Thursday, 13 December 2012

Prayer (Watch) Survey

A couple of years ago, one of our prayer watch "motivators" quizzed me about prayer.  Here's a compilation of the exchanges.  I didn't have room to add it to my Sunday morning session notes. 

"I've been doing a few interviews of brothers on the prayer watch recently and wondered if you would mind taking part yourself.  If you wouldn't mind- perhaps you could answer the questions below.  The idea is that you just get to express what prayer means to you - what you do, when you do it etc,. if you don't like a question you can ignore it - or you can add anything you think I've missed."

Q1  You're a well busy apostle...when do you find the time to pray?

Hmm.  Not apostle - member of the apostolic team.  I have a time of prayer and "personal devotion" every morning, which entails getting up early.  I also try to practise "recollection" or spiritual responsiveness, when I'm doing other things and feel a nudge to take a time out - may be a few moments (like 1-1-1), or a bit longer.  If I'm travelling on a long journey, I try to fit in some prayer: I find no problem speaking in tongues at any time.  And, I pray as I prepare for meetings and correspondence, decisions, and counselling/ministry, or church discipline times.

Q2  Do you pray "apostolically"?  How?

A rather sketchy definition is that the apostolic ministry is a bridge between God's purpose and the world's need, with the body of Christ as the unit God uses.  So, you need to be clear on God's side (like, mJa has a very specific call to UK), aware of the spiritual and human context you're operating in, and skilled to build the church so Jesus incarnated again can do what Jesus does - though us!  In Jesus Fellowship structure terms: assistant pastors oversee a group of sheep; elders oversee groups of sheep forming households; senior leaders oversee clusters of households in Regions; and apostolic men oversee clusters of Regions.  All that gives you plenty to go at.  I'm conscious that I may be the "last line of defence"  in a church situation, and so need conclusive wisdom.  I also need clear sight to distinguish what's actually God's vision for us, and what's feasible to bring into application; to weigh up initiatives and to get households over their obstacles.  I need both pace and patience, and I need to understand the powers that are at work in scenes.

(after Q2)....So, how, by praying, do you get to know about, or deal with the "powers at work" in a scene?

I suppose I can most relate this to church planting situations, where you come to recognise territorial opposition, and household building, where people go though various  scrapes.  We need God to reveal stuff to us, not be humanistic or psychological, and that means probing in prayer.  Sometimes it can come as people share their discernment together, but then we need to focus prayer on the challenge that's been unearthed.  In evangelism, too, very uncomfortably, we're the sort of church that provokes spiritual opposition out of its hiding.  But I'm assured that's so that we can press for more victory!  It can seem you're getting shaken to bits, but God says, "Don't lose your nerve".  Most (white) UK churches only know defensive prayer.  Despite the secularism, the UK is very idolatrous: for example, I love to see consumerism overturned by our common purses and simplicity.

Q3  Do you think regular prayer times are important?  Why?

Yes, I do.  We humans arrive a better point of connection with spiritual things when distractions are tamed.  This can include the distractions of constant novelty, irregularity, and disorderliness.  A daily time and place has been my practice for many years - in fact a brother commented recently that he came away from a marquee campaign some 15 years ago with the memory of me sitting praying on the top deck of the bus each morning.

(after Q3) ...What else helps you "tame the distractions of constant novelty, irregularity and disorderliness"

Well, lots of veteran charismatics have got fed up with the happy-clappy, and gone back to traditional churches, even the Orthodox church.  I'm committed to finding long-term satisfaction and meaning in mJa (as well as leading!), so I need to note that it's not always what's spontaneous, or even informal, that carries spiritual life.  The J Generation is the speed-dating, binge-drinking culture.  I love 24/7 because it's the sort of "crash and burn" approach that the J Gen does naturally.  But it can't be everything!  I think our relationship with God is worth costly investment!

Q4  What do you do in your prayer watch hours?

I pray through Together, because my prayer and ministry is for the Church.  I may meditate so I can listen better, and mature a bit.  I value opportunities for any longer time because that shows the Lord - in a little way - that I hold Him as a priority in my busy life.  It also means I'm not just skimming  in the shallows. That's all three times a week on average.

Q5  Do you think we have to have something to say before turning up for a prayer time?

I very rarely haven't, but I'm happy to abandon it for the sake of  touching the spiritual more firmly, by letting God set some agenda.  Having said that, I'm the sort of person who, if things are "flat", gets on with the obvious thing to do - pray about groups of leaders, or events, etc.  I find I do the same thing with meetings - if they're going nowhere, I'm likely to step in and do something to get moving again.

Q6  Do you think listening is important in prayer?

Always.  I think that our Church wants and needs its leaders to have heard from God.  Sometimes that's the only "different" contribution I can bring, because other guys in my various scenes are better than me at evangelism, organisation, relationship, detail, etc.  To pass on truth and grace you've got from God is just so essential.

Q7  How do you listen?

First you've got to be ready to grapple with whatever it may be that God could say.  That's my inward preparation.  I know saints who, quite frankly, are too afraid of what God might say, ever to level with Him.  That's tragic - living on the run.  Then I find some trigger that has carried "life" in the past few days - maybe something I've read, or that someone has shared, or some incident.  (I jot these things down, too.)  And I say, "Okay Lord, talk to me some more about that..."  Or I may say, "I wasn't very happy about the way I handled that - give me the truth", or, "We didn't seem to get very far in that incident - where was the power?", etc.  And we go on from there.

Q8  What would you say you have learned as a pray-er over the years?

I most enjoy prayer that suits my temperament - you have to discover that for the long haul, and develop it.  But if it's only that, it can be self-indulgent.  So sometimes you have to go another way - just respecting that the Lord isn't made in your image, and the value of any prayer time isn't measured by your own buzz!  I did about three years of contemplative prayer - just sitting for half an hour or more, more or less in silence, and telling God I was doing it 'cos I love Him.  Other times I'll punch the air or whatever.  Equally, I'd be very happy if I could find an isolated spot and bellow my head off - I find that breaks oppressions.  I don't do "union with God" very well; I have to think of Him being somehow "out there".  And I don't know how to get my spirit to other places, like Elisha and Paul did.  So there's lots more to learn.

Q9  What about fasting?

I've fasted one day per week for many years.  I don't find it easy: my attention at work falls off, and I get moody and irritable - actually the second day of a longer fast seems better.  I fast for perhaps a week, two or three times per year, usually when we've got a bigger event coming up, like a campaign, or the AMEN Multiply visit.  Recently, if necessary, I'll have a light breakfast, because I can't afford concentration lapses when I'm driving.  But usually I find an anointing, and, at the end, I find more spiritual flow in my everyday life rather than anything spectacular.  Do people know that seven days is the limit in mJa? So agape to agape is best.

Hope this helps.  Feel free to edit, or ask for clarification - Mary couldn't follow everything on the first time of reading it. 

ohmygosh week two or three times a year...ohmygosh.....Didn't know about a 7 day limit with fasting though, I've heard of some much longer ones going on.  If I manage more than 6 hours, however, I'll throw a big party.

Mmm -  1 Corinthians 7:17.  I will say, on the subject of (longer) fasting, that for us it should be within our covenant commitment, or else it becomes "will worship".  There are times when I'd gladly make 6 hours the limit, too!  Coming off caffeinated drinks once in a while is even more "crawling up the wall".  Bless you

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