I'm not preaching or leading worship this Sunday, but one of the areas of worship-leading I have greatest difficulty with is preparing appropriate prayers of intercession and petition (or as we call them in our local church "Prayers for Others and Ourselves")... part of that is my developing undertanding of how prayer "works" and what happens when people do (or don't pray). A misreading of the lectionary reading from a couple of Sunday's ago (Luke 18: 1-8), the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow, might suggest that we have to pester God with our prayers. However, one of the more helpful statements that I have come across in recent years is this quotation in the late lamented Dennis Lennon's book "Fuelling the Fire" which we studied in our book group last year:
"We must not conceive of prayer as an overcoming of God's reluctance, but as a laying hold of his highest willingness."
This chimes well with the doxology to Paul's prayer for the Ephesian Church:
But I do wonder what would happen if, when leading worship some Sunday I were to simply introduce the prayers of intercession, and then play this track from Tom Jones' latest album? (I did warn you that you'd hear more about this album in coming weeks)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ANIV)