Prayer & mission
Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
St Andrew’s Day which falls on the last day of this month. It is set aside as a day of prayer for the mission of the Church. Fr Gilbert Shaw once said that ‘The mission of the Church is weak because its prayer is weak.’ This judgement was not one about the amount of time spent praying for mission, or its priority in the corporate life of the Church (although he could have made negative judgements about both); it was the nature of the prayer he was particularly thinking about. Strong and vigorous prayer is prayer that brings the whole of our being – body, mind and soul – into engagement with the object of our prayer. If follows that prayer for the mission of the Church should not be prayer that simply runs through a list of places and names – lip service is ‘prayer that is weak’.
Effective prayer for mission must be prayer that the Lord himself directs. Our first prayer must be ‘teach us to pray’. Take time to consider prayerfully the needs of the Church’s mission, both locally and further afield. A useful exercise is what a friend of mine calls the ‘pebble in a pond method’; this means starting with the most local need and working outwards – street, neighbourhood, deanery, diocese, nation, etc.
It is also useful to gather facts and information about the needs of the Church and its mission. There are various mission societies which produce attractive and stimulating resourcesfor St Andrewstide. A few facts about the need for people, money or other resources do not go amiss. There are also some very powerful images available both in hard copy or on the internet; these include video and audio clips. Remember God gave us our imagination to enable our love and prayers to embrace those we may never meet or know. The ‘strength’ of our prayer for mission is built up by wrestling with the reality of its strengths, weaknesses and also its benefits.
If we are engaged in prayer that is ‘strong’ for mission, we will find ourselves more outward looking and more engaged in evangelism ourselves. ‘Weak’ prayer is prayer in which we have no conviction or faith; at the heart of mission is the power of the Gospel to change and renew and a deep awareness of the brokenness of creation. Prayer for mission will make us more aware of all this and awaken in us both the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed around us, and our responsibility to play our part in meeting this need.
As the Gospel for St Andrew’s Day reminds us (John 1.35–42), Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus because he knew that he had ‘found the Messiah’. For those of us who have been found by Christ, our prayer must be that we might introduce him to others. In the final analysis it is about love. If we know and love Jesus we will whers to as well. It is this love which will give both strength and direction to our prayer.