Updated: Feb 11
C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bed- room where an ordinary man is saying his prayers."
Living in Yorkshire and having four young sons I have had my fair share of steam engine rides. When reading the passage above, the image I get is of prayer being like a great steam engine. To me, this is hugely powerful. If you will indulge me a little, drawing on the ideas mentioned above and further images, I have had some musings on prayer that have spoken powerfully to me recently that I wanted to share with you.
It is not our job to get the fire going...
No matter what size the steam engine, it all starts with a spark that in turn transforms into a mighty, roaring fire. Charles Spurgeon likened prayer to being the engine room of the church. Whilst this image is super helpful, if we are not careful it can leave us with the burdensome belief that getting the engine of prayer going is all dependent upon on us. Lewis' suggestion is that God is the motive and the power in prayer. In our image He is not only the spark but also the great, all encompassing flame.
The defining feature of those involved in children's ministry is passion; passion for Christ, passion for his church, passion for seeing lives transformed. We can easily be overwhelmed by this passion and praying in our ministry setting can feel a lonely task. How amazing is it to know that when we are prompted to pray it is God doing the prompting, he is lighting the spark! When we pray for our ministry times we are not alone, Jesus is with us helping us pray, sharing our burdens and praying for us.
Delays and leaves on the line
In the C.S Lewis passage above he talks about God being the road or bridge along which we are pushed. For our steam train metaphor this would be the track. One of the things that constantly blows me away when we go to visit train museums (a niche pursuit perhaps?!) is the size and scale of some of the wheels on the trains. You can fit a full hand in the groove that runs along the rim of these mighty circular discs of metal. This groove fits the track like a glove. The wheel becomes embedded and connected to the track in such a way which means that it is very hard for the two components to get separated. In prayer we are connected to God in such a way that as we travel along the track our relationship deepens and lengthens.
Depending where you are in the world, your experience of public transport will be very different. For me personally I have experienced trains cancelled due to leaves on the train track or slowed to an excruciatingly sedate pace due to rain on the rails or the sun warming and warping the tracks, the result of which have been missed connections or the train simply not stopping at the desired destination (I think I am really selling the UK's rail system here!).
Although for some it may be amusing to imagine that a rail system could ever be this chaotic, for me it has really helped to highlight a challenge with prayer. Prayer can easily be the thing that is squeezed in, particularly when we are aware there is so much to set-up. These tasks can become like the leaves or the weather that can deter and distract from prayer. If we are not careful we can miss time for connection which can impact on the journey. Ephesians 6:18a encourages us to:
"...pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests"
I desire to be a person that seeks to stick firmly to the track.
The Power of Public Ownership...
Don't worry this isn't a political comment on the state of the trains where we live. Corporate prayer is super important. We find in the Gospels Jesus' passion for the temple to not just be known as a place of prayer but also be called a 'house of prayer':
He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"
Matthew 21:13 (NLT)
God's church isn't just to be a place for prayer but he has called his church to be a people of prayer. When I was young there was an elderly lady in the congregation that took upon herself the importance of praying particularly for the young girls in the church. My sisters would get birthday cards and handwritten encouragements always signed 'Love from PG' (Prayer Granny). This was such a powerful act found in simple gestures. Those two initials showed my sisters, and the many others like them, that there was someone moved to pray for them. Someone who said 'I am going to own you in prayer'.
I love the first four words in the C.S. Lewis quote 'An ordinary simple Christian'. I am sure like me you have tried to recruit people to join the children's ministry team and been met with phrases such as 'Its not my gifting' or 'I am not sure I am called to children's ministry'. For a long time I have been downhearted by these responses. Although it may be hard to understand why people may not join your team, the truth of the matter is not everyone will want to. Prayer, after all, is the work of the ordinary, simple Christian. Despite the reluctance to join a team you can invite them to own the children's ministry, and in particular the children, in prayer. I have seen lots of ways this can be achieved from providing bookmarks to prompt prayer to orchestrated buddy-ing systems. I would probably favour a more organic approach, inviting the church to ask God to whom he would like them to become a prayer granny, grandpa, aunt, uncle, brother or sister. Imagine what an impact this could have.