-7,17-19; Romans 1. 1-7; Matthew 1. 8-25
It’s happened again! Lives of refugees lost in the English Channel. You may find the following prayer doesn’t fit with your political thinking but, having crossed that stretch of water many times in safety on well-appointed ferries, I despair that the declared priority of our government is to keep out many refugees whether in flimsy boats or not and offer them no alternative:
Lord, I know I should pray for our rulers, and statesmen and women, but they seem hopeless and beyond praying for. Yet I know quite well we have to pray for those who despitefully use us, and you never thought people were so bad as to be impossible to save. But didn’t you have your doubts about the Pharisees? Probably you prayed about them a lot, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how.
Teach us how to pray for politicians and give me faith to keep on praying in the hopes that you will give them wisdom and eyes to see beyond their own party to the wider world and encourage them to work for the good of all mankind. Amen
Now for your seasonal comfort zone…
we thank you for the gift of your Son,
whose birth at Bethlehem
we now prepare to celebrate,
May our hearts and our homes
always be open to him,
that he may dwell with us for ever
and we may gladly serve him all our days,
to the honour and glory of your name. Amen
We give you thanks, O God our Father, for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ, whose coming into this world was proclaimed by prophets of old and who was born for us in lowliness and poverty at Bethlehem.
As we make ready once again to celebrate his birth, fill our hearts with your own joy and peace, and enable us to welcome him as our Saviour; so that when he comes again in his glory and majesty, he may find in us a people
prepared for himself, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Isaiah 35.1-10; Psalm 146 or The Magnificat; James 5. 7-10; Matthew 11. 2-11
We get to an Advent prayer by way of Psalm 146, especially verses 7 to 9, and our reading in Matthew. Walter Brueggemann brings them together in a revealing and valuable: statement:
“ The catalogue of YHWH’s characteristic activities towards the vulnerable and disinherited is echoed in Luke 7.22 [=Matthew 11. 4-5] In that narrative confrontation with John the Baptist, Jesus is said to make a decisive difference in the lives of themarginalised.”
Ian Black’s Advent prayer also brings out Christ’s nature
Come, Lord Christ, to restore all that has been lost through struggle and fear, in sorrow and pain.
Come, Lord Christ to restore the balance of hope for those oppressed and hungry for justice,
overlooked and counted of little worth.
Come. Lord Christ, to restore to wholeness the image that is tarnished with sin and shame, neglect an distraction.
Come Lord Christ, in poverty and humility, to raise us to your eternal glory. Amen.
That could lead us to offer so much of Neville Smith’s ‘Prayers for those in Hospital’ but let’s make do with just one:
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, we rejoice especially in your gift of healing,
renewed and rediscovered within your Church.
We give thanks for all who practise this ministry, and all who benefit from it.
Grant them cure and recovery from illness of mind and body.
Grant them above all the healing which comes
from the knowledge of your presence,
the assurance of your love,
and trust in your forgiveness and acceptance.
May they know they are one with you,
and with those whom they know and love.
So, at peace with themselves,
may they know your healing power. Amen
Now a dash of realism from John Wesley
O Lord, let us not live to be useless, for Christ’s sake. Amen
Isaiah 11.1-10; Psalm 72.1-7,18-19; Romans 15.4-13; Matthew 3. 1-12
Matthew tells us a lot about a rough and tough character called John who made an impression on his contemporaries to the extent that members of the religious establishment thought it a good idea to get him to baptise them. He didn’t mince his words!
Father, through John the Baptist you tried to prepare your people for the coming of Jesus. Will you try to prepare us too? Prepare our hearts and minds that we know what to look for in the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. May we show the joy of the Advent message in our lives day by day. Through him who came at Christmas time. Amen
Fairly mild that one? Let’s get tougher!
Give us, O God, something of the spirit of your servant John the Baptist:
his moral courage,
his contentment with simplicity,
his refusal to be fettered by this world,
his faithfulness in witness to the end.
So may we be heralds of Christ and his kingdom and make ready his way,
to the glory of his name. Amen
As we are in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender- Based Violence and Abuse the Mothers’ Union are playing a role much like John the Baptist in producing thought-provoking and hard-hitting material relating to moral issues and problems of today’s world. Although FGM is featured I chose their material on the impact of child marriage for thought and prayer:
Each year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18. That’s 23 girls every minute (UN)
Child brides face huge challenges because they are married as children. Girls tend to be poor, under-educated and live in rural areas, where birth and death rates are high, and conflict is common. Isolated and with limited freedom, they lose their childhood.
Child brides are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers risking dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and often suffering domestic violence,
‘For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no-one to help.’ (Psalm 72. 12)
We pray for a change in religious and cultural norms and that governments will outlaw this appalling practice.
With this new church year, we move to the Year A lectionary:
Isaiah 2. 1-5;Psalm 122; Romans 13. 11-14; Matthew 24.36-44
I don’t think I am alone in finding the Advent season a troubling one in some ways. It combines thankfulness with awe. ‘Fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean being physically afraid, but being conscious of God’s holiness and power which is where we need to start our Advent journey. Here’s a simple look:
Father God, this is the day when the church starts to think about Christmas. The very word makes us feel excited. You want us to be excited about Christmas, Father, and you want us to enjoy it. But you also want us to understand it. In these Sundays of Advent teach us, Father, what Christmas means… Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(The Lion Prayer Collection)
Let’s tackle something older and a bit long-winded but much tougher next!
Our gracious Lord, by whose direction this time is appointed for renewing the memory of thy infinite mercy to man in the incarnation of thy only Son; grant that we may live, this holy time,
in the spirit of thanks giving and every day may raise up our hearts to thee in the grateful acknowledgement of what thou hast done for us.
Besides this we ask thy grace, O God, that we may make a due use of this holy time, for preparing our souls to receive Christ our Lord coming to the world at the approaching solemnity of Christmas.
Christ came into the world to do good to all. Grant, O God, we may thus prepare to meet him. Grant that we may be watchful at this time above all others, in avoiding every thing that can be injurious to our neighbour, whether in afflicting him, or giving him scandal, or drawing him into sin or casting any blemish on his reputation; but in all things, O God, may we follow the spirit of charity, being forward in bringing comfort and relief to all, as far as their circumstances shall require, and ours permit.
Grant, O Lord, that we may prepare to meet our redeemer. Amen
John Goter, 17th century
O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son, our Lord; that when he shall appear he may find us not sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise, for the glory of your holy name. Amen
Christ the King
Jeremiah 23.1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1. 11-20; Luke 23, 33-43
Coming as it does on the last Sunday of the Church’s year this celebration, a fairly new addition to the calendar, gives us the chance to sum up all that Jesus Christ has meant to us and has done for us throughout the year.
Ian Black provides the basic framework for us to pray and meditate
Lord Jesus Christ,
in you we see the splendour of God in human form,
sharing our joys, sufferings and frailty.
In your resurrection and ascension
we see your majesty completed
and are silenced in wonder.
May we find in your service true freedom
and in your will our hopes fulfilled
For you are one God with the Father and the Spirit;
And live and reign in eternal glory. Amen
By a happy coincidence during this week we are invited to remember Isaac Watts. In the early 18th century Watts wrote hymns for the dissenters of whom he was an active member. His poems became so popular and effective that the Church of England changed and started singing hymns for the first time! He wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 72 about Christ the King!
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Let’s get back to that king, identified by Ian Black, who shares with us and so in reverse think about our sharing with him, in a simple prayer by Bishop Harries
O Christ, mind of love, mind of the Father,
enable us to share in your unceasing work
of overcoming evil with good.
Thank you, good Lord, for the opportunity
to follow you more closely
and become more like you.
Help me to walk in the way of love.
The diocese issued a booklet ten years ago called Faith at Work. Here is a positive prayer to finish our day with that caring King:
At last, Lord, it is time for bed.
Thank you for this day,
for the people who have welcomed me, for the sights and sounds that have cheered me,
for all that I have achieved with your help.
May I never forget that you are always with me. Amen
2nd before Advent (Remembrance)
Micah 4,1-5; Romans 8. 31-end; John 15. 9-17
I expect someone somewhere has already said ‘experience defines thought’ If they haven’t I offer it now. There are still a few of us who remember the Second World War as a personal experience. It very much determines my thought on Remembrance Sunday. Both my father and my brother took an active part. I was too young but watched dog fights in the air over Kent and saw and felt bombs as they were dropped. That’s all history book stuff to younger generations… It defines my thought, just as the profound experiences of the generation who suffered the First World War defined the format of the Remembrance Days of my childhood in an army family It seems just as relevant today with the war in Ukraine
Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of war:
for the injured and the disabled,
and for those whose faith in God and man has been weakened or destroyed…
and for all who lost their livelihood and security…
for those who mourn their dead,
those who have lost husband or wife, children or parents,
and especially for those who have no hope in Christ to sustain them in their grief…
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, infinite in wisdom, love and power: nave compassion on those for whom we pray; and help us to use all suffering in the cause of your kingdom, through him who gave himself for us on the cross, Jesus Christ your Son out Lord. Amen
(from an unknown source)
We pray for peace in our world:
For all national leaders,
That they may have wisdom to know and courage to do what is right;
for all men amd women,
that their hearts may be turned tp yourself in the search for righteousness and truth;
for those who are working fo improve international relationships, that they may find thre true way of reconciliation;
for those who suffer as a result of war;
the injured and disabled,’
the homeless and hungry
for the mentally distressed
for the homeless and refugees,
for those who are hungry
and especially for those who are without hope or friend to sustain them in their grief.
Bible Peace Fellowship
3rd before Advent
Job 19. 23-27a; Psalm 17.1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2.1-5, 13-17; Luke 20. 27-38
There seems to be a lot going wrong with our world at present so plenty for us to pray about!
Christopher Avon Lamb offers contemporary prayer which can often be applied to current situations
Lord of grace and gentleness, we pray for a world in which even ordinary humanity fails so often. We pray for those who are called government ministers – servants – in every nation. We pray that those who lead and take on themselves great responsibilities may not simply wish to seem great in the eyes of others, but may genuinely serve their peoples, searching continually for policies and strategies which will be for the good of all, especially for the weakest and most vulnerable. We ask this for the sake of him who is both servant and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
Canon Lamb may be contemporary but so, in his way, is Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury who produced the following about 900 years ago.
We bring before thee, O Lord,
The troubles and perils of peoples and nations,
The sighing of prisoners and captives,
the sorrows of the bereaved,
the necessities of strangers,
the helplessness of the weak,
the despondency of the weary,
the failing powers of the aged.
O Lord, draw near to each,
For the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
In the Gospel reading Luke tells us about a conservative group of believers in the Torah who try out a ridiculous argument in their attempt to put Jesus in the wrong. As usual Jesus uses argument of a rabbinical form, suiting their cast of thought, to choose life rather than death. Let us join with Bishop Westcott in admitting our own failings which can likewise lead us astray.
We beseech thee, O God, the God of truth,
That what we know not of things we ought to know
Thou wilt teach us
That what we know of truth
Thou wilt keep us therein.
That what we are mistaken in, as people must be,
Thou wilt correct.
That at whatsoever things we stumble
Thou wilt yet establish us.
And from all things that are false
And from all knowledge that would be hurtful
Thou wilt evermore defend us,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Let’s have a moment of calm now with William Penn:
In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within
your selves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you through your day’s business.
Jeremiah 14, 7-10, 19-22; Psalm 84.1-7; 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18, Luke 18. 9-14
It is difficult not to despair at the present state of the world and of this country. This week includes United Nations Day. There are ‘official’ prayers for the UN but Canon Christopher Lamb’s prayer ranges more widely and speaks of our own present situation also
We cannot pray for those who suffer without being conscious of our own responsibility for some part of that suffering.
Lord, as we listen and watch the events unfolding in our world, especially in Somalia, Ukraine and our own land, we know our own failure as a nation and as a community of nations to prevent the violence and the starvation and the forced expulsion from their homes of so many of our human family.
Bring us to the point where we demand of our leaders that they put peace and justice and the care of the weakest first, so that we can help others to hold up their heads as people who are cared about, just as Jesus went to the poor and the helpless and the outcast of the world. We ask it for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
As I write Ms Truss is still our Prime Minister but we are clearly in a time of crisis. As usual Frank Colquhoun offers a highly suitable prayer :
God of all wisdom and might, we pray for those involved in our present crisis, especially those who bear the responsibility and exercise the authority of leadership.
May the Holy Spirit so direct their counsels and actions that justice and mercy may prevail, evil be averted and harmony restored, to the honour of your great name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Now a familiar verse from John Greenleaf Whittier’s hymn (what a wonderful middle name, by the way)
Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Forgive our foolish ways!
Restore us to our rightful mind;
In purer lives your service find
In deeper reverence, praise.
Having voiced to God our worries, our concerns, Whittier’s quiet Quaker thought moves us towards the tranquillity that our Father always offers, expressed here as advice by William Penn
In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence this will carry you through your day’s business.
Having felt the pressures of the day and being guided through them by Penn let us close on the consoling words of the Leonine
O God, who gives the day for work and the night for sleep, refresh our bodies and our minds through the quiet hours of night, and let our inward eyes be directed towards you, dreaming of your eternal glory.
Genesis 32. 2-31; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.5; Luke 18.1-8.
When I first read today’s readings, I got it wrong! I thought they were all about vindication, but, of course, they aren’t, they’re about persistence, perseverance. Jacob kept on in his wrestling with God, only letting go when he obtained the blessing. God will neither slumber nor sleep in looking after us, says the Psalmist. Timothy is told to continue in what he has learned and Jesus tells us about a persistent woman…
Let’s follow that up, starting in the 14th century with an extract from The Cloud of Unknowing
Do not give up…When you first begin, you find only darkness and as it were a cloud of unknowing . You don’t know what this means except that in your will you feel a simple, steadfast intention reaching out towards God… Reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as is necessary, but still go on longing after him you love.
Coming a little nearer to us in time, Sir Francis Drake’s prayer moves from the meditative to the man of action
O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us to know that it is not the beginning but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life, even our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen
Coming even nearer in time – indeed within my lifetime – we come to a Lutheran priest who, after ten years of opposing Nazism and Hitler was imprisoned in 1943. He suffered bitter anguish, but persistent and unquenchable faith over the next two years before being hanged in 1945 by the Nazis.
O Holy Spirit, give me faith that will protect me from despair, from passions and from vice, give me such love for God as will blot out all hatred and bitterness, give me the hope that will deliver me from fear and faint-heartedness. Amen
In our present crisis – both national and for many of us, personal - it would be easy to fall into despair. Plenty of the Psalms have a good moan at God but Bonhoeffer, for one, rises above that.
If that doesn’t work for you try the simple, straightforward words of Percy Dearmer that fit so beautifully with the old tune Quem Pastores laudavere
Jesu, good above all other,
Gentle child of gentle Mother,
In a stable born our Brother,
Give us grace to persevere.
2 Kings 5.1-3,7-15c; Psalm 111; 2 Timothy 2.8-15; Luke 17.11-19
This is Prisons Week and our local prison continues its work as a beacon of hope aiming at rehabilitation and a constructive return to society for the men living there. Here is the Prisons Week Prayer
Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all those who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and his Spirit, now and every day. Amen
We follow it up with the prayer of a prisoner’s family member
Thank you for these kind-hearted people who’ve helped me through the toughest time in my life. Give us patience when we are tested. Help us see there is no point being lost in bitterness, when we should be grateful to be alive.
That offers us gratitude in a modern context. The theme of this week’s readings is gratitude. Naaman finally got round to it after following the advice of a young girl. Sadly, nine Jews didn’t, but the despised Samaritan did. There is a danger that gratitude can become self-indulgent but not when the poet George Herbert (beloved by Fr John Westwood) is involved:
Thou hast given so much to me.
Give me one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how thy beggar works on thee
Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Not thankful, when it pleases me
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
(I particularly love his idea that our gratitude is in danger of expecting the occasional day off!)
The problem faced by young girls in Hindu India is equally on our screens regarding Moslem girls in Iran at this time. USPG’s prayer for Tuesday – International Day of the Girl Child - is relevant in both countries and elsewhere , including some of our own towns and cities. (What is it about these men?) There is no real difference when we think back to the suicide of young Molly Russell
Let us pray for the well-being of young girls across the world
. May they be supported to pursue their dreams without fear of harm, prejudice or bias. Amen
Habakkuk 1.1-4; 2. 1-4; Psalm 37. 1-9; 2 Timothy 1.1-14; Luke 17. 5 - 10
The early verses of the Habakkuk reading are very relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves with Vladimir Putin. The same is true of the section of Psalm 37. In the UK we are still at one remove from direct physical involvement in the war in Ukraine but the support we and others provide to Ukraine reflects the Christian ethic which still informs our society. The following prayer by a Liberian child prays for peace with the intensity of one suffering directly and personally, showing us so clearly exactly what those readings are about.
God, what kind of world is this that the adult people are going to leave for us children? There is fighting everywhere and they tell us we live in a time of peace. You are the only one who can help us, Lord, give us a new world in which we can be happy, in which we can have friends and work together for a good future. A world in which there will not be any cruel people who seek to destroy us and our world in so many ways.
We have a rich week in terms of commemorations. First up is Francis of Assisi so we shall have the first part of what has become a familiar hymn and following on from the Liberian youngster’s prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me show love
Where there is injury, let me show pardon,
Where is doubt, let me show faith,
Where there is despair, let me give hope,
Where there is darkness, let me give light.
Francis is so valuable we can’t just leave it there:
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us the desire to do only what pleases you, and the strength to do only what you command. Cleanse our souls, enlighten our minds and inflame our hearts with your Holy Spirit, that we may follow in the footsteps of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
We move from Italy to England now with William Tyndale. He translated the Bible into English and paid with his life for doing so. Many of his expressions were used in the King James Bible so are familiar to us: ‘by the skin of my teeth’ for example. This (adapted) prayer of his seems appropriate to our current financial and political situation
Almighty God, whose is the eternal only power,
and other men’s power but borrowed of thee;
we beseech thee for all those who hold office that,
holding it first from thee, they may use it for
the general good and to thine honour;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Amos 6.1a, 4-7; Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6. 6-19; Luke 16. 19-31
The country’s ‘official’ mourning for Queen Elizabeth has now ended atter a period of widespread grief led by the Royal family who struggled to maintain their composure. We have had a week where many thousands of ordinary people have had the opportunity to express their love against a background of the full panoply of state. Court mourning has continued so it is appropriate to pray at this time for the Royal family, able now to grieve out of the public gaze and begin to think once more of the future.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies and giver of all grace, we ask your blessing on the members of the Royal family as they fulfil their service among us; that both by their word and example our nation and commonwealth may be strengthened in the love of righteousness and freedom, and preserved in unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Remembered this week is Bishop Lancelot Andrewes who was one of the main translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible. I have always found his command of words and their rhythms a guide and inspiration. The following is a selection from his translation (mainly psalms), used as a prayer of praise with a word of consolation for those who mourn tucked in at the end.
O Lord, the day is thine, and the night is thine; thou hast prepared the light and the sun; they continue this day according to thine ordinance for all things serve thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord,
who turnest the shadow of death into the morning, and dost renew the face of the earth.
Whilst things at home are not without their stresses and strains the international situation is far more concerning, with the threat of nuclear war at a point not previously seen in this generation I found my attempts at a prayer inadequate. I therefore turned to the Week pf Prayer for World Peace. It was their day last week on September 21st.
God of all grace, call to the nations of the earth to cease from strife, that all may join to fight not one another but their common foes of want and ignorance, disease and sin.
Lead back mankind out of the way of death into the way of life; and from destruction to the building up of a new world of righteousness and peace, of liberty and joy.
End the dark night of lies and cruelty: bring in the dawn of mercy and truth.
Let’s end with a quickie from Bishop Lancelot
Let this day, O Lord, add some knowledge or good deed to yesterday.
Amos 8. 4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2. 1-7; Luke 16. 1-13
As we continue to mourn the death of our beloved Queen, I offer this week prayers which I hope you will find appropriate, and additional to those circulated officially
We start with a prayer written almost 500 years ago by Ignatius Loyola:
Welcome, Lord, into your calm and peaceful kingdom those who, out of this present life, have departed to be with you; grant them rest and a place with the spirits of the just; and give them the life that knows not age, the reward that passes not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Her late Majesty in her Christmas broadcasts increasingly ,referred to her Christian faith and its application to her daily life and that of the nation. George Appleton wrote this prayer which may seem alarming at first but leads on to a reflection of what, I believe, her Majesty was getting at:
O God we thy creatures try to evade the fact of death, and keep it out of mind, yet in our deeper moments, we know it is a warning note, urging us so to die every day to all selfishness and sin, that when the time comes for our final migration, we may take death in our stride because life is so strong within us, as it was in him who was so manifestly thy true Son and so convincingly the prototype of thy finished humanity, even Jesus Christ, thy Son, our brother. Amen
The next prayer was said at a Service of Thanksgiving for a man who served her Majesty with distinction in the early years of her reign
Eternal Lord God, who holdest all souls in life: we beseech thee to shed forth upon thy whole Church in Paradise and on earth the bright beams of thy light and comfort; and grant that we following the good example of those who have loved and served thee here and are now at rest may, at the last enter with them into the fulness of thy unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let’s end my personal tribute with a snippet from Frank Colquhoun which sums it all up:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we offer you our praise for all who have lived and died in the faith of your holy name, and especially for her whom we now remember before you with love and thanksgiving
Give us grace to be faithful in the days of our earthly pilgrimage that we may share in the glory of your heavenly kingdom. Amen
PRAYERS FOR OUR QUEEN
Eternal God, our heavenly Father, we bless your holy name for all that you have given us in and through the life of your servant Queen Elizabeth.
We give you thanks:
for her love of family and her gift of friendship;
for her devotion to this nation and the nations of the Commonwealth;
for her grace, dignity and courtesy;
and for her generosity and love of life.
We praise you for:
the courage that she showed in testing times;
the depth and of her Christian faith;
and the witness she bore to it in word and deed.
We pray for our Sovereign Lord the King
and all the Royal Family,
that you might reassure them of your continuing love
and lift them from the depths of grief
into the peace and light of your presence.
Exodus 32.7-14; Psalm 51.1-10; 1 Timothy 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-10
This Sunday is Education Sunday. As the first member of my family to go to university I have always been aware of the value to me (and, I hope, to society) of education to this level. Happily, the tradition is now firmly established with all of our children their spouses and our grandchildren. My involvement with Open the Book at St Barnabas School gives me the challenge of repaying in some measure by helping to provide a Christian foundation to those at the very beginning of their formal education
Almighty God, you are the source of truth
and your Spirit leads us into truth:
may all who teach and all who learn
in our schools, colleges and universities
be set free from everything that might hinder
their search for the truth;
and, finding truth, may they learn to use it
for the good of mankind
and for your greater glory. Amen
(James M Todd)
The lectionary provides a fascinating list this week of people commemorated. Many were establishment figures in their day (Bishops!) I have chosen one, a pagan at birth, a highly successful politician who underwent conversion, was elected Bishop of Carthage and produced prayers for use in his diocese.
The first half of the third century was a period of horrific persecution and he died as a martyr in the year 258. We may not face persecution (other Christians do) but storms and tempests
We pray to you, Lord, with honest hearts, in tune with one another, entreating you with sighs and tears, as befits our humble position – placed as we are between the spiritually weak who have no concern for you, and the saints who stand firm and upright before you.
We pray that you may soon come to us, leading us from darkness to light, oppression to freedom, misery to joy, conflict to peace. May you drive away the storms and tempest of our lives, and bring gentle calm.
We pray that you will care for us, as a father cares for his children. Amen
(St Cyprian of Carthage)
Another establishment figure but of a very different character and background, born in 1098, Hildegard of Bingen became the abbess of a Benedictine foundation. A writer, musician, in fact a polymath, she is treasured for her contribution to Christian thought, music and some intense prayers:
Jesus Christ, the love that gives love,
You are higher than the highest star;
You are deeper than the deepest sea;
You cherish us as your own family;
You embrace us as your own spouse;
You rule over us as your own subjects;
You welcome us as your dearest friend.
Let all the world worship you.
Deuteronomy 30.15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Lukke 14.25-33
Both USPG and the MU remind us that this is the Season of Creation. USPG points out: ’By listening to the voice of all creation, humans from all cultures and sectors of life can be joined in our vocation to care for our common home.’ This is reflected in events in Pakistan, one of the smallest contributors to global warming but the biggest victim so far. The MU prayer for September 9th, and on the same subject, clearly written last year or even earlier prophetically reads:
Lord, help us to be good stewards of creation, to respect the sanctity of life in times of natural disaster, make us ready to take action for our brothers and sisters in difficult parts of the world.
Decades ago, Tim Dudley-Smith had an even keener eye:
Lord, we have found out so much knowledge and yet possess so little wisdom. We pray that in your mercy you will save us from ourselves. Help us to learn the right use of nature no less quickly than we unlock her treasures; and give us hearts and wills made new in Christ, to dedicate your gifts of knowledge to the service of others and to the praise of your name.
From the disturbing thoughts of the suffering of people whose lives have been cut short or face little but hardship, toil and starvation let us turn from human frailty and misery to a Celtic prayer which offers God-given peace and solace at the end of the day in that piercing spirituality that is so characteristic of this kind of intercession
O Christ, Son of the living God,
May your holy angels guard our sleep.
May they watch us as we rest
And hover around our beds.
Let them reveal to us in our dreams
Visions of your glorious truth,
O high Prince of the universe
O high priest of the mysteries.
May no dreams disturb our rest
And no nightmares darken our dreams
May no fears or worries delay
Our willing prompt repose.
May the virtue of our daily work
Hallow our nightly prayers.
May our sleep be deep and soft,
So our work fresh and hard.
Proverbs 25.6-7; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13 1-8, 15-16;Luke 14.1, 7-14
Monica last week, her son Augustine this! What a good job she did in calling on God to sort him out! I have offered this prayer of Augustine’s before but it is truly relevant to the situation in which people all over the world now find themselves that I make no apology for praying it again.
Blessed are all thy saints, O God and King, who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life and have made the harbour of peace and felicity. Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage; and remember such as lie exposed to the rough storms of trouble and temptations. Frail is our vessel and the ocean is wide; but as in thy mercy thou hast set our course so steer the vessel of our life toward the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart’s desire, where thou, O our God, are blest, and livest and reignest for ever and ever . Amen
There is a world of difference between the dark-skinned Algerian intellectual that was Augustine and the down-to earth white Bedfordshire tinker also remembered this week, John Bunyan. But both shared an expressive ability to use allegory with great effect. The Collect for August 30 sums up a landsman’s approach to life as compared with one who moved frequently across the Mediterranean:
God of peace
who called your servant John Bunyan
to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims
we may at the last rejoice with all Christian people in your heavenly city
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Those of us of more mature years may remember Thora Hird. In a radio interview she introduced us to a prayer offered up by a seventeenth century nun. This extract might have been written yesterday for the likes of me, reaching another anniversary this week!
I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility,
and a lessening cocksureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memory of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken
Keep me reasonably sweet.
I do nor want to be a saint
(some of them are so hard to live with)
but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
And talents in unexpected people.
And give me, O Lord,
The grace to tell them so.
Isaiah 58 9b-14; Psalm 103 1-8; Hebrews 12. 18-29; Luke 13.10-17
In our gospel today the misdirected piety of the synagogue ruler leads Jesus to issue a strong rebuke. The woman with scoliosis put me in mind of a 20th century individual who went through life disabled but was thus strengthened to put suffering of this kind into context – Dick Sheppard spent many years as Vicar of St-Martin-in-the-Fields where he wrote the following life-affirming prayer:
Grant us grace, O Father, not to pass by suffering or joy without eyes to see. Give us understanding and sympathy and guard us from selfishness, that we may enter into the joys and sufferings of others. Use us to gladden and strengthen those who are weak and suffering, that by our lives we may help others to believe and serve thee, and shed forth thy light which is the light of life. Amen
I hope a man may not be accused of either sexism or condescension if he expresses admiration for Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo. Despite her best, and perhaps over-enthusiastic, efforts Augustine turned away from Christianity. Her tearful efforts to reclaim him for the faith led a bishop to reassure her: ‘It is not possible that the son of so many tears should be lost.’ Her devotion and pertinacity finally prevailed. Her errant son returned to faith and became a leader whose words and thoughts are still treasured today. Here’s her collect:
Faithful God, who strengthened Monica, mother of Augustine, with wisdom and through her patient endurance encouraged him to seek after you: give us the will to persist in prayer that those who stray from you may be brought to faith in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Bishop Donald has told us of his impending retirement. Many of us will be sad to see him leave but know he will not take it amiss if we begin to think and pray about who is to succeed him. The process of selection is long but it is one in which we can play a part, not least by prayer
Lord God our Father, we thank you that, for the last twelve years, your loving care has given us Donald to be our pastor and our friend. As his time with us draws towards its close we ask you for the continuing presence of your Holy Spirit to guide us and all those concerned with the selection of his successor. We rejoice in the rich diversity of worship in this our diocese. Help us to go forward with loving respect one for another and with unity of purpose, seeking only your will to find one fitted for the high office to which he or she is called. We ask this in the name of the Supreme Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
Jeremiah 23. 23-29; Psalm 83; Hebrews 11.29-12.2; Luke 12.49-56.
Two very contrasting people feature in our lectionary this week. The first is the Blessed Virgin Mary, a woman celebrated for her piety and readiness to do God’s will with quiet determination:
in your Mother, Blessed Mary,
we see a model of devotion
of willing acceptance
of your will and call;
fill us with your grace
that we may bring to birth
the fruit of your love
and follow in your steps
in passion and glory. Amen
Bernard of Clairvaux, a thousand years later, was the leading light of the Cistercian order of monks whose austere approach is reflected in the beautiful, spare nature of their architecture. This leads me and many others to quiet meditation, whereas Bernard was in the forefront as an aggressive leader in a failed Crusade. Many of his prayers are forceful, but Edward Caswall produced the most popular translation of a hymn showing another side to Bernard’s character:
Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast:
But sweeter far thy face to see.
And in thy presence rest.
Jesu, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity.
In our present crisis the following prayer needs no introduction
All-seeing. all-loving God, we find ourselves in difficult times. We are surrounded with material riches and comfort beyond the imaginings of so many living in the world today. Yet we have our share of the poor, the weak, the old, the homeless who are faced with a season soon to be upon us when such prosperity will be far from their thoughts, when the chance of warmth, food or shelter seem far beyond them. Through the power and strength of your Holy Spirit guide our government and our society to find the will and the means to protect and care for them, to carry them through to a place where they may enjoy peace and stability in their lives.
We ask this in the name of our loving Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
Genesis15. 1-6; Psalm 33.12-22; Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40
Many people have been moved by the sad case of Archie Battersbee and the efforts of his parents to press doctors and nurses to maintain life support in face of a bleak but honest diagnosis. Archie and his family are rightly in our thoughts and prayers, but spare a thought also for those who have discharged the responsibility of looking after him during these past weeks. They are not unfeeling nor are the lawyers and judges. Neville Smith, as a long-serving hospital chaplain, gained experience of medical ethics and the stresses encountered not only by the ‘victims’ but also by all the others involved:
Lord God the Holy Spirit,
source of all wisdom and truth, we pray that you will guide all those who have to take decisions with far-reaching consequences for people in their care, in their use of valuable resources
on the life of the hospital.
Grant them the gift of wisdom, Enable them to discern truth so that amid confusion and conflict
They may be able to choose the better way
for all concerned, and be at peace in themselves and with you.
Our lectionary includes this week a woman held in high regard during her lifetime and ever since – Mary Sumner. As founder of the Mothers’ Union, she spoke fearlessly in a male-dominated society but secured the support of far-sighted bishops. Her personal prayer looks outward from the Lord that she worshipped to the society in which she moved
All this day, O Lord,
let me touch as many lives as possible for thee;
and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken,
whether through the word I speak,
the prayer I breathe,
or the life I live. Amen.
As the theme of this week’s readings is faith this prayer from one Father Andrew builds on what Mary Sumner offers:
‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief’ but let no part of it stay in me. If my life brings me darkness, help me to meet it with faith; if pain, with courage, if bereavement, with hope; if joy, with gratitude; all things with love and patience. So let my life indeed be an expression of my faith. Amen.
Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14,18-23;Psalm 49.1-12;Colossians 3.1-11; Luke 12. 13-21
There are two individuals associated with this week, Oswald and Ignatius of Loyola both of whom could attract criticism. Oswald was, in effect, a war lord but, after a vision, he created a strong Christian ethos in Northumbria. He invited Aidan from Ireland and gave him Lindisfarne as his bishopric. Bede tells stories of his care for the poor and his active Christian witness and leadership. The Collect for August 5th rightly points us to his strong, positive witness for us to emulate
Lord God almighty who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom and turned his people to the light of Christ: grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit, may always bear our cross before the world and be found faithful servants if the gospel, through Jesus Christ your Son, our lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Ignatius of Loyola founded the Roman Catholic order familiarly known as the Jesuits. In the Counter-Reformation he helped lead the aggressive battle against the Protestants. That struggle is long past and the order is respected for much hard work in the world of today. Ignatius, as part of his Spiritual Exercises, created a prayer familiar to many and widely used not just by Jesuits:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and not seek any reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen
After the conflicts I have referred to above let’s have an evening prayer of peace;
Heavenly Father, I come to you at the ending of the day
With a thankful heart to commit myself and those I love to your care and protection for the coming night.
Lift from our minds every burden, every anxiety, every fear,
And in your great mercy give us sleep and rest
to fit us for the duties of another day.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Genesis 18.20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2.6-15; Luke 11.1-13
In the Church of England we are now in what is called ‘Ordinary Time’ I have always thought this a strange description because, since the Resurrection of Christ, do we not all live in Extraordinary Time? The season does, however, give us the opportunity to look further afield in our prayer life…
This Diocese of Peterborough is twinned with the diocese of Seoul in South Korea and an anniversary occurs this week, the 70th of the Korean Armistice. This means that North and South have been at war for the last 70 years! In the USPG prayer booklet this week the prayers represent efforts to seek God’s help to achieve a positive peaceful way forward for a country split in two for generations;
We pray for the people of Korea. May divisions in the country be resolved in a fair and peaceful manner.
Let us pray for the success of the Korea Peace Appeal. May the world take notice of this campaign and renew global efforts for peace.
A person remembered this week is William Wilberforce. Our Collect writes of ‘Jesus freeing us from the slavery of sin’ and of Wilberforce toiling ‘against the sin of slavery.’ We have a legacy which is less than comfortable, beyond that we are now faced with what is called ‘modern slavery’ This takes many forms such as some car washes, nail bars, cannabis farms and agricultural work. The Clewer Initiative is an Anglican organisation raising awareness at local level of the existence of this form of slavery and trafficking. They have produced the following prayer about it.
who sees the unseen and notices the unnoticed, help each of us to hear the Hidden Voices of those who pray for release from slavery and exploitation, so that we may give ourselves more fully to the service of your saving love, and be strengthened together as agents of your healing and hope, through Jesus Christ, who himself came to serve as a slave, so as to bring freedom and grace to all. Amen
Having looked outwards, let’s look to ourselves with a prayer by a man called Eugene Bersier, a Protestant pastor who worked in Paris during the 19th century and was involved with both rich and poor
O God, from whom we have received life, and all earthly blessings vouchsafed to give unto us each day what we need. Give unto all of us strength to perform faithfully our appointed tasks, bless the work of our hands and of our minds. Grant that we may ever serve thee, in sickness and in health, in necessity and in abundance; sanctify our joys and our trials and give us grace to seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness, in the sure and certain faith that all else shall be added unto us; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord and Saviour. Amen
Heavenly Father, who sees the unseen and notices the
help each of us to hear the Hidden Voices of those
who pray for release from slavery and exploitation,
so that we may give ourselves more fully to the service of your saving love,
and be strengthened together as agents of your healing and hope,
through Jesus Christ,
who himself came to serve as a slave,
so as to bring freedom and grace to all. Amen