From the minister...
It’s now almost thirty years since I bought a book that would have a more transformative impact on my life than I could ever have imagined. I was a student at Queen’s University in Belfast, with a desire to grow deeper in my faith that was driven by a sense that ‘there must be more than this’, a larger and richer world of faith than that which I was currently inhabiting. I walked into a Christian bookshop in the centre of Belfast with little idea what I should be looking for and spent some time browsing the shelves before I was drawn to a copy of Discipleship by David Watson.
I can only vaguely remember the reasons why I bought the book. I had heard of David Watson’s remarkable preaching ministry and the role he’d played within the charismatic renewal movement before his death from cancer in 1984 and was also aware that he had made several trips to Northern Ireland when he’d campaigned for peace and reconciliation. However, I wasn’t really prepared for what I was letting myself in for when I paid the princely sum of £2.95 for it.
I have no idea where Discipleship sits in the pantheon of Christian publishing. All I can speak of is the deep impression it made upon me, a consequence of its combination of scholarship, pastoral insight and spiritual wisdom.
A few weeks ago, I picked up my now battered copy of the book and turned again to the chapter on prayer. Watson quotes another writer Anne Townsend, who offers the following counsel on intercessory prayer: ‘I may never meet the one for whom I pray; but I may come to love him enough to offer him one of the greatest gifts one person can offer another – that of intercession, “love on its knees.”’ 1
‘Love on its knees.’ I’ve been reflecting on this simple but beautiful and evocative description of prayer and want to invite you to meditate on it as well. Watson himself goes on to comment that, ‘Prayer is the greatest expression of love we may have to offer – a totally unselfish expression – as the individual who is blessed by God may seldom, if ever, know that we are praying for him.’
As we move into July, we’re now at the halfway point of our current series of sermons considering what it means for SBC to be a ‘contemplative church’. Alongside our reflections each Sunday, we’re also aiming to practise what we preach, hence our invitation to our whole church to join together for prayer meetings on the second Tuesday morning and third Wednesday evening of each month.
In recent months, it’s been encouraging to see our church full of life again, both on a Sunday morning and during the week, and to welcome new faces among us.
However, most of us are still mindful of the impact of the pandemic, aware of hurts and disappointments that need to be healed and of the many changes we’ve been through as a church and the challenges that lie ahead. Alongside most other churches, we are trying to sustain a programme of activities with a lower number of volunteers, trying to understand one another as we grapple with complex issues such as sexuality and seeking God’s guidance about the future shape of our Ministry Team.
It goes without saying that finding answers to these questions will take time, patience and a willingness to listen carefully and graciously to one another. Most of all, it will require us to turn to God and seek his face, praying for one another with the aim of demonstrating ‘love on its knees’.
look forward to seeing many of you at the first of these prayer meetings, on the morning of Tuesday 12th July and the evening of Wednesday 20th July. Please join with us in praying for SBC, the life and witness we share together. As you pray, both as we gather and in your personal devotions, can I encourage you to do so with openness and generosity.
Are there any aspects of church life which have frustrated you recently, where you think we need to improve the way we do things? Could you take time to pray intentionally for the people who lead in that area, asking that God would encourage them and give them strength and wisdom? Are there people you need to speak to about some unresolved misunderstanding or disappointment? Could you take time to pray for them, asking that God would awaken them afresh to how he much he loves them? Have you disagreed with someone recently about how they interpret the Bible? Could you thank God for bringing this person to our church and pray that he would deepen your love and care for them and give you a fresh willingness to see things from their perspective?
In the first of his letters, John offers this wisdom to the early church: ‘Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble’ (1 John 2:10). If we want to see such love growing among us, perhaps the first thing we should do is to start loving on our knees, to offer heartfelt prayers for one another, waiting expectantly for the change he can work in all our hearts when we do so.
1 David Watson, Discipleship, 1981, p124