LETTER FROM A MINISTER
Living through a time of global warfare...
WITH SO MANY NATIONS SEVERELY AFFECTED BY THE CORONAVIRUS, it is hardly surprising that the language of global warfare against an invisible enemy has been used to describe the pandemic. Medical and nursing staff have been said to be on 'the front line of the battle', and ordinary people everywhere have been called on by their leaders to do their bit and make a difference in the fight to control the virus.
It was during an actual war—the Second World War—that the BBC invited the medieval scholar and Christian writer C.S.Lewis to give a series of radio talks. These came about because the head of religious broadcasting at the time had been moved by a line written by Lewis in his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain: 'God whispers in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience and shouts to us in our pain'.
According to a recent Com Res survey, 44% of Britons are now praying. A third said that they had started to do so after the lockdown started because they believed prayer would make a difference to their individual lives and also to the life of the nation. It seems that prayer is an increasingly popular search term on internet sites as people look online for resources and ideas to help them to pray. A new ecumenical project was launched earlier in the spring called PrayMK with the aim to encourage and support prayer in and around Milton Keynes. Monthly videos on different themes have been produced with supporting leaflets that can be downloaded from the link http://praymk.com/
But what do we think happens when people pray or when they ask others to pray for them? And just what do we mean by answered prayer? Standing at 169 feet, the arch of the Eternal Wall will be visible from up to six miles away. This striking new UK monument will be over twice the size of the Angel of the North and be seen by people on 500,000 journeys each week.
This imaginative, interactive landmark to be built on the outskirts of Birmingham will be crowd funded and opened in 2022. In the shape of a Möbius strip, a surface without beginning or end, each of the million bricks will represent an answer to prayer which has been shared by individuals in this country and around the world. So far 24,794 prayers have been submitted. To find out more, take part or donate, take a look at https://www.eternalwall.org.uk/
For some people answered prayer means they were rescued, or healed or fed in an unlooked for way when they were desperate. But is that always what it means? Is God like an online grocer who receives our order and then makes a delivery on a day and time that suits us? Sometimes, but others will tell you that they waited a long time for the answer to their prayer, or that they discovered that God's ways are not like ours and the answer they got, while not what they asked for, turned out in the end to be the right answer.
Christians believe in a God who is relational. That means, while God knows the needs of people, prayer has been ordained as the way of making needs known to God. God knows much more about the joys and sorrows of humanity that any of us could ever do, but longs to hear our prayer as an expression of ours and others' needs. The tragedy of the pandemic has made us pause and look for hope as people did during the Second World War. Lewis said, 'God shouts to us in our pain' or maybe it has taken the threat of global warfare to make us stop and listen.
If you are interested to find out more about prayer, you would be very welcome at Newport Pagnell Methodist Church or one of the other churches in the town.
May God bless you!
Revd Nicola Martyn-Beck
Minister of Newport Pagnell Methodist Chruch.