Occasionally I’d have a bit of an energy burst and do some journalling (ever done that?). Some of the conferences I went to had experts saying if you didn’t journal every day you had to doubt your salvation. I got a journal. The ‘MAN’ type, leather, with a cross on the front, not the girls one with flowers. Some time later I got another one because I’d hardly written in the first one. It had ‘MY PRAYER JOURNAL’ written on the front.
But there’s still not much written in it.
Actually though, Jesus didn’t journal. It really wasn’t me. I love writing, I hate journaling. I’m not even sure journalling is a word. How many ls should it have if it is? Spellchecker doesn’t like either. I read somewhere that CS Lewis STOPPED journaling when he became a Christian, because he’d done it for years before, and found it made him too self centred.
I was doing really badly from the outset at how I thought you were supposed to be growing spiritually. It never got better. It’s not like when you’re a kid and you get to see how you grow by marking it on the wall near the fridge. As a spiritual child of God, what’s the best marker?
I started to wonder whether the best way to measure people’s devotion to God is how long they pray. Is it about their ‘devotional life,‘? Or their WHOLE life? Maybe it’s not about getting heavenly flying hours or ticking off a list of spiritual activities. Could there be some better gauges? In Jesus’ day the people who’d score highest on spiritual practices were the Pharisees! First there for morning prayer- first to throw stones.
I’ve had so many people try to be travel agents for guilt trips for me over prayer, personal and corporate over the years. Here’s a good one, ‘You can tell how popular the Pastor is by how many come to Church on Sunday, but you can tell how popular JESUS is by how many come to the midweek prayer meeting.’
Well we don’t have a specific midweek prayer meeting. But I think Jesus is really popular around here, anyway. Maybe the measure of whether Ivy’s a praying church is not necessarily how many people can we get to this or that prayer meeting? Prayer meetings are great of course – but if that’s the measure, if you gauge spirituality by ‘spiritual’ activities, the Pharisees will win again.
This week hundreds of us have been galvanised as a church community to pray for little baby Cole – who died at birth and had to be resuscitated and even now struggles for life; and for dear Denise at the other end of her journey here on earth. Facebook and text messages and personal visits etc have carried these people and their situations to God.
And I think I’ve prayed everywhere, while I’ve queued, walked or shopped or drove or parked or prepared for sermons (it counts!). I’ve prayed when I woke up, went to bed and couldn’t sleep. I’ve prayed on the phone, in the church, on the loo, at the gym. How long for? I don’t know. I wasn’t counting it. But I think it all counts.
I don’t think I was storming heaven, interceding like the great men of old, being a watchman, having heaven touch earth – or any of the other ways we can subtly make it an esoteric technique. It was heart to heart not pen to paper (though if that helps you – crack on!).
I just talked with my friend – who happens to be King of the Universe, about everything that mattered to me, everywhere I was. And listened as best I could. One day I hope to learn how to pray properly – but until then I’ll keep on doing that.
(If you haven’t been too offended and would like to hear the rest of the talk I did here, you’ll find it on the website in the next couple of days for free download at www.ivymanchester.org/podcasts)