Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let us pray?

Who might have thought that prayer would be the subject of headline-grabbing controversy? Mr Justice Ouseley of the High Court ruled that Bideford Town Council has no power to include prayers as part of the formal agenda of its meetings. The case was instigated by the National Secular Society. The ruling has implications for local councils across the country. Secularists greeted the ruling with glee. Their rejoicing looks to be short lived. Eric Pickles, the Government’s Communities Secretary has vowed to pass legislation that will give councils the right to begin their meetings with prayer if they so wish.

It is interesting that it is prayer of all things that has thrown up the issue of the role of faith in public life. For what could be more essential to the life of faith than prayer? A person becomes a Christian when they call upon God to save them from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian life is sustained by prayerful communion with God. Jesus taught his followers to pray to their Father in heaven, to worship him and bring their requests to him. In prayer believers acknowledge their total dependence upon God and seek his help to live in a way that brings glory in his name.

Christians may pray to God for all manner of things; for the provision of their daily bread, for guidance when perplexed, for strength to resist temptation and so on. But prayer involves more than brining a “shopping list” of requests to God. It involves enjoying fellowship with God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of his Spirit.

But prayer is not simply a matter of “private spirituality”. It is right that believers pray for God’s blessing on their country. The prophet Jeremiah wrote to the Jews who were exiled to Babylon, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Similarly the apostle Paul said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

For Christians, prayer should always be top of the agenda.

* For the March edition of News & Views, West Lavington parish magazine. 

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