Intercessions … what happens when we pray?

Today’s readings (Micah 3:5-12 and Matthew 24:1-14) speak things going wrong, ‘the world falling apart’.

Micah speaks of false prophets “who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths” and in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus warns of “wars and rumours of wars” and of false Messiahs.

Yet neither of these writers seems gloomy about it all; rather they have a confidence that, in spite of appearances, God is at work and his judgement will be seen in action.

So what does it mean to pray in a world of food-banks and Islamic State? How will the intercessions later in this service affect God or those who go hungry in this country or live in fear in Iraq and Syria?

The bible has a lot about effective prayer, “Whatever you ask in my [Jesus] name, that I will do” (John 14:13 – see also John 16:24) and James say “The prayer of faith will save the sick” (James 5:15). Paul gives us a sense of God actually praying through us by his Spirit when our words run out (Romans 8:26). This is prayer that really makes a difference in the real world

So how do we pray? Is praying in the Name of Jesus like some sort of Hogwarts spell, a matter of getting the words and actions right? Or is it about developing highly honed spiritual skills like some sort of Jedi Knight … the Force be with you Luke …

Let me say two things first:
1: I do believe in healing – I have seen examples that convince me that God is at work

2: I do not believe in miracles, at least as they are commonly understood

So what is going on …

The bible itself starts with the most wonderful story about the power of words – the creation myth in the first chapter of Genesis.

God said, ‘Let there be … and there was … and God saw that it was Good

OK so that is God speaking so you would expect something to happen!

But we do it too. (Or is it just me?) When things are not quite working out right do we find ourselves talking to (apparently?) inanimate objects? Cars that won’t start, computers that grind slow or keys that hide maliciously hide themselves …

The reality of StarWars and Harry Potter is that they do tap into archetypes that run deep in our psyche.

But what are we as Christians doing, what part does all this have in our celebration of Holy Communion?

Let’s go back to the beginning, Genesis chapter 1.

God spoke, it happened, it was good. What this story says to me is that at the very heart of the universe is a good compassionate God who speaks powerful and creative words.

What is more his final act of creation is to make us like him, ‘in his image’.

This God is perfectly revealed in a person, like us, Jesus. In him we see compassion, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. And all this had powerful effect.

Jesus wants us to follow him, be a part of his work. Our words, actions and passions become shaped by his. We find we can speak in his name and his work happens through us.

This is not because we are special, but because we are human.

It is effective not because we get the words right (don’t worry Rita – no pressure to get the intercessions right this week!) but because Jesus does as, by his spirit he works in us. Sometimes expressing things in ‘sighs too deep for words’. This is what it means to pray in Jesus name.

So when our heart goes out to those who suffer war or poverty or illness, so does God’s – or rather the other way round – and as we pray God’s compassion and healing in us moves through the world.

So yes I do believe in healing …

But no I don’t believe in miracles …

This is the power of God at work, it is the same life-giving compassionate force that brought the universe into creation. This is not a contradiction of the laws of nature it is their deepest expression.

My conviction is that if ever scientists do find ‘universal theory of everything’ that Stephen Hawking and others and others dream of, then they will end up saying ‘Oh, so that is what prayer is all about!’

Finally … the healing of a cat …

Listen to the talk …

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