Book Review // Songs for Suffering by Simon Stocks


It’s great to be asked to review this book as Simon was my biblical studies tutor at college during my ministerial training. I am a big fan of the Psalms, but I also recognise that they are a bit like marmite, with some people choosing to read them as infrequently as possible. But I would say, don’t let that put you off, this might just be the book that helps you combat that!

Songs for Suffering is a wonderful guide for those in a season of struggling or as Stocks notes ‘for anyone who is going through tough times, whatever form that takes’. And it really is for anyone, written simply and not full of theological jargon, making it hugely accessible, but with a depth of knowledge evident from Stocks’ own academic experience.

Focussing on psalms of lament, the book takes us on a journey. Using personal reflections and stories from peoples lives, the author encourages the reader to deal with questions in their own lives, from personal failure, to issues of identity, and deeper still to despair, grief and personal suffering.

Each chapter guides us though a particular theme, asking questions for the reader to consider and pointing us to specific psalms for individual needs or circumstances. It is written in a very practical way, addressing how we can personally use the words of the psalms to deepen our own prayer life and each chapter finishes with some suggestions for what to do next.

However this is not just a practical guide, but a book filled with the authors own experience of life and pastoral ministry, written with compassion and a deep understanding of what it is to encounter personally, and come alongside those who suffer.

Stocks doesn’t shy away from difficult themes like shame, doubt and anger, but on the contrary embraces them with confidence, bringing a sense of assurance for the reader, encouraging them to engage with the themes for themselves.

Although my sense is that this is a book to work through from start to finish, it could also be something to dip into in particular times of trouble, or in supporting others facing difficult times, and in fact a helpful index at the end points to specific psalms for different circumstances.

Stocks reminds us afresh that The Psalms are a wonderful resource, passed down through the ages and used as the bedrock of Christian prayer for centuries, that are just as useful today, giving us the tools to pray in ‘just about any situation imaginable’ keeping us in touch with God even when pressures threaten to stop us.

The author notes: ‘may you find deeper connection to God, as you do so, even in the toughest of times…’ and this truly is a book that will help you do that.

Songs for Suffering will be published by Hendrickson Publishers Inc in April 2017. and can be pre-ordered at most good book stores online including Eden (priced £12.99) and Amazon (priced £11.99). There is also a website that goes alongside the book and will host other resources linked to lament at: www.cryhard.org

 

Simon Stocks

The Rev’d Dr Simon Stocks teaches Biblical Studies at St Augustine’s College of Theology, England (formerly known as SEITE). He is Chair of the Theological Educators’ Network and also ministers in the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Purley. After a career in civil engineering, he trained for ministry and worked in parish ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, before undertaking doctoral studies. His research interests include the interactions between poetic form and interpretation in Hebrew poetry, and the theology of lament.

Treasure Hunting Guidelines

You may or may not have heard of a type of evangelism called ‘Treasure Hunting’. Pioneered I believe by Kevin Dedmon at Bethel church it has become popular in the UK and I’ve been involved in taking out groups on a number of occasions. I’m now introducing it to my new church which is very exciting! Basically it means praying and asking God for some clues as to the people he wants you to reach out to in your town/venue/area. Then you go out looking for what God has shown you.

Here’s a couple of videos that give you a bit more of an idea what it’s about…

 

As part of what we are doing, I’ve produced some basic guidelines, which you can download here : treasure-huntingv2pdf and also includes a clue sheet, which might be helpful if you want to give it a go. Some of it is below also…

 

What is treasure hunting all about? 

We are going out, seeking out the treasure God highlights to us. It’s fun but it is fundamentally about revealing the love of Jesus to people and blessing them.

Treasure hunting is basically prophetic evangelism. Prophecy is a word or a message from God, that he wants to be shared. Simplistically: Old Testament prophets spoke to the people on behalf of God; New Testament prophets point to Jesus. Treasure hunting is both. Evangelism is about sharing the good news of who Jesus is. So in treasure hunting the two go hand in hand, we are messengers of God and revealers of Jesus.

Matthew 9:37-38

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 

Mathew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Many people are open to ‘the spiritual’ but not necessarily to Jesus or the church. Treasure hunting is a tool that can cut straight into people’s hearts, to reach them with a message they might otherwise be unwilling to hear.

What are we doing?

We are revealing Jesus to people, and his heart for them. We want to give positive messages of love, hope and truth that reach into people’s lives, where they are at.

 

1 Corinthians 14:3 (which is a message to the church largely but certainly appropriate here)

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

 

Shawn Bolz, a man with a huge prophetic gift, always talks about prophecy and love going together – the prophetic has to be all about love. We are not pointing out anyone’s faults, sharing anything judgmental, or giving a corrective word. We simply want to bless people and open their eyes to Jesus.

 Here’s a really encouraging story of someone’s experiences of treasure hunting:

” The first time we went out was crazy, it was a day of signs and wonders, gold dust appeared on us as we worshipped and prayed together, we went out for the treasure hunt and saw a lady healed of severe arthritis in her knees. When we saw her (one of our treasure maps had her exact description along with ailment and another map had her name) she could not walk up steps and had to be helped by her friend. Straight after we prayed for her she went bounding up the steps, we also saw her later in the day and she came running, yes running up to us, pointed her finger at us (yes, my initial thought was ‘oh what now’) and shouted, ‘My knees, my knees, I have no pain at all, for the first time in years”.

 

How do we do it?

In short: Pray, ask God for clues, then go out looking for the people he has highlighted! 

Take a risk but be careful with your words

Don’t be afraid to get it wrong and don’t worry if people aren’t interested! God loves our willingness and passion to serve him, not our 100% track record! Be confident in the Lord and step out, ask him for courage. Don’t rush!

 If you find someone who could be your treasure and matches some of your clues:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain what we are doing
  • Show them your clues
  • Ask if you can pray for them – is there anything specific?
  • Pray!
  • Tell them where they can find out more if they want to follow this up.

 

 

  • Introduce yourself

Simply say ‘Hi, my name is… tonight we are taking part in a treasure hunt and we think you might be our treasure.’

 

  • Explain what we are doing

We are Christians and tonight we feel that God wants to show people here in the town, how much he loves them by making them treasure in a treasure hunt! So we’ve prayed for clues as to who is his treasure today and now we are out looking for them…

 

  • Show them your clues

Show your sheet and point out why you think it is them. Tell them how precious they are, how much God loves them and wants to bless them. If you have something specific like a condition written down, mention that and asks if it fits with them.
Ask their name!

 

  • Ask if you can pray for them – is there anything specific?

You could offer to pray for any condition you have as a clue, you can ask them if they would like prayer for any area of their life or if they need healing at all. Be led by them.

 

  • Pray!

Ask if you can place a hand on their shoulder, or if for healing (and if appropriate) at the site of pain, if not, just hold a hand near them.

If you feel any specific words or message for them, explain that we believe we are sharing what God has for them, but we can make mistakes so if anything doesn’t fit with them, they should ignore it.

Do not offer anything judgmental, everything should be rooted in love. If you feel like God might be wanting to highlight a difficult area, you could lead to it gently, eg: is there anything you feel sad about? Is there anything you would like to share with us? Is there anything troubling you that we could pray for? etc You can write things down as you go, so if they then reveal something, you can show them that God has highlighted it

Keep it simple and short. eg:

Lord thank you for X, thank you that they are your treasure, that you love them so much, that they are so precious to you etc…

Share anything specific you feel God might be saying.

Bless them

Lord I ask that you would bless X today, fill them with the wonderful gifts of your kingdom,

With love, joy, peace, etc

Healing

Lay a hand on – ask first

Pray in Jesus authority/ in his name and use positive words like ‘be healed in the name of Jesus’, not begging prayers!

Ask how the pain is – scale of 1-10 etc. If appropriate offer to pray again, repeat.

End

Always finish by praying in the name of Jesus and Amen – then they know you have finished!
Wish them well, tell them where they can find out more, and hope they have a nice evening etc

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Want to find out more?

Two great books I would recommend are:

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: A Guide to Supernatural Evangelism Through Supernatural Encounters by Kevin Dedmon, and

Translating God by Shawn Bolz

Also check out Kris Vallotton and Shawn Bolz, both who have an amazing prophetic gift and they both have podcasts and youtube channels.

 

Saturday Morning Musings…

Sitting in my garden in the summer sunshine, there’s a gentle breeze blowing across the grass; in the next door garden I can hear the clank of spoon on bowl as they enjoy their breakfast, as we all gulp in this moment of sunshine, eager not to miss it. Inside my kids are watching old movies and my husband snoozes peacefully enjoying a lazy Saturday lie in.

I close my eyes and just feel the warmth of sun on my face. I breathe in slowly, desperately trying to still my mind, searching for something to hold on to. The sweet smell of lavender near by, the sound of a bird tweeting in a tree, the soft notes of a guitar twanging a few gardens away…

It’s almost idyllic except that my mind is in turmoil. In such stark contrast to my physical presence, my brain is processing news stories, pictures of horror, words of hate, increasing anger and xenophobia. I want to weep.

In my prayers I am saying ‘Lord why?’ I can’t voice my feelings, just can’t fathom, what is going on. I desperately whisper the name of Jesus, it’s all I can do.

 

…o0O0o…

The world seems to be in meltdown. I joked on Twitter that it was seemingly a bad time I had chosen to start studying the book of Revelation.

If you know the bible, it’s full of murder, hate, anger, of people making the wrong choices, of war, of death. And I don’t know, maybe the world has always been like this? Perhaps the reason it seems so awful now is partly because we are in the era of communication. We see things, hear things, literally as they happen, from the most far flung places of the world. We can be bringers of news ourselves, breaking stories as we find ourselves in them. How would it have been centuries ago, when angry dictators stormed across lands with their armies wiping out towns and villages as they forced their way into new territories, if we had Twitter? If we had had the capability to respond, to decry, to publically unite and stand against them? Would t have been different? Would our world be different now because of it?

There have always been disasters, manmade and natural. There has always been evil lurking in our hearts, waiting to be nurtured by some loving soothing voice bringing it to the fore. I know this, so why does it feel so desolate right now? So uncertain. Like everything we know and are sure of could disintegrate at any point?

I think for many it is so hard not to be sucked into the increasingly angry conversations going on. And angry they are. I heard this week, in the town where I live, swastikas had been painted on walls. I heard of being people abused in the street for the colour of the skin or their accent. And so much of this, I think, comes from fear and ignorance, comes from the whipping up of emotion in the press and in social groups. This is not going to stop any time soon.

…o0O0o…

All I can do is just turn to the one who I know is love. Who can be a comforter, who can bring peace. Because he is a comfort and it does bring peace to my mind. I cannot fathom the world, or the evil in it, but I do know Him.

 

Ember Cards

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If I had £1 for every time someone asked me what an ’ember card’ is in recent weeks, I’d be able to pay for all my clerical wear with the proceeds. And I’ve got to admit, it slightly amuses me that me, a definitely ‘improper Anglican’ to coin a term from a Twitter friend, is doing something quite traditional. So here’s a bit of an explanation…

Firstly, let me admit I only heard about ember cards because fellow ordinands have talked about them, but the short explanation is what it says on the card below, that traditionally those approaching ordination send them out to ask for prayer for them and their parish.  As you know I don’t really do traditional, but I do do prayer and I do love cards and design and nice things like that :) That said, usually they are pretty boring and dull and so I wanted to do something a bit different (no surprise there then) and asked my fab friend Mark at Sublime to design something for me and I love it! Not boring, not traditional, but still what it needs to be.

So ember cards, what? why? who? well it’s interesting that when I decided to get some done I wanted to do a bit of research and find out what they are all about and there seems to be very little info out there, but here’s some basic bits if you want to know…

Ember cards are sent out as part of Ember seasons or weeks, or even days. Ember Days are days set aside by the church for prayer and fasting and have been since the 4th Century AD in ancient Rome. As seasons of prayer and fasting it was considered a good time for ordination of clergy and like many things the Anglican church inherited the idea from Rome.

This Ember Season is between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, i.e: this week. Although the focus on times of prayer for ordination has become more of a focus now, rather than just being seasons of prayer. The CofE says this:

Ember Days should be kept, under the bishop’s directions, in the week before an ordination as days of prayer for those to be made deacon or priest. Ember Days may also be kept even when there is no ordination in the diocese as more general days of prayer for those who serve the Church in its various ministries, both ordained and lay, and for vocations. Traditionally they have been observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays within the weeks before the Third Sunday of Advent, the Second Sunday of Lent and the Sundays nearest to 29 June and 29 September.

(My ordination will be 25th June).

So, at these times of year those being ordained send out cards asking for prayer. I can’t find any information on how the sending of cards started (so if anyone knows more I’d love to know!), but perhaps it was a way of letting people know you were being ordained, at a time when communication was harder and took longer than it does today. Many people went away to train for ministry (many still do) and so would have left behind their original or sending church, friends and often family, so it would have been a nice connection to send back information on the ordination itself and asking for prayer from those who had nurtured them in their faith before training.

Whilst I am naturally a pioneer, looking to do things differently or improve things, I am still part of the Church of England and I embrace that. So in sending the card I feel part of the wider church, whilst also making it a bit different. I chose to put an explanation on the card as most people I send it to won’t have a clue why I’m sending it. Plus traditionally you ask for prayer for the parish you are going to, but I wanted to include the one I am coming from that has seen me through training, nurtured me and loved me in it all. Usually people include a prayer and again, many people I send this to won’t be regular pray-ers, but I wanted to find a way to reach them and I thought the most familiar prayer is The Lord’s Prayer so there is a chance people will have heard of it or may have even prayed it at school. And as I say on the card, it does express so much of what we need daily: to be provided for, to be kept safe from evil and to experience God’s kingdom on earth.

For me also, the realisation of what I am stepping into becomes ever more real each day and I recognise the need for prayer more than ever. This is only something I can with God leading me, so please do pray for me as I approach ordination, and of course beyond…

 

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Praying in tongues = praying through liturgy?

shutterstock_136339277So, continuing my journey into liturgy you may wonder why I am looking at praying in tongues… Well let’s go back a bit…

Like many people I grew up attending traditional village churches, so I also grew up reciting formal liturgy, which, as many find, quickly becomes second nature. I found myself from a relatively early age reciting the words, not needing a book in order to know what to say. For many this is a huge comfort but for me over the years I have found it really difficult. I would often find myself drifting off as I recited the words and not really thinking about what I was saying. Perhaps that is partly why I now find myself more comfortable in a charismatic church with more of a sense of freedom in that respect (although it is fair to say The Point does have it’s own style of liturgy).

Now I should note that my faith then was not what it is now, and I accept that had it been I may have felt differently. However over the last few years, going through discernment and studying, I have experienced and worshipped with many variations of liturgy, have undertaken daily prayer and encouraged myself to try new forms of more formal liturgy. At times this has actually been a joy as I have found new words that I have prayed right from the heart, but at others the old tensions have arisen again and I find myself frustrated. It has been a journey of, to be honest, love and hate.

Recently, I had a chat with my Vicar about this who noted a conversation he had once had in which it was suggested that formal liturgy could take the same role as praying in tongues. So just as the liturgical words we repeat become second nature so that we don’t really know what we are saying on occasion, when we pray in tongues we equally are not aware of what we are saying. In that sense with both, we are simply being obedient to God and his presence within us.

 

Challenged…? I was.

 

Of course our formal liturgy has developed over the last 2000 years in the life of the church, but the origins of current Anglican liturgy are found in Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer which was a seminal work, aiming to enable the average person on the street to meet with God without distraction. The Bishop of London notes that it offered the:

‘possibility of an approach to God which is hard or impossible to express in the language of the street’

 

Interesting… couldn’t we say exactly the same of praying in tongues?

 

In fact 1 Corinthians 14:2 notes

For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God

 

a prayer language focused from the pray-er towards God. Of course this is less corporate than formal liturgy, it’s a personal, heart cry to God alone.

From my own and others experience of praying in tongues, often people don’t know what to pray, but that they feel God’s guidance into what he wants them to pray. In this sense then there is an element of being removed from the prayer itself, but a willing obedience to pray as God leads.

When joining in the liturgy in a church service, we are also acting in obedience, using the prescribed words to reach out to God, both personally and corporately. There can also be a level of removal from the prayer, as the mind is not engaged in thinking of words to say, but simply in repeating them or reading them.

Let me clarify, I’m not trying to argue for one over the other, it’s more an exploration into prayer that has helped me…

Both aim to enable an encounter with God. A friend recently told me that he attends a BCP service every week and has done for years. Of course after so long, he knows the liturgy for this service very well and says that that it enables him to enter into meeting God without distraction as he doesn’t need to read the words or hold a book. The very thing that I find frustrating!

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I was very fortunate recently to have the opportunity to meet up with David Pytches to talk about liturgy and prayer. We talked over this subject and he was an absolute mine of information. Something that particularly stood out, and I suppose it’s obvious, was that he talked of the importance of intention. He noted that whenever we come to worship we do so with the intention of worship, our hearts turned towards God. Perhaps that is a key role of liturgy: to enable our intention to worship? When I turn to prayer, it is usually without prepared words, but with an openness to being led by God. There are of course times when words fail me, when I feel unable to pray, perhaps when burdened or anxious. It is then that words of liturgy can be vital, enabling us to enter intentionally into prayer or worship when our own minds fail. Likewise, can the words of praying in tongues, in a different way of course, be perhaps just as vital, when we cannot find words for ourselves? For me, yes, absolutely vital!

I wrote about intention last year when I was thinking about prayer doodling. Could it be that my creativitiy was a prayer to God? I believe that if we give all to God – in whatever form our prayer takes – that’s what counts. So whether we are praying words we’ve spoken 1000 times (or more), going off in some crazy language, just uttering a few basic words, or colouring on a page, I think God is more concerned with the heart, not the thing itself. After all 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God is more interested in the heart, not the outward. And I love this from The Message version:

Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; 

God probes for what is good.            Proverbs 16:2 (MSG)

So then, where do I end up? Perhaps with no more answers than to say again, that all our prayers are valid! We are all different and I think then it’s understandable that we should reach out to God in different ways. And more and more we are finding ‘church’ done in different ways, so perhaps it’s important to keep asking questions like these as the traditions change and the church embraces new ways of worship.

As always would love to know peoples thoughts, do comment or drop me a message on the Facebook page or via Twitter

 

Limbo // The Curate’s Journey

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I feel like I am in limbo.

It’s a funny old place to be at the moment with one thing ending and a new one not yet begun. I know I wrote about being in transition recently, but this is worse. I had told myself I wouldn’t begin to process it all until after my Easter study week. Unfortunately for me Easter Study Week is now a memory and my own enforced deadline is here, well in fact it has passed. Cue melt down…

But for now there will be an interlude, my kids are still off school and I really need time to think and pray through things. I had a little wobble at the end of Easter School but I felt myself putting the lid firmly back on it all for now. I simply haven’t the time or energy to think through the enormity of what is about to happen.

 

Because it is flippin’ enormous, let’s face it.

 

I know a few others have been feeling the same at this stage, which is in some small part a comfort. At least it’s not just me on the verge of losing it every 5 minutes. And I’m not the only one saying: I can’t get ordained, I won’t get ordained, I don’t believe in ordination – and everything in between.

…o0O0o…

So for now I’m in ostrich mode, head in the sand, deal with what’s in front of me only. My prayer walks, usually my time to engage with God, seem to be rather bland, and whilst frustrating I feel it’s a necessary place. It’s me of course, holding him at arms length but I can’t face the open and honest prayer time that I really need right now.

 

Next week.

 

Next week I can allow myself to process.

 

Maybe…

Inclination

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I’ve been away in Canterbury at Vicar School all week and have so much to process and reflect on, plenty of blog fodder coming up soon but for now just this. This photo was taken on the first evening of the week and I love how the rainbow seems to end at the pot of gold, the cathedral.

And this was just one scripture that really stood out to me one day at Morning Prayer. Such an amazing thought, isn’t it –  that God would incline his ear towards anyone, let alone me. You know those times when you can’t quite hear someone, you lean in closer, wanting to hear what they are saying. It’s like that – God leaning in, cupping his ear maybe, not wanting to miss a word. Even when I am not saying anything at all, he’s there, inclining towards me…

Praying for Parliament

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So here’s a question: when was the last time you prayed for your MP? Got to be honest, for me it was about 5 years ago when we did an event to which he came. Never really occurred to me to pray for him regularly or at all.

However I have been thinking a lot in recent years about how or if faith, or prayer specifically, has any impact on politics on this country or whether people like Chaplain to the speaker, Rose Hudson Wilkin, are able to impact or influence those in power. I have a friend whose husband, years ago, started off ‘prayer for parliament’ – a group of people meeting with Christian MPs and praying for them and for the politics of the nation. She invited me to go along and finally after two years, today we had a date when I could go! And I certainly got my answer: yes it does make a difference. MP Jeffrey Donaldson started off by telling us how grateful he and others were for our prayers, how it really did make a difference and that they really felt covered by them. One of the cards I picked up says this:

‘Through your prayers we can help to shape the decisions and attitudes of the government. It can be done but it needs dedicated intercessors to achieve this…’

 

I discovered that people actually meet to pray every week, to pray for parliament and the nation; and they meet in the Houses of Parliament every month to do the same. The service I went to today was an annual service held in St Mary Undercroft Chapel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, perhaps a small group of people, some hymns, maybe a sermon. Well it was far more than that. And it all started when I walked down a small winding staircase, an almost hidden entrance off Westminster Hall, turned a corner and walked into the most beautiful chapel I have ever seen. It was completed in 1297, with further work in later years and originally was used by the household of the royal family to worship, whilst the royals themselves worshipped upstairs in St Stephen’s Chapel (since destroyed). The crypt chapel, as it is informally known, was heavily restored in the 1860s by Edward Barry and it is his hand of decoration that can be seen today, and it is quite simply stunning. I actually did a comedy jaw drop when I walked in (unintentionally obvs!). 

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But it was far more than the decoration that impacted me. As we began to sing ‘Hosanna (Praise is Rising)’  the hair on my arms rose and I literally felt the presence of God fall on us all. It was some of the most uplifting and powerful worship I have ever felt. I just imagined the wonderful sound of it wafting up the winding staircase and into the great Westminster Hall, through into the lobbies and ‘corridors of power’. It was so loud, so powerful, so stunningly filled with harmonies, that even with thick stone walls, I am sure that it drifted far into the great building above us.

And with it I imagined the spirit of God drifting too, reaching into people, into their hearts and minds, impacting them with the kingdom of God. It was such a powerful, and I think prophetic, picture of what was happening and happens regularly there when people pray.

Was it the faith of those gathered that made it so special? the presence of dignitaries? the talented worship leader? Well, possibly but more, I think there was something so vital about gathering in a place where there is so much secular power. A tiny little beacon of the kingdom tucked away under the building, under all that power, that chapel represented to me today all the beauty of the kingdom of God, all the power of God himself, and all the possibility of what can be achieved in his name for his kingdom. It was like the very foundations of that building today, were formed in worship and prayer.

Today we prayed together, we prayed individually and with our neighbours. We prayed for parliament, for our own MPs, for those MPs present, for decisions and discussions, for wisdom, strength and more. And today, more than ever, I realised the importance of doing so. So if you don’t or haven’t, then get praying for your MP, for our leaders, for our nation. Because if we don’t who will?

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‘Prayers on The Move’ App Review

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So thanks to the lovely peeps at SPCK I’m taking a look at the new ‘Prayers on the Move‘ app which officially launches next week but is out now. If you’ve not come across it yet it’s a free app, available on Android and the App store, helping people to get started praying each day.

The blurb says this:

‘SPCK’s Prayers on the Move app is designed to enable you to get into the habit of praying. Habits are formed by repetition, and it has been said that it takes 30 days to build a new one’.

Which is perfect as there’s prayer for each day of the month!

The press is full of depressing stats about the church dying but if you take a different tack and ask people about spirituality or prayer their answers are very different. For example in a recent YouGov poll 42% of people answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘do you ever pray?’. That’s quite staggering really and as an evangelist I think we need to build on these kind of results. ‘Church’ ‘Christianity’ ‘Religion’ are all terms that people tend to roll their eyes at but yet ‘prayer’ and ‘spirituality’ seems to provide us with an opportunity, an opening to reach out to people. Clearly this app is Christian in focus but actually a lot of the prayers are open enough to encourage those who might be put off with an overly religious or specifically Christian message.

The app has a decent intro, with info on prayer itself, a section on why pray? and how to begin to pray – another fab feature for those who might be new to anything of faith. And it’s so simple to use. Each day of the month just has a very simply quote or prayer to pray, like these which you can either listen to or read.

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Their suggestion is, why not give just 1 minute a day to prayer. So, it’s not exactly aimed at your seasoned prayer warrior, but it’s perfect for a friend who expresses an interest in prayer, or an attendee at your Alpha course or just to suggest to people via your Facebook page maybe. As the app says:

‘praying may help you to develop your spirituality and to connect with something bigger than yourself’

There’s also an intro video (below) from the rather fab Justin Welby who notes that if we encourage people to open themselves to God, who knows what might happen…  So often I think when we want to share our faith we worry about things like what people might think, or ‘when to Jesus‘, or whether we are going into full on bible bashing mode, but this is actually a great tool to share with people that is non-threatening, relevant and might just start people on a journey that you can help them with. 

Although all that said, I’m actually loving some of the prayers like the one pictured above from Lord Astley: 

‘O Lord, you know how busy I must be this day; If I forget you, do not forget me’

To be honest I should be praying this every day! and actually if you are a well-worn pray-er then maybe you could use the app to just kick start your prayer each morning, or to give you a prompt, there’s some really beautiful stuff in there. So first off, give it a go, then why not share it with people around you, as the good Archbishop says, you never know what might happen…

 

Psalm 1 // All Age Service // resource

We ran an all-age service today based on Psalm 1, here is the plan below if anyone wants to use it.

“Rooted” based on Psalm 1 vs 1-3

Opening Song

 

Intro 

Clues to theme – What’s brown and sticky? A stick

What’s brown wet and sticky? A stick in the rain

When does a tree branch become a stick? When it’s disconnected from the tree/roots.

What are roots? Why are they important to trees?

  1. Anchor – stop trees falling over, keep it stable
  2. Source of life – take water and nutrients form the soil to help trees grows, devleope and repair.

So today we’re going to look at 4 roots that keep us focussed on Jesus.

Play video of Psalm 1 as above, available via Youtube to download

 

Root 1: Trust – Jeremiah 17:7-8

What does trust mean to you? Ask for responses – what does it mean to trust someone? interact with responses.

For me when I think about trusting in God it is remembering that God knows what is best for me. He loves me and has good plans for me so I know that what he asks of me is good. It means not being scared. Because sometime we have to do things that make us scared don’t we? what makes you scared?

For me as an adult. One way I know I have to trust God is in knowing that I have enough of what I need. Enough food, enough clothes, enough money.


Each of our roots we are going to have an action or response and for this one we are going to take up and offering, because when we give away from what we have, we have to trust that God will give us all that we need. So as we take our offering, think about how much you trust God and perhaps ask him to help you increase your trust in him…

 

OFFERING & 2 songs

roots2

Root 2: Prayer – 1 Timothy 1:17 

“Prayer is like a telephone where we can talk to God”

What is praying? Talking and listening to God.

What can we talk to God about? Anything and everything!

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know!

Key Verse – 1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer and Praise Alphabet- what reasons have we got to praise God for? (Go through each letter of the alphabet asking congregation to name things for each letter we can be grateful for)

roots1Response – Leaves Praise & Thanks leaves – have leaf shapes cut out and pens that people can write short prayers on then come and stick/hang onto tree. we used a tree branch but you could use a fake Christmas tree or collection of twigs in a large pot. Play a song while people write them and then come up and stick them on.

 

Root 3: God’s love – Ephesians 3:17-19

 

God’s love is incredible – it is different to peoples love because..

It can’t be measured – its too big (use a tape measure as a prop)

It can not be stopped/broken – it is too powerful (hammer as prop)

It will not run out – its everlasting 

It is not conditional – God will never love you anymore or any less than he does right now (spirit level)

We can not be separated from it – Romans 8 – Nothing in the whole of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We need to let our roots go down deep into God’s love – to have his love living and moving in us each and every day! To be aware of his love – to remember that we are his treasured possessions dearly loved by our Heavenly Father.

 

Stop for a moment and reflect on God’s love – possibly read a couple of verses about God’s love.

 

Root 4: God’s word – Hebrews 4:12 

(hidden scripture game)

Right for root number 4 we are looking at God’s word. In years gone by they used to tie Gods scripture onto their heads and hands (could do an example of this with a volunteer) but that doesn’t really work today does it?! So we’ve hidden some lines of scripture in the hall – send people off to find pre hidden scripture.

Get them to put into right order and read out. 

 

 

What does this mean for us? It means Gods word is for us, for now and it is powerful, full of truth!

For every situation we are in, every thing in our lives, Gods word is there for us

If we read the bible regularly that root will be so strong that we can face anything!

 

 

Response & Pray – Seeds & Pots or bulbs

2016-01-02 12.39.22So we’ve been looking at roots today, roots that feed us, keep us strong and healthy. quick recap on the 4.

And we wanted to find a way to help you remember this, so today we are giving you a little gift to take away, a bulb to plant. These bulbs, if you look after them will grow roots and then a plant with grown from them will grow. But you have to look after those roots, they need soil to be planted in, they need to be watered and looked after. Then that plant will grow and thrive, will grow flowers (or fruit) and will not wither.

So take these home, plant them and let them be a reminder of the roots you need in your life to help you to grow more and more like Jesus…

: Final Song

: Blessing & Goodbye

 

 

Equipment needed:

We had images for the screen for each root and scrolls to unroll (see below)

Leaf shapes/ pens and pencils

Tree 

Video or reading of Psalm 1

Props

Printed out scriptures (root 4)

 

Tree_roots_3rdJanROOTS Trre_roots_3rdJan_TRUST copy Trre_roots_3rdJanLOVE copy Trre_roots_3rdJanPRAYER copy Trre_roots_3rdJanWORD copy