Perhaps it’s something about being a reserved Englishman but I’m not a very good protestor. I don’t really go in for marches or wearing lapel badges. Perhaps it’s something about a lack of passion in me or being kinder to myself a sense of being able to see many sides of an argument.
And so though I am privileged to have these few minutes in your week when you give your time to listen. l’m cautious about being too forthright about my opinions.
Preferring instead to open up ways for you to think about how this faith we share might impact the way in which you see the world around us. And that world is troubled, seldom can I recall in my own lifetime so much tragedy around us.
Tragic attacks in Germany, coups and purges, police officers killed are just some of the headlines from the last week. These ‘headlines’ are held alongside the ongoing tragedies unfolding around our world.
The problems of Syria and mass migration have not disappeared, the camp of Calais has not gone anywhere, and suicide bombers continue to take innocent lives. Faced with these things it is hard to know what to do.
We want to shout out. We want to protest that this is not right. That there is another way to live. A way rooted in the life and teaching, the death and resurrection of the Jesus who draws us here this morning.
That protest is expressed in some way through our prayers. For prayer, whether they be said here or offered quietly as you think of another with a cup of tea in hand is, in part at least, about resetting our focus. About lifting up our hearts, so often weighed down by our burdens to the God who renews our hope and restores our vision.
In our Gospel the disciples ask Jesus ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ He gives them words of prayer we too know so well. The prayer that will sustain them as they seek God’s goodness and mercy wherever they are.
A prayer that invites them to hallow (make holy) the sacred name, to pray for the kingdom amidst all the frustrations and sadness’s of life and to dare to dream of forgiveness.
That invitation is there for us too.
Of course this praying isn’t as demonstrable as marches, lapel badges and banners. But prayer is our protest and it does bring about change, especially in us.
These words from C. S. Lewis when watching his wife Joy struggle with the pain she was experiencing through cancer, speak to me of the essence of prayer.
Lewis said ‘I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.’
These are words that I try and hold onto when I come here to church, not least for Morning or Evening Prayer. For in those precious times particularly when I’m mindful of another tragedy unfolding, just being here, reading the scriptures, offering words of prayer and resting, surrounded by these prayer soaked walls, I am in some way changed. Hope is rekindled.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, perhaps they too were faced with some tragedy which they could make no sense of. Perhaps a friend of theirs was in pain or need or they had witnessed some random act of cruelty that seem so common to us these days. Whatever it was they wanted to pray.
The same is true of us when faced with the tragedies of our world or indeed in our own lives. So we pray, at the sink, in the church, on the fell top or with a song. Indeed our hymn book is filled with protest songs that through music connect our hearts and minds with the hope of another way.
I’m still not a very good protestor, on the streets at least. But as we look round our world or indeed at our own lives then we realise, as I have afresh this week, that prayer is our protest against the evil of that world, for through it we are given hope, we are changed and given a new vision of what might be.
So ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.