We’ve been praying for the Saints in the Stadium event coming up in St Helen’s. Our brothers and sisters in the North West have hired St Helen’s rugby stadium (Langtree Park) for the day on Saturday 12th October for the National Day of Prayer and Worship to pray for our nation, and especially the North West and the North of England.

The One Voice network of church leaders in York prayed for the event this week, as did people from The Belfrey who gathered for Dynamic Prayer early on Thursday morning. We’ve been praying, because nothing of last significance takes place without prayer. And that, of course, is why Saints in the Stadium is happening in the first place. Prayer comes first.

I was reminded of this recently whilst re-reading 1 Timothy. A simple phrase stood out from the text in a fresh way. Paul, the senior leader, is passing on distilled wisdom to his young apprentice, Timothy and as he begins to talk about prayer he says that prayer should be ‘first of all’ (2:1). By that he means that prayer is what we do first. It’s basic and fundamental. It’s what we do at the start. Prayer comes first.

This has huge implications for the way we live our lives, make our decisions, love our spouses, raise our families, spend our money, run our businesses and lead our churches. Prayer comes first.

1 Timothy 2 goes on to particularly highlight people with political authority and also people who are not yet disciples of Jesus Christ. These are examples of people, the bible says, for whom we should be praying. This is important as it’s too easy to moan about politicians without praying for them first! And sometimes well-meaning Christians can insensitively evangelise their friends and families, without first praying for them and seeking guidance from the Spirit as to how best to share the faith. Of course evangelism is important, but prayer comes first.

At The Belfrey we really do want to play our part in serving God’s transformation of the North. And so it’s great to be partnering with other Yorkshire churches as St Barnabas Theological Centre gets going. And we’re really pleased to be part of New Wine, encouraging local churches to be changing nations. We love sending teams of people on mission with Roger Simpson as steps up in his role as Archbishop’s Evangelist for the North. And there’s so much locally and within the church community that’s good and helpful and supportive and making a massive difference to many people’s lives in York and beyond. But in the end, prayer comes first. It must.

That’s why I want to keep developing and growing as a person of prayer. I still have much to learn. And that’s why I regularly encourage people to keep praying to the God who is closer than they think. And that’s why prayer is a subject I often speak on. And that’s why I’ve been encouraging people at The Belfrey to be establishing a House of Prayer for York and the North, so that everything we do is covered in prayer. And that’s why I’m so pleased to back and encourage and support our friends in St Helen’s in Saints in the Stadium.

Prayer, most definitely, comes first. Every time. All the time. So pray first.