Thy Kingdom Come worldwide wave of prayer – a letter from the Bishop of Horsham

Season of Prayer

Dear Friends,

‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is a phrase that trips off the tongue of Christians every time they pray the Lord’s Prayer. It sums up the purpose of Jesus and of his body, The Church. We exist, with Jesus, to build the Kingdom of God. We do that, in part, by seeking to transform the unjust structures of society and conforming them to the intentions of God. We also do it by sharing our faith, hope and love with others. However we help build the Kingdom of God, we must do it in partnership with God and so pray as Jesus taught us: Thy Kingdom come. Prayer is what ensures our partnership with God. Without it, we risk trying to establish not his Kingdom, but some lesser vision of our own.

Thy Kingdom Come has become the title and focus of a worldwide wave of prayer during the period between Ascension Day and Pentecost (25th May – 4th June, this year). Every one of us is invited to join in this wave of prayer that more people may come to know, love and follow Jesus – and so become joyful fellow-workers in building up God’s Kingdom.

There are countless ways to join in this worldwide wave of prayer, as churches, as families or groups, or quietly as individuals. Last year, many churches hosted day-long events embracing many different kinds of corporate and individual prayer. I was privileged to share in several. This year a website has been launched: www.thykingdomcome.global. I urge you to visit it if you can and to discover how you can best be a part of this wave of prayer, whether or not your church is hosting a special event.
With thanks for our partnership in prayer,
+Mark, Bishop of Horsham

 

 

Come Along to Our Prayer Group

Meetings, Season of Prayer

At St Nicholas’ Church on Wednesday 16th November at 2.30 pm, our recently-formed prayer group will be meeting and we’d love you to join in.  We simply talk about anything in the parish that might need our consideration and just pray together.  People either say what comes into their minds or stay silent, as suits them.

If you would like to join us, you will be very welcome indeed.

Statement in Response to the Shootings in Orlando

Pewsheets

In case people haven’t seen this, we repeat here the joint statement of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in response to the shootings in Orlando:

After Sunday’s attack in Orlando as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil.

We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification.

The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship.

It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being. Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.

Lead us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil

Season of Prayer
A recent book, The Marshmallow Test, by Walter Mischel, distils 40 years of research in the area of self-control.  The author’s now-iconic psychological experiment took young children and placed them in a room with a series of tempting treats such as marshmallows or cookies.  They were told that if they waited and resisted eating the tempting treat until the temarshmallow-testster came back in, they would be rewarded with two treats rather than just one.  As you would expect, the results were mixed and many gave in to the temptation; some in seconds, others were more ingenious (One test had cookies with cream in the middle.  One boy opened up the cookies, licked the cream and carefully placed them back together.  When challenged he informed the tester he hadn’t touched the cookies!  “I don’t remember taking the test!”).
Temptation comes in all shape and sizes.  In today’s world that has never been truer.  We are hit by temptation from every angle – and what might seem to you quite innocent or not even a temptation can be to someone else an all-encompassing obsession.  What is clear is that temptation will come.  We haven’t the space to unpack the concept of “evil” today, but our prayer asks God not lead us into temptation or, as some translations write, “trials”.  The suggestion in the Lord’s Prayer that God might lead us into temptation seems to contradict the Letter of James 1:13  (Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one).  I don’t think there is a contradiction, rather that the prayer recognized that, in this world, temptation is inevitable because things are far from perfect and asks that when temptation comes that God be with us as we face it.
Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson (known as Bill W.).  Bill W. was an alcoholic who had ruined a promising career on Wall Street by his drinking.  He also failed to graduate from Law School because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma.  His drinking damaged his marriage, and he was hospitalized for alcoholism.  Through a church-led movement Bill W. managed to fight his temptation and remain sober.  What he began ended up being the 12 steps programme and it has helped many people with a variety of different addictions.  One of the most important aspects of the programme is the realization that you cannot do it yourself –  you need to attend meetings and you need the help of a Higher Power.
The same is true for us Christians and that is what the Church, at its best, has to offer.  Times of temptation highlight for us our need for community – to be part of a group of believers with whom we can share our lives, where we can give and receive encouragement and support and where we can develop and strengthen our faith.  On our own and isolated, without support from fellow believers, we are far more at risk of succumbing to temptation and then to continuing to indulge in it.  As we’ve said: none of us is free from temptation; it comes in all shapes and sizes and from all quarters!
So on this, the final day of our novena of prayer in which we have joined with countless others up and down the country praying for the re-evangelisation of this nation, we invite you to pray for God’s Church to be this loving and supporting safe place and to for us to know that God is always with us in our times of trials and our hours of need.  Today we also ask for your prayers for the newest community in our parish – that of Forge Wood (from amongst whose residents we have already had our first baptism and marriage enquiry) and for Forge Wood Primary School as it prepares for its first intake of children in September (in temporary accommodation).

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

Season of Prayer
In old Roman ruins, archaeologists have discovered lots of ancient prayers that people would actually pay to have written down and then stored.  They are now called curse tablets because the most common kind of prayer recorded on them, by far, are curses.
People would address a god or goddess and say, “This person hurt me, and here’s how they hurt me, and I want payback. I  want you to hurt them, inflict pain on them, and here is how I want you to do that.”
Here is actually one found in Rome: “I invoke you, holy angels and holy names, tie up, block, strike, overthrow, harm, destroy, kill, and shatter Eucherios, the charioteer, and all of his horses, tomorrow in the arena of Rome. Let the starting gates not open properly. Let him not compete quickly.  Let him not pass.  Let him not make the turn properly.  Let him not receive the honours.  Let him not squeeze over and overpower.  Let him not come from behind and pass, but instead, let him collapse.  Let him be bound.  Let him be broken up.  And let him drag behind…both in the early races and in the later ones.”
This is how prayers used to be prayed and the Bible is not exempt Just look at some of the petitions in the psalms and the desire for revenge on the enemies of Israel.  So, that is how the ancient world was wired.  Until there came a carpenter who, 2000 years ago, laid a foundation that would change the world.  Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.'” They all heard that. “But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  Today we pray the words that roll off our tongues “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.
If we don’t, we carry the heavy burden that is unforgiveness. This burden can consume us and define us and rob us of life.
As Henri Nouwen writes: “To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us.  We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more.  We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.”  As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load.  The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them.  Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves.  It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.”
A great website to see the power of forgiveness is that of the Forgiveness Project.  One of the stories featured (and some will make you cry) is the powerful story of Mary Johnson: In February 1993, Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was shot dead during an argument at a party.  He was 20, and Mary’s only child. The killer was a 16-year-old kid named Oshea Israel.  Mary wanted justice. “He was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”  And he was.  Tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 and a half years – Oshea served 17 before being released recently.  He now lives back in the old neighborhood, close to Mary.  How a convicted murderer ended up living a door away from his victim’s mother is a story not of horrible misfortune, as you might expect, but of remarkable mercy.  A few years ago Mary asked if she could meet Oshea at Minnesota’s Stillwater state prison.  As a devout Christian she felt compelled to see if there was some way, somehow, she could forgive her son’s killer.  She went to the prison and came face to face with him.  It was hard but they began the journey to forgiveness – for to forgive is not to forget, condone, excuse, tolerate, or overlook; it means to choose the way of love over the way of hate. The way of love might be painful. It might not always be doing what the other person wants me to do, but there will be a way of love.
2They continued to meet in prison regularly.  When he got out, she introduced him to her landlord who, with Mary’s blessing, invited Oshea to move into the building. Today they don’t just live close; they are close.  Clearly, Mary was able to forgive.  “Unforgiveness is like cancer,” Mary says.  “It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about that other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done.  Yes, he murdered my son, but the forgiveness is for me.  It’s for me.”
The power of forgiveness – remembering that we too have been forgiven – is the message we, as the church, can take into communities and help heal them.
In our novena of prayer for evangelization, please join us in praying for the area of Pound Hill to the north of Worth Park Avenue/A2220 and south of Crawley Avenue/A2011 and for Milton Mount Primary School, its headteacher (Anne Holmes), staff, pupils and Governors.

Give us this day our daily bread

Season of Prayer

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.

 

Thy Will Be Done; On Earth as it is in Heaven

Season of Prayer

Do Not Worry .. Matthew 6 25-34

Today we reflect on perhaps the hardest part of the Lord’s Prayer to really mean when we pray it – ‘thy will be done’. Why is that hard?  Because, we live in a society that tells that we are always in control, where everything is possible for us, right here, right now.  You only have to find out what makes you happy and then you must go and grab it with both hands and then you will be truly happy, nothing can be denied you.  But, as we grow older and sometimes (not always!) wiser, we learn that material things do not bring happiness and not everything is possible.
Matt Haig, in one of the best recent depictions of the struggle against depression and anxiety sums up modern culture like this;
The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. (Reasons to Stay Alive).
A revolutionary act.  That is what is at the centre of this phrase in Matthew’s record of the Lord’s Prayer – an act that tells us not worry. Why?  Because God is in control and not us – “thy will be done”.  We just have to concentrate on God and then our worries will subside.  That sounds easy, but it is not.
“Thy will be done” means letting God be in control of lives.  These words are positioned in the Lord’s Prayer so that we place God at the centre and in control before we make our petitions of daily bread, forgiveness and protection.  Sometimes our prayer life can be only a list of our hopes and desires that we entreat, or command, God to do under our directorship.  This part of the Lord’s Prayer means sometimes having our prayers go unanswered (even the ones that seem so right).  And sometimes it means dying to our dreams, knowing, however painful it is, that God is in control and still has good plans for us (even if we can’t see them).
Sometimes we all pray for really good things with really good hearts and that prayer does not get answered.  God is silent.  We don’t know why.  Most of us have got on our knees and prayed with our hearts and soul for healing for someone we love, for the clock to be turned back.  And to what seems our most important prayer– God is silent.  We (the clergy) cannot point you to an explanation that has all the answers, for nobody can.
We can only point you to a person.  We can only tell you at the heart of the Gospel is an unanswered prayer.  Jesus kneeling in the garden prayed “Father if is it possible may this cup of suffering and pain be taken from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done.”  This is the most desperate prayer every prayed, from the most discerning spirit that ever lived and from the purest heart that ever beat.  A prayer that pleaded to be freed from the most unjust suffering ever known and … it was met with silence.  The cup was not taken away.  But from Jesus’ unjust, unwarranted suffering came the hope – the light of the world that remade human history.  The ultimate answer to every human anguish, including every unanswered prayer, is a sin stained, blood soaked cross where God suffered.  We don’t know why God sometimes says “No”.  Every one of us knows the anguish of wanting a “Yes” but getting a “No”.  We only know that God’s “No” on the cross to his only Son was turned into the greatest “Yes” of every human being that ever lived. Thy will be done…
As we share in the nationwide wave of prayer for evangelization, we focus our attention today on the area of Maidenbower to the north of Pallingham Drive up to Maidenbower Park (plus Bowater Road, Birchwood Close, Bassett Road and Stable Close) and east of Lucerne Drive (including Boleyn Close).  The Brook School, where Steve is a governor, is within that area.  Please pray for the school, for the Headteacher (Fi Dowley), for the staff and the current pressures they face, for the children and all their families.

Thy Kingdom Come

Season of Prayer

In Matthew 16 13-19, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is.  All the people they think he is – John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah – are good people to be.  However, it is only when Simon Peter says that he is ‘the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’ that things shift in the passage.  At this moment Simon Peter has seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus. When this happens, Jesus tells them that the way that God will continue to reveal His glory, after he has gone, is through the Church.

There is a dilemma when we look back in history – sometimes we would like to eliminate the Church as the chosen vehicle to tell people about the gospel.  For, after all, hasn’t the Church embarrassed us all in some shape or form?  The Church seems to have given Jesus a bad reputation, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, from the defense of slavery through scripture to the Westboro Baptists who picket service men and women’s funerals declaring God’s judgment on them, and even the child abuse in our own Diocese.  At each stage the Church has taken the blame, the stain, and has to live with it – one could be forgiven for thinking that the Church has little reputation or right to speak up.

We can either pretend that we are not the Church, so that we don’t have to carry the baggage of lots of bad decisions by lots of people, or we can take on and re-claim the name for all those people who don’t know what the Church should actually be.  As we pray ‘thy kingdom come’ let us keep in mind that Jesus is the hope of the world and the Church is how God has chosen to bring in His kingdom and make Jesus known.

And Jesus himself tells us that God’s kingdom comes in unexpected ways; it doesn’t just come with a great clap of thunder at the end of time, it grows in our midst, secretly.  It comes through in quirky little moments when people do extraordinary things, take extraordinary risks and leads you to think “Ah yes, that’s a life in which God is real”.

You may have seen the story this week that prompted a mother to post this on Facebook:

 ‘I would like to say a massive thank you to the lady in the photo (sorry didn’t see her name) who helped me today at Morrisons in Basingstoke.  I have two children that are both registered blind and are also autistic.  As you can imagine shopping is not an easy thing for me to do, at the checkout both girls decided to go into meltdown and this very kind lady decided to help instead of judge.  It doesn’t happen very often!  She distracted my daughter by letting her scan all my shopping.  A dream come true for Holly who loves playing ‘shops’.  It melts my heart to come across people that are prepared to go the extra mile, and little acts of kindness makes a massive difference to my world.  I hope this gets back to her and she knows how much we appreciate it. Amanda xxx’.

These acts of love and service are what should define the Church.  Imagine a Church doing that – Jesus did!

Please pray that Jesus may be made known in the area of Pound Hill and Worth to the north of Worth Road & Turners Hill Road and south of Worth Park Avenue/A2220 which includes the Church of St Barnabas and Pound Hill Junior School.  As you pray for the School please remember the year 5 children that are on a residential trip to the Isle of Wight, the Headteacher, Anthony White, and all those who work or study at the school.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Season of Prayer
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.    Psalm 19 v 1

Before I became a Christian I was barely aware of the use of God’s and Jesus’s name as profanities.  There were far worse words out there being used.  It has only been since I have become a Christian that it bothers me, not in a legalistic way – that we are breaking the rules and will be punished – but because I have learnt to love God and his Son deeply and when someone does not ‘hallow’ his name I feel that they ignore and even shun God’s beauty.  By saying we ‘hallow’ God’s name we are saying that this is serious, for ‘hallowed’ means holy or sacred.

bluebellsSome days are easier to ‘hallow’ God’s name than others.  Yesterday, I was with my family in Tilgate and the sun was shining and the bluebells were out in abundance.  You could feel God’s glory and I could easily praise Him.  On other days when the news of an earthquake or terrible crime is reported or a young child is snatched away from loving parents too early it is hard to ‘hallow’ God’s name.  Why?  Because here he seems absent.  But he is not.  I think God can relate to suffering because he suffered too, on the cross in the person of his Son, Jesus, the Christ. So in the good and the bad times God’s name is to be hallowed.  It is not easy and has to come through practice and forming habits.

How?  By always hallowing His name, by seeing Him in the small things and praising Him for them.  For a good cup of tea, for a bluebell, for family, for till receipts (I did a sermon once on that, so you will have to ask me!) and for lazy afternoons.  For if we see His Glory in the small stuff and name it, we will see it at times when it is almost impossible to see – in the times of hardship.

Matt and Beth Redman wrote a song “Blessed be Your Name”, about blessing God’s name no matter what. They wrote the song after the pain of a miscarriage.  It has helped me, when things have been bad, to remember to praise God in the ups and downs of life.

So today, no matter how you feel, praise God.  Maybe all you can do is praise God for the air that you breathe or maybe you can pray and thank God for all God’s children who live and work in the areas of Pound Hill and Worth, south of Worth Road and Turners Hill Road and east of the B2036/Balcombe Road.  Amongst our schools we ask you particularly to pray for the children and staff of the Pound Hill Infant Academy and their families, for Julie Knock-Bravery the Executive Principal and the work the school does as part of the Southern Collaborative Learning Partnership (SCLP) Alliance.

Steve Burston

Who Art in Heaven

Season of Prayer

When, in the Lord’s Prayer, we go on to say “who art in heaven”, we’re saying Heaven, God’s place, God’s home, is also our home. “Our citizenship”, says St Paul in one of his letters, “is in heaven”; that is, heaven is where we belong.  And the kind of relationship that exists in God’s presence in heaven is a relationship of love and trust and intimacy and praise that can be ours here and now.  Short, simple words, and yet they tell us that heaven is here on earth because of Jesus, and we can enter into that. For some heaven is up there, we are somewhere in the middle and down below is hell. Well, Heaven and Hell are realities today.

When people use the word hell, what do they mean?  Probably something like a place, an event, a situation devoid of how God desires things to be.  Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter–they are all hell on earth.  Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. As Christians we should want to do what we can to resist hell coming to earth, by loving our neighbour.  When that happens without an agenda or a transaction, just out of love, then we have each time a glimpse of heaven.

As a Church this is our most important witness to our faith.  An outward expression of love.  An example: a group of Christian students went out into their neighbourhood, they looked around and saw the homeless on their streets.  They wanted to walk alongside them.  What did they do?  They went out and bought lots of cigarettes and handed them out and chatted to them.  Their Church leaders said, “What on earth are you doing?”  They said, “Well, this is the thing.  What we found is that the homeless don’t get to die of lung cancer.  They die from drugs and alcohol and loneliness long before that.  The brief time we give them a cigarette we give them company and we say we are not judging you.  We’re with you.  We don’t then try to convert them, but if they ask why we are doing this we say, “because God loves us” and “we want you know he loves you too, no matter what”.  A small glimpse of heaven.

A quote from Mother Teresa shows us what our attitude should be:

mumteresa

So, our God “who art in heaven” – isn’t a distance and unreachable God, but a close, intimate God. We just have to reveal Him.

In our novena of prayer for the evangelisation of the nation, today we are praying for the area of Maidenbower to the west of Billington Drive and all the roads off Matthews Drive and Harper Drive (plus Mercer Close and Proctor Close) – an area which includes Oriel High School.  Our youth face a difficult environment today with so many more challenges, temptation and expectations.  As you pray for the School, please pray that they experience a glimpse of heaven, especially those just starting GCSE, A/S and A Level exams.

Novena Prayer

Almighty God

who in your Son Jesus Christ,

declared the coming of your Kingdom,

strengthen us in the ways of righteousness

and peace, that our brothers and sisters may

know the healing power of the gospel,

and that you will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.