And it tore, tore completely from top to bottom, with the force of one whose power was greater than that of the earth. The very fabric was broken in two and there was left an opening. An opening between one place and another, between isolation and safety, an opening into man’s greatest need, into a relationship with God.
In the Temple of Jerusalem had lain a curtain, between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and only in the Most Holy Place could one experience the presence of God. When Jesus died on this cross, this curtain was torn in two, torn from above. In taking on our sins, Jesus brought us forgiveness in the eyes of God, and in the tearing of the curtain we were shown that we could have a personal relationship with God, that we could experience God’s presence in every moment of our lives.
And this relationship is not silent, God loves us and God cares for us, he wishes to help us. In the relationships we have, with friends and family, we do not remain silent, we talk to them, show thankfulness, bring our worries to them and show our love to them. And so we must show such an engagement with God, we should show Him our love and our thankfulness. And so, once we know that God is there, and that He will support us, we may wonder, how do we talk to God? How do we pray?
Psalm 77.1: I cry aloud to God, aloud to God that he may hear me
What does it mean to call to God, to turn to God and realise His presence, His power and His love for us? What does in mean to pray to God and to know that he is listening? In times of desperation we all need somebody to listen, somebody to care for us. And the problem is that we can’t rely on people alone, people are distracted, they may not understand, they may not always be there. But in prayer, He will listen. Though we may not have all have prayed, we have probably all pleaded to an unknown source in times of need, our thoughts calling without the certainty of someone listening. But in prayer we can place our trust in a God who listens.
But what does it mean to listen? What does it mean to know that the solution is not in ourselves, that God answers our prayers in ways that we do no imagine? What does it mean to look upon our life and know that God is in control, that God is teaching us in our experience? In human relationships we expect to speak with words and to be spoken to in the same way. But a relationship with God is different. Many people have different experiences in their relationship with God, but it is in agreement that God speaks to us in His own and unique way, God answers our prayers in His plan for us, when we call out for answers, they are given in the experience provided to us by Him. He shapes his blessings into the very fabric of our lives.
I was brought to question and explore prayer and my prayer life when The Globe Church held a ‘Week of Prayer’, bringing together a range of activities and events that stimulated our prayer both in the personal context and In the context of the church family.
Although apart from the events, the sermon proceeding the ‘Week of Prayer’ reminded me and allowed me to look deeper into the grace of God, and everything that God has done for us as individuals, it showed me how much love God has put into His relationship with every person that recognises his presence.
In a series of sermons surrounding the question ‘What is the Church?’ Jonty, our preacher explored another significance of the church, ‘A Church that Gives’. He spoke of the gifts that we are given by God, of how God created the world to give to us. He spoke of how God continues to give to all of His people, of how much love is shown by Him, of His devotion to us. I was reminded that my relationship with God is not one-sided, I am not speaking into silence, God showed His grace first.
1 John 4.19: We love because He first loved us.
I was reminded of how the gifts that God has given us should not be taken for granted, that these gifts, whatever they may be, should be used to show others the same love that God has shown me.
And so our prayer week began. On the second day I was given a clear challenge. My three friends, Beth, Bethan and Mary, and I met to go through a bible study that The Globe had sent us that morning before going to Jonty and Linda’s flat to pray about what we had learnt and to pray for our church family. When we arrived, everyone was really welcoming, happy to see that we had all come to pray with them. We weren’t required to speak aloud, the fact that we were there, praying alongside each other was the most important thing. And yet, as every other person prayed aloud I reflected on my own fear.
I was scared to pray aloud out of fear that I would forget my words or confuse what I had to say. Everyone prayed with such encouragement, showing thankfulness, confession and need. Everyone prayed with a focus upon whom they were praying to, with a focus on God. And I knew that it didn’t matter what others thought of my words, it didn’t matter if I completely messed up what I was trying to say, God knew what I needed. And yet still I was scared. I had spoke happily before with a group of three friends, and yet in a larger group I faced the obstacle of my anxieties. I faced a challenge that I wished to overcome. I did not want to remain silent, to be distracted from prayer by the fear of what others would think of me. The most important thing was to pray openly and with focus, to God, feeling the joy that others were praying with me.
And so the next morning, at our Christian Union prayer breakfast I knew that this challenge was one that I could work on, and that God have given me the chance to overcome the obstacles that I had placed in my own path. As we prayed in pairs, I found myself with one of my best friends, Beth. I was comfortable with Beth, I knew that my inadequate speaking and forgetfulness would not bother her, and so I was given the first step on a latter to being more confident in prayer. With each focus we were given we spoke honestly of our worries and feelings and we prayed a prayer each, we prayed for each other. I felt encouraged that my fear of praying aloud would be overcome. I knew that I must be focused on what is most important, that God was listening and that God knows what I need to say.
And this became a part of every day during the week of prayer, Beth and I would set aside time to read through the Bible Study and prayer requests that The Globe had given us, and I became ever more confident of my ability to pray aloud and evermore aware that the most important thing was a focus upon God.
Our Wednesday night Prayer Meeting became a great opportunity for me. The Globe Church held an inspiring evening with a guest speaker encouraging us in how to show our belief and share our belief with our family and friends, a variety or songs that brought us together as a church family, and a wonderful time in prayer. The Globe Church has four key focuses in prayer, understanding the power of prayer on both a small and large scale, the power of prayer for a single person or for the whole world. Four areas had been developed around the room to allow our focus on the needs and blessings of our local area: ‘Bankside’, our city: ‘London Wide’, the country: ‘Nation Wide’ and our world: ‘World Wide’. We pinpointed our prayers and requests on maps, reaching out to the whole world and drawing connections across nations. We moved with freedom from one area to another, giving our thoughts, praying to God with those who sat by us, bringing our needs, our requests and our thankfulness to the one with a greater power than ourselves. I felt comfortable, at peace, I truly felt our church to be a family in that moment and I knew that I could pray aloud. I knew that God was listening.
And as I began to understand prayer more clearly, not only my ability to pray aloud progressed, but my personal prayer became enriched, I became ever more aware of how wonderful a relationship with God truly is.
I realise that as you read this, some of you may not see prayer or a relationship with God as part of their lives. But how do you start a conversation? You speak. And so isn’t the same, in prayer we are speaking to God, we are in conversation. Why don’t you try speaking to God? And you might be surprised to discover that He is listening.
Mathew 7.7: ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you’.