Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: June Magazine.
Dear brothers & sisters,
This month we pick up our studies in the Old Testament as we turn to the Book of Exodus in our services and bible reflection groups. This is one of my favourite books of the bible, and certainly the most important in the Old Testament. Many of us will know the opening stories of Moses, the burning bush, the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. If you want a cinematic introduction try the classic film ‘The Ten Commandments’ with Charlton Heston for a helpful and fairly biblical dramatisation. Exodus, as with the Book of Genesis, is primarily about God, His love, and His character, but it is also, secondarily about human beings, and whether they will trust and listen to God or continue to do things their own way. At various moments in Exodus God appears as a fiery pillar, to protect, guide, and inspire hope in those who are following Him; wouldn’t that be nice today, you may well think. However, last month, as we celebrated the Ascension and Pentecost, we were reminded that we have it so much better. Sure, we don’t have fire before us reminding us that God is with us and guiding us, but we can have fire inside us. Sure, we can’t see God, but He will live in the hearts of all who trust Him. The Hebrew people may have had a visible reminder of God for a few years, but what God’s people now have is something far more intimate, and far more long lasting… it’s just so often it doesn’t feel like that! This is where prayer comes in. Prayer is having a conversation with God, through the Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of every Christian believer. However, as with all relationships it takes regular conversation to grow that relationship.
Talking to another person is fundamental in building a strong relationship, and increasingly as a society we’re starting to appreciate the value of conversation in promoting good mental health. Much has been made of the enforced isolation of the pandemic years and the subsequent rise in mental health issues. Talking, and listening, are important. How true this is for our spiritual life and building a relationship with God. Prayer plays a critical part in the life of a Christian and so the Church has been trying to help. You’ll have noticed that we have introduced devotionals for two of the key seasons of the Church’s year. We have recently run a morning, with Mark & Gill Ireland, to help people to develop a daily time of prayer. In addition, both myself and Fr Jordan have preached a number of times on the importance of finding time each day on your own to speak to and listen to God. Without a healthy prayer habit a Christian’s spiritual life fades away until we become effectively agnostics, living as if we don’t know God. I think you get the point. Pray and keep on praying; for your own sake and for those around you. Those who pray trust more and fear less, because they know the One who oversees all things. Just as the Hebrew people in the book of Exodus were protected, guided, and inspired by the fiery pillar, so Christians today are protected, guided, and inspired by prayer. This is also the example of the saints! As one biographer put it: ‘[Saint Francis] spent so much time purposefully and sincerely in prayer that he was able to follow God's direction, often hearing God in his heart. At times, he heard God tell him not to go any-where: his work was right where he was. Other times, he heard the call, Go.’ To put it another way, prayer is our secret weapon and often, too often, we neglect it as an after thought, or a duty we have to make space for rather than a joy we will prioritise. So what’s stopping you? Have you neglected your ‘secret weapon’? Are you feeling fearful, don’t know which way to go, or simply lacking hope? Perhaps I could encourage you to return to, or turn for the first time to, daily, heartfelt prayer, and I believe you will find everything you could want and more.