Today we’re gathering to pray.
As I write Jonathan Oloyede and a team are travelling up from London to York, to share with us and help lead us in prayer for the city of York and our region. Today’s National Day of Prayer Celebration in York is an important gathering as we thank God for all he is doing and humble ourselves before him, asking him to pour out more grace, more mercy and more of his transforming power and love.
As I write prayer and worship to God is already flowing in St Michael le Belfrey Church. Teams of people from across the city have been praying all night as part of a 24-hour BurnYork event which ends tonight.
As I awoke this morning and began to shower, so I prayed. I prayed for the day. For the weekend. For my family. For the team travelling from London. After getting dressed I grabbed some tea and read the Scriptures and prayed again. It’s what I do first thing. Prayer is foundational.
I guess some people might ask ‘why?’ Why is prayer – both individual and corporate – so important? Well I am convinced, both from Scripture and from experience, that nothing of lasting significance takes place without prayer. I know that’s true. So we just need to pray. Often that’s a discipline, but it’s a good one. Like talking with my wife, Sam. At times when I’m busy there may be other things that seem more urgent, but when I stop to think about it, there’s little more important than talking with my wife. I love her. And I want to communicate well with her and her to me. Prayer is rather like that. It’s communication with God. It’s what followers of Jesus do. It’s what they need to do. It’s what they love to do.
The bible urges us to press on in prayer. That’s why St Paul writes: ‘I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God’ (Romans 15:30).
Eugene Peterson expresses this really helpfully. Here’s how he puts it:
A kingdom-of-heaven life consists of things to do and things to think, but if there is no prayer at the centre nothing lives. Prayer is the heart that pumps blood into all the words and acts. Prayer is not just one more thing in an inventory of elements that make up a following-Jesus, kingdom-of-heaven life. Prayer is the heart. If there is no heart doing its work from the centre, no matter how precise the words, no matter how perfectly formed the actions, there is only a corpse.
I agree. If we want life, we need to simply pray.