Refreshing Prayer | Who’s Pursuing Whom?

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

September is a blink away. And it often feels more like a new beginning than January, where nothing much changes except the number of the year. In September the school and university years begin, work gathers pace, club programmes reignite, things get going.

This year, that sense of a fresh start is perhaps intensified as we adjust to life after lockdown. September may not be the time to make resolutions, though it may still be a good moment for us to rethink the rhythm of our devotional lives. In doing so, there’s one vital lesson to keep in mind – Jesus came for us.

We did not ascend to heaven; God descended to earth. As John puts it, ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ His was the initiative, ours only the response. It is ever so. We only seek God because God first sought us. Indeed, whenever we feel a stirring to pursue him, it’s his grace that has put it there, his wooing that has roused us.

At the beginning of a new year, and perhaps in September too, many of us resolve to read our Bible more, to pray more, to be more fruitful in our everyday lives. We grit our teeth and ‘try harder. But we’re already on the back foot.

If we forget that God has taken the decision to come to us, our prayers become an exercise in striving. We try to pray for longer than we desire or pray the ‘right’ prayers. Soon we can feel dejected. Perhaps we have forgotten the grace of the incarnation, the coming of God to us. And so, the right response is not to strive but to rest, trusting that God wants to be with us, wants to listen, wants to speak.

So, instead of trying to manufacture an experience, it can be helpful simply to acknowledge his presence, repeating quietly to oneself a short phrase like ‘You are here. And I am here. Even in this situation. On this frontline.

In this position of prayerful trust, we can be confident that the places in which we find ourselves, the people among whom we live and work, and the tasks to which he calls us will all be permeated by the presence of the one who is ‘full of grace and truth’.

Matthew Greene

Matthew is a ministry trainee at All Souls Langham Place, London, who loves to read theology, run, and share time with close friends.

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