In these last nine days, we have been joining together with our brothers and sisters in Christ across the country in reflecting upon God’s Kingdom and praying for the re-evangelism of this country. This call to prayer from our archbishops coincided with “prayer” featuring prominently amongst the spiritual gifts identified by participants in the Network Couse and, at our Vision Day, emerging as a focus for our parish life.
We (the clergy) have spent the past two days in prayer and reflection seeking to distil the ideas from the Vision Day into a meaningful map of the way ahead, with prayer at its core. However, sometimes all of us in our busyness of doing and reliance on our own strength and resources can forget this fundamental aspect of Christian life – prayer. We have seen how the first part of the Lord’s Prayer has focused us on God, His Kingdom and our reliance on Him. Today we reflect how the prayer moves from those statements to our own petitions or requests.
Give us this day our daily bread – well, bread was the staple diet in the ancient world of the Bible. In saying these words, we are saying that we trust absolutely that everything we need will be provided by God. This is not just our physical needs (such as food) but also our spiritual and emotional needs. We are saying, “Heavenly Father, everything we have and everything we need comes from you”. Often we only turn to God in the final stages of a predicament – when a marriage is falling apart, when we don’t know where the next source of income is coming from or when there seems no other place to turn to. God can be seen as a last resort. What this line from the Lord’s Prayer says to us is that we must be constantly asking and relying on God – right from the start of our endeavours, not just when things have gone wrong.
A few months ago, a group from the parish went to a day conference on “Growing Churches”. We were challenged by the facilitator with this question: “You have come here because you want your church to grow. Yes? Well, how many of your churches are every day asking God to help you grow in numbers, in depth and in breadth?” The many embarrassed looks around the room revealed that Worth Parish were not alone in not praying this obvious petition.
There is an old golfing story about Gary Player once being asked how come he was so lucky. He replied, “I practice a lot to be this lucky”. Prayer is a little like that – the more we pray the more we see God’s presence in our lives – be this through answered or unanswered prayers.
This story was told by a Catholic priest who spent some time with Mother Teresa:
One day in the mother house in Calcutta there were about three hundred novices and they were all out for the morning. One of the novices working in the kitchen came up to Mother Teresa and said, “We’ve planned poorly; we have no flour to bake these chipattis for lunch.” (Chipattis are little flour and water pancakes.) The situation looked bleak – three hundred+ mouths are coming to be fed in about an hour and a half and there’s nothing to cook with. There’s no food.
“What I would expect Mother Teresa to do,” Fr. Langford explained to me, “was that Mother would pick up the telephone and call some of her benefactors and mobilize them to find some way to feed her daughters. Instead, her reaction—her spontaneous reaction—was to say to this little one, ‘Sister, you’re in charge of the kitchen this week? Well then, go into the chapel and tell Jesus we have no food. That’s settled. Now let’s move on. What’s next?’”
Lo and behold, ten minutes later there was a ring at the door and Mother Teresa was called downstairs. A man she had never seen before was standing there with a clipboard. He addressed her saying, “Mother Teresa, we were just informed that the teachers at the city schools are going on strike. Classes have been dismissed and we have 7,000 lunches we don’t know what to do with. Can you help us use them?” God provided for the needs of his children.
Mother Teresa’s sanctity was built on a very simple foundation of deep faith and trust in God. Mother Teresa turned to Him in prayer, not only in need, but also to rest in the arms of the Father—body and spirit. That is how Mother Teresa lived each day of her life; each day trusting God to provide her daily bread.
Please join us in praying for the growth of your church in this place – St Barnabas’ and St Nicholas’ – and particularly, today, for the residents of the area of Maidenbower to the south and east of Maidenbower Drive (plus Georgian Close) and to the west of Lucerne Drive up to Maidenbower Park. Also for Maidenbower Junior School, giving thanks for the dedication of Allyson Croucher (Headteacher), all the staff, the pupils, the Governors and all those who make up the school community.