Today is World Day of Prayer. The website www.worlddayofprayer.net tells me that ‘World Day of Prayer is a global, ecumenical movement of Christian women joined together to observe a common day of prayer each year on the first Friday of March.’ Their motto of ‘Informed Prayer & Prayerful Action’ signifies that prayer and action are inseparable. This year’s theme is ‘Receive Children. Receive Me’ and a service on this theme has been devised by women in Cuba.
A survey by Tearfund a few years ago revealed there is huge interest and involvement in prayer, even among people who don’t go to church. It found that:
- 42% (20 million) of adults in the UK pray
- one in three (16 million) say ‘there is a God who watches over me and answers my prayer’
- One in five (10 million) believe that prayer ‘changes the world’.If prayer is so important for so many who don’t darken church doors, then presumably it must be more important for those who do. Of course it is – but, if we’re honest, there are times when we find it difficult. Christian author Veronica Zundel, reflecting on Psalm 5, writes: ‘If you are like me, times of stress are the very times when any discipline of prayer falls apart. Harassed by circumstances, burdened by lists of tasks which never seem to get ticked off, discouraged by disaster, the last person to whom we want to turn for help is God – after all, isn’t God the one who ought to have made it all right for us?’A number of years ago I was talking with a Royal Navy chaplain whose ship was preparing for deployment in the Falklands. This meant that the crew, including him, got up at 5.30am, began work at 6.30am and went to bed at midnight. That was the pattern for six weeks and was designed to test how they handled stress. Imagine trying to fit daily devotions into that kind of schedule – they’re likely to be thrown overboard! Even for those of us with more time to spare than that, it can be a struggle to give time to prayer. But if we acknowledge the vital importance of prayer it should be a regular habit. As Zundel goes on to say: ‘it is only by habitually bring our desires to God that they can be shaped to God’s will.’Lent is traditionally an opportunity to take stock of our spiritual lives. Maybe during this Lent we can take stock of our prayer life. That could begin by finding a World Day of Prayer service near you. I believe men are welcome too!Jonathan