Thursday, 20 September 2012

Prayer is......Part 2

I'm concluding yesterday's blog post with part 2 of 'Prayer is....'These headings have been taken from Jason Mandryk's outstanding latest edition of 'Operation World.'

Prayer is.......

4/ An act of warfare:
We are pictured in the scriptures as soldiers in a battle when it comes to prayer. Somehow, in the plan of God, we have been given the task of engaging on behalf of the millions around the world in our generation who do not yet know Jesus Christ. Mandryk says, ‘The gates of hell will not prevail against the church, but they must be stormed!’ Ephesians 6 instructs us to train ourselves to pray in the Spirit on all occasions, armoured up and ready for action.

5/ An act of sacrifice:
Daniel’s prayers resulted in him being thrown to lions. Many around the world today take great risk, even for their lives, in meeting to pray together. My overriding concern is often whether I will miss all or part of a Champions league football game on the TV if I go to the midweek prayer meeting – this attitude couldn’t possibly be further from the kind of attitude of sacrifice that is expected from true followers of Jesus. A people who pray will learn to turn aside from the insignificant, from busyness, even at times from legitimate concerns, in order to seek God’s face in prayer.

6/ An act of labour:
Prayer is hard work. It’s not unlike preparing to go out on a hard run, where we invent any excuse not to get started. There are sometimes moments in prayer where we may have to battle on, to keep going.
It’s no mistake that the word ‘labour’ takes us to the birthing room. This is the arena which best displays for us the work involved in prayer. The sheer effort of will, the pain and the groaning, yet the rewards which follow.
Jesus is our supreme example, sweating blood in the garden as He agonised for us. Later we read that ‘for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.’ Any mother who has endured the terror of labour pains later remembers only the joy of a new slippery wet bundle in her arms. There are rewards for those who will persist in prayer, those who will give to God not just a prayer meeting, but their nights or their early mornings.

7/ An act of love :
Mandryk says again, ‘It’s impossible to be passionate about prayer if you are not already passionate about Him.’ Our intercession for friends and neighbours in our towns, to the unreached peoples around the globe is ultimately an act motivated by deep love for Jesus. Love for Jesus, and overflowing compassion for those He has made for relationship with Him. Against this backdrop of the love of Christ in our prayers, every empty agenda of mere church growth or increased numbers which sometimes underpins our praying, falls away.

Recommended Reading : Operation World - Jason Mandryk. The future of the global church - Patrick Johnstone

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Prayer is...... (Part 1)

I’ve been reading the introductory notes in the latest edition of the magnificent prayer guide, ‘Operation World’ this week. Normally, I dive straight into the information sections on the nations and their stats in order to feed our praying, but the notes by Jason Mandryk are well worth reproducing for some additional stimulation in our prayer week.
It’s so good, I will simply use Mandryk’s own headings below, and some of his quotes in places.

Prayer is :
1/An act of faith:
Prayer is light years away from the normal management or administration of our lives. When we pray we are recognising that we cannot operate in our own strength. We realise that we are asking for impossible things from an invisible God – this requires a genuine act of faith. F B Meyer said, ‘You do not test the resources of God until you attempt the impossible.’

2/ An act of obedience:
The Apostle Paul instructs the early believers to ‘pray without ceasing.’ The Psalmist prophesied, ‘Ask of me and I will give the nations as your inheritance.’ The clear invitation of the scriptures is for us to be active, frequent and attentive prayers. Primarily, prayer is motivated by obedience as much as by our need in any given situation.

3/ An act of worship:
Our prayer meeting last night was characterised by an extended session of praise. This IS prayer. In offering praise and worship we are recognising again who God is, reminded of our own inadequacy, flooded with confidence in His desire and ability to act in our world. We begin to place the King back on his throne and realign ourselves with His purpose and plan for our lives.
The old Prophet Isaiah, goes further, strengthening the connection between worship, prayer and mission. Jesus quotes Isaiah when He declares :’My house will be a house of prayer for the nations.’ In other words, the house of God, the place where God is worshipped and adored at the centre, is also the very place where petitions are made on a grand scale. This all flows naturally out of praise and worship!

Part 2 tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

For runners everywhere : From Kenya to Kent.

I am an averagely slow, heavy, heel first runner, who has been trying to get fit by getting out early in the mornings over the last year since I had to give up my promising football career!

Next week, with a team of 15 or so local runners, including one of my sons, I will run a local 10k race to raise money for our Jubilee Initiative, a group of charities which we are personally involved with. Some of these charities are run by my friends, Jospeh and Lillian serving street children in Zambia, or Rod and Diana working for justice amongst girls sold into sex slavery in India for example.

I’ve recently read a great little book called, ‘Running with the Kenyans’, By Adharanand Finn. At a time when my training has suddenly got a little more serious, his personal story of transformation through running has made all the effort seem inspirational, almost spiritual. There are some great quotes from his book here which runners everywhere will find themselves identifying with. Enjoy, then get your trainers out!

‘Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.’ Abe Gubegna, Ethiopian author.

‘No race begins at the start line.’ Haile Gebreselassie

‘If you want to win something, run 100m. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.’ Emil Zatopek

‘When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the bible.’ Jomo Kenyatta, first President of Kenya

‘Ask yourself, ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually, ‘Yes’.’ Paul Tergat, Kenyan Athlete

‘Right before you head out running it can be hard to remember exactly why you are doing it. You often have to override a nagging sense of futility, lacing up your shoes, telling yourself that no matter how unlikely it seems, after you finish you will be glad you went. It’s only afterwards that it makes sense, although even then it’s hard to rationalise why. You just feel right. After a run, you feel at one with the world, as though some unspecified, innate need has been fulfilled.’

‘Running is a brutal and emotional sport. It’s also a simple, primal sport. As humans, on a most basic level we get hungry, we sleep, we yearn for love, we run. Just watch small children left to play unsupervised. They can’t stop running. It’s part of what makes us human. Perhaps it is to fulfil this primal urge that runners and joggers get up every morning and pound the streets in cities all over the world. To feel the stirring of something primeval deep down in our bellies. To feel a little bit wild.’

‘We may obsess about our PB’s and mileage count, but these things alone are not enough to get us out running. We could find easier ways to chart and measure things. We could become trainspotters or accountants. No, the times and charts are merely carrots we dangle in front of our rational mind, our over analytical brain, to give it a reason to come along for the ride. What really drives us on is something else, this need to feel human, to reach below the multitude of layers of roles and responsibilities society has placed on us, down below the company name tags, even the father, husband, son labels, to the pure, raw human being underneath. At such moments our rational mind becomes redundant. We move from thought to feeling.’

If you want to find out more about our Jubilee Initiative, click here :
http://www.jcceg.co.uk/the-jubilee-initiative/about-the-initiative/

If you would like to sponsor me or Noah for our 10k run next week, follow this link : http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/stevealliston

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Democrats, disability and reasons to be cheerful

Before I start, I should say this is not a political post, a judgement of attitudes or a moralistic placard brandishing protest. It is simply an observation of an intriguing cultural irony.

Yesterday I was able to catch a short summary of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. If I were an American I would vote Obama, no questions asked. Now I know the people that frequent these events are programmed to cheer and wave at even the most inane comments or policy announcements, but I have to say that hearing rapturous applause over the commitment to the US abortion bill left me unsettled and uneasy.

The platform party ‘strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay." That’s it, debate over. Even if it’s a policy you begrudgingly accept, is it really something that you want to cheer about and celebrate?

The irony that throws culture, conscience, and morals into turmoil was made immediately apparent to me. I switched on the excellent Channel 4 Paralympic coverage to find the contrast of a stadium in London, jam packed with people cheering on athletes, many of whom would be considered for abortion were their mothers to be scanned during pregnancy today.
So, in the States, the shapers of law and policy cheering a commitment to offer abortion, in part to those who find their unborn child has a congenital birth defect or disability. In the UK, and around the globe, millions cheering disabled athletes who throw the whole idea of abortion for these reasons alone into the realms of an illogical lunacy.

We were offered the choice of an abortion during pregnancy for potential defects in one of our three children. Our daughter was born alive and well, and continues to be perfectly healthy 14 years later. Another of our three is registered disabled but this was discovered later in life. I know which crowd I find myself cheering in. There is no celebration in abortion, full stop. There is everything to celebrate in the idea of preserving vulnerable lives and rejoicing in their hope through adversity. Surely, someone in political office, Stateside or UK must see the illogical and warped sense of irony in it all?