Saturday, 28 July 2018

Trinity 9 (17B) St Peter & St John, Wivelsfield on prayer 29th July 2018

Some words we just heard from the letter to the Ephesians Chapter 3 I pray that you may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Our life is this prayer and this prayer, this looking to Jesus is our life.

The Lord wants a deeper place in our life and that of our church because Christianity is always about getting more of Jesus Christ into our lives and shedding self-interest. 

I want to look this morning at six aspects of prayer, of looking to Jesus: listening, friendship, warfare, benevolence, recollection, and lastly empowerment

Prayer, looking unto Jesus, is listening.  You can’t look to Jesus unless you give ear to him, unless you attend to him.  Our whole life depends on right listening – to other people and to ourselves at times – but chiefly to Jesus.

Through prayer we hear from God.  We catch his inspirations for our life and for the world.

How do we look to Jesus in listening?

A discipline of time offered to attend directly to God. 

Michael Ramsey’s quote – he prayed for 2 minutes but took 30 minutes to get there.

Scripture is a means of looking to Jesus through listening to his Word. The Word of is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

There is great power in imaginative listening to scripture as in, for example,  eg. the reading through of a scripture passage and using your imagination to enter into it. Take today’s Gospel from Chapter John 6 which we’ll be following through on Sundays over the next month. Imagine you’re in the crowd, seeing Jesus satisfy your hunger, moving deeper to your inner hunger for God, preparing for the eucharist and so on. Why not take away today’s reading and dwell upon it, or open your bible and resolve to meditate upon the whole of John 6 to help the Lord speak to you over the coming month.

Yet another way is to let the words of scripture become more personal by changing the case of the pronoun in the passage. Take that Ephesians passage and make it into a This is the Word of the Lord about John or whoever you are. May God grant that John may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in John’s heart through faith, as John is rooted and grounded in love. This sort of exercise is about experiencing what we already possess as Christians, seeing ourselves as God sees us in his word. You read through prayerfully until God touches your Spirit and then hold yourself at that point once such a prayerful impulse has been given to you.

Prayer, looking to Jesus is secondly about friendship.  We seek our friend’s attention and he seeks ours.

When friends meet they light up and so it is with Jesus and ourselves as we come before him in contemplation.

When did you last sit in quiet before the Lord?  What is it that keeps you from doing so? Could you imagine Jesus your friend doing you any harm?

Contemplative prayer has been described as ‘spiritual radiotherapy’. St Augustine once said that the whole purpose of life is the healing of the heart’s eye through which God is seen. 

Heart surgery of the Holy Spirit: the melting of coldness within cf heavenly microwave

Once again you could use the same Ephesians 3 passage as a way into quiet adoration if you read it through slowly and rest in the words so to speak.

A major barrier to contemplation is the way our minds get so distracted which hinders our hearts from contemplation. This is where the repeating of short words that engage and focus the mind can be helpful as in the Orthodox Jesus prayer. This involves repeating again and again the gospel prayer Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. The value of the Jesus Prayer mentioned on is commended all through the Christian tradition as in the writings of early Christian writer, Hesychius of Jerusalem who captures something of the positive, joyful goodness that seems to flow from this discipline even if such graces are inevitably sporadic. The sun, passing over the earth, produces daylight; the holy and worshipful Name of the Lord Jesus, constantly shining in the mind, produces a measureless number of sun-like thoughts. 

Please don’t hesitate to talk to me or Fr Christopher if you want guidance on the Jesus Prayer or indeed any other of the forms of prayer. Not that we’re experts - our expertise is primarily to know that when it comes to prayer we’re all on the bottom rung of the ladder!

Looking to Jesus in prayer is about building friendship, about lighting one another up so that in the words of Nehemiah (8v10) the joy of the Lord [becomes] our strength. 

Looking to Jesus is thirdly warfare against the deadening spiritual impact of the world, the flesh and the devil. Prayer is warfare because Jesus calls us to a fullness of humanity that involves our shedding constraints, shaking off what Hebrews calls the weight and the sin that clings so closely (12v1b).

He who is in you, St John says, is greater than he that is in the world.  1 John 5:4

In prayer we see ourselves in a true light and take action against the dark forces that impel us. Self-examination has been described as being like going under water.  You experience an upthrust, an opposition.

There is a power at work totally opposed to self-knowledge.  Satan is fearful of both our knowing God and our knowing ourselves.  He wants us to live in ignorance so that we can comply with his schemes! 

Did you know any Anglican Communicant can find a spiritual director through their clergy or by a phone call directly to Diocesan Church House? It's also possible to approach your priest for one-to-one confidential help in knowing the assurance of God’s forgiveness. We have a saying about use of this ministry of confession among Anglicans: ‘all may, none must, some should’. Sometimes making a sacramental confession can refresh your prayer - ‘Square with God and he will square with you’.

Prayer is warfare. There is a power at work opposed to self-knowledge and we need courage to battle against it, holding to faith God always has our best interests at heart in the costly business of facing up to ourselves, warts and all.

Looking to Jesus fourthly is benevolence, the capacity to enter the good will of God for all people, especially in intercessory prayer.

Christianity is not merely a doctrine or a system of beliefs Thomas Merton wrote, it is Christ living in us and uniting people to one another in His own life and unity.  For Merton a hermit monk there is only one true flight from the world; it is not an escape from conflict, anguish and suffering, but … flight from disunity and separation to unity and peace in the love of other [people].

The prayer of intercession is true to the invitation to benevolence in Galatians where St Paul invites his readers to bear one another’s’ burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.  6:2)

We look to Jesus to be with us as we intercede.  He lifts us up into His Perfect Offering.  In intercession we come before the Lord with people and needs on our heart to entrust them to him with confidence.

Here’s one suggested method used by Dorothy Kerin:

 By an act of the will place yourself in the presence of Our Lord.

With an act of faith ask him to empty you of self and of all desire save that his will may  be done and that it may illuminate your heart and mind.

Then gather to mind all those you are to intercede for and hold them silently up to him. 

Make no special request but just rest with them in him. 

Desire nothing but that Our Lord may be glorified in them.

In this simple way of approach Our Lord makes known his will and gives himself to us and to those for whom we intercede – in quietness.

Through intercessory prayer, in the words of Professor Hallesly we couple the powers of heaven to our helplessness…the powers which can awaken those who sleep in sin and raise up the dead … that can capture strongholds and make the impossible possible.

Fifthly looking to Jesus is prayer of recollection, prayer that takes stock of your life and celebrates what God has done and is doing and, looks forwards to what God is going to do in us and through us.

The value of prayer journaling. Tis grace both led me safe thus far … and grace will lead me home.

A good exercise is to look back over your life and recollect with Jesus the five biggest spiritual milestones along the way, your five most powerful desires, your five worst fears.

Recollection is about such reminiscing or calling to mind. 

It is also about ‘collecting again’ or recovering control of oneself. Through looking to God we gain self-possession. 

Attention to God, mindfulness of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian life.

The recollected woman or man inhabits her or his words, is able to be present to Jesus at all times so that Jesus can be in them and show through them.

The Name of Jesus present in human heart, communicates to it the power of deification … shining through the heart, the light of the Name of Jesus illuminates all the universe.  Bulgakov

Prayer, looking to Jesus is lastly empowerment.  You will receive power he said, when the Holy Spirit comes Acts 1v8.

Well he has come, at baptism and confirmation, the birth of our Christian commitment and in the  receiving of Holy Communion - but we need to invite him by praying regularly for the Holy Spirit. 

Prayer is an empowerment especially by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we pray we can at times feel God’s touch upon our heart, see some sort of vision or be led to some particular scripture verse as we look to Jesus. This is charismatic prayer, literally graced or given prayer in which our looking to Jesus and waiting before him is answered by a heavenly gift.

Looking to Jesus in prayer then is listening, friendship, warfare, benevolence, recollection and empowerment

May the Lord turn our eyes more and more upon himself so that our earthly pursuits may lose some of their enticement as we see more of him as we seek him in prayer. I pray that you may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. So be it!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

St Bartholomew, Brighton Trinity 8 (16B) 22.7.18

The Lord’s prayer opens up Christianity as a place of belonging, purpose, empowerment, forgiveness and direction.  Reflecting on this Sunday’s readings I find they illuminate each clause of the prayer Jesus taught us. We’ll go for these five headings as a way to understand today’s scripture, as a framework for reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer and as a reminder of the main blessings we possess as Christians: belonging, purpose, empowerment, forgiveness and direction.

First belonging. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Our first reading from Ephesians stated that we believers have access in one Spirit to the Father. To be a Christian is to belong to God as Father and to one another. The Church is God’s never ending family. Sunday by Sunday we come to say ‘Our Father’ - not my Father but Our Father for the God and Father of Jesus is your God and my God. Jesus died to gather together the scattered children of God and that gathering occurs through baptism and through faith.

Someone asked that heroine of Calcutta’s slums Mother Teresa how she prayed and she answered I just say again and again ‘Our Father’. When we pray we affirm our belonging both to God and to our neighbour. Hallowed be thy name - Jesus leads us in contemplation of God as his Father and ours. Today’s Gospel is a striking example and reminder of our need to set time apart day by day to contemplate God and to say the Our Father. Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while, Jesus says. How can we take up that invitation in our own daily routine? To contemplate our belonging to God and bring to our loving Heavenly Father in prayer the sisters and brothers he has put on our hearts?

Second purpose. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done That purpose, that will is stated in the New Testament. Its a purpose for the cosmos and for the church, one stated in Colossians of bringing all things together in Christ and in today’s first reading stated as one of growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. As Christians we’ve a purpose in life: drawing the world together. I think of how iron filings randomly scattered form up beautifully when magnetised. You and I are here in Church to be magnetised by the love of God shown us through word and sacrament in Jesus Christ. We leave Church that bit more assured of God’s love and that bit better instruments of healing and reconciliation in a broken world.

I was preaching last Sunday in Bordeaux and quoted this saying from the Abbe de Tourville: Say to yourself very often about everything that happens, ‘God loves me! What joy! And reply boldly, ‘And I truly love Him too!’ Then go quite simply about all that you have to do and do not philosophize any more. For these two phrases are beyond all thought and do more for us than any thought could do; they are all-sufficing. We sometimes make Christianity more difficult than it is - its purpose, our purpose is to welcome the fact we’re loved and hand on that amazing truth to others.

Third empowerment. Give us this day our daily bread - being Christian is counter to self-sufficiency. We’re called to live in the love of God with an eternal perspective. In other words living in the here and now, in the present moment - for God is there and nowhere else. We don’t find God or life in the mental constructs of the past or future but in the present. And the present has a present! Give us this day our daily bread. This phrase has all sorts of interpretations, here at the eucharist for example when the Lord’s prayer is said as preparation for receiving Christ’s body in the form of Bread.

Christianity ultimately is empowerment. They found that empowerment in Jesus Christ from the very start as we heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus we heard had compassion for them... A God who answers prayers, who gives us the Holy Spirit. They laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. It may be as you sit in Saint Bartholomew’s this morning you sit with a weight of care. Ask the Lord to empower you by taking that burden from you, to free you to be his more effective servant. He will do - if you ask!

Fourthly forgiveness. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Some say Christianity’s heavy on guilt. Its precisely the opposite because the Holy Spirit that impacts us from the Cross of Jesus delivers every penitent heart from guilt. As we heard in the first reading: in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peaceJesus has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility caused by unrepented sin.

To know your sins are forgiven is knowledge the whole world would quickly seek if only it knew it was on offer in Christianity. We come to church to receive that assurance in Jesus’s Hour, the hour of Sunday Mass which irradiates us with God’s love and mercy. Let all that is on your conscience be given to him this morning - prepare for the new start forgiveness offers week by week, hour by hour if need be!

Fifth and last direction. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. If Christianity brings belonging, purpose, empowerment and forgiveness it lastly provides spiritual direction. As we heard in the Gospel how many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and Jesus began to teach them many things. That teaching is handed on by the church through a network of spiritual directors with gifts of listening and teaching relevant to discerning the forward course in life set by the Holy Spirit. Did you know Anglican Communicants can be put in touch with a spiritual director by their clergy or by a phone call to the diocesan office?

To pray the Lord’s prayer is to set yourself against sin, temptation and evil. Jesus himself we know was impermeable to these but he left a prayer for us with a couple of phrases irrelevant to him. Since Our Lord came into the world to provide the remedy for sin the prayer he taught is a realistic prayer for us. We so often find ourselves going in a direction away from the prompting of the Holy Spirit through nameless fear, anxiety, inappropriate sadness, self-centredness, the tendency to see endless snags ahead or through a basic lack of hope. These feelings can prevent us doing what’s best and we need to counter them and seek help from God and maybe other Christians to do so. Our clergy are here too to help with guidance.

To sum up, the Lord’s prayer displays Christianity as a place of belonging, purpose, empowerment, forgiveness and direction. Ours is a deep, hopeful and forward looking religion.

The Lord bless us as we pray the ‘Our Father’ prayer of belonging and contemplate God day by day, as we pray and act according to his purpose with the empowerment of his Spirit, seeking forgiveness and spiritual direction.

For thine, Lord, is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Saint Pierre, St Loubes, Bordeaux (15B) 15 Juillet 2018

Je suis reconnaissant au père Arnaud pour l'invitation à revenir à Saint Pierre.

Mes liens avec vous remontent à 40 ans, aussi longtemps que mon amitié avec la famille Oliver.

En tant que prêtre de l'Église anglicane, je suis honoré de l'hospitalité offerte ce matin par notre église sœur avec laquelle nous faisons partie de «l'Église une, sainte, catholique et apostolique».

Béni soit Dieu le Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Il nous a bénis et comblés des bénédictions de l’Esprit au ciel en Christ, voilà ce que nous avons entendues dans notre deuxième lecture. Il nous a choisis dans le Christ, pour que nous soyons saints dans l’amour.

Les bénédictions de Dieu nous viennent en tant que catholiques, anglicans, orthodoxes ou protestants - ils ne tiennent pas compte de la dénomination!

Le prêtre Edward Pusey écrivit sur la séparation entre anglicans et catholiques romains: c'est ce qui est impie des deux côtés qui nous sépare.

C'est ce qui est impie qui nous sépare. Dieu veut les églises ensemble dans la sainteté. Quand le père Arnaud m'a demandé de prêcher, j'ai senti que mon titre devait être «œcuménisme spirituel». Ce terme est mentionné dans le décret Vatican II sur l'œcuménisme comme un changement de cœur et de sainteté de la vie, qui, avec la prière publique et privée pour l'unité des chrétiens, est l'âme du mouvement œcuménique.

Aucun livre que je connaisse ne révèle cette âme, l'âme du christianisme, mieux que les lettres de direction de l'abbé de Tourville - voici quelques extraits qui, je l'espère, auront plus de pouvoir d'être lus par un prêtre anglican redevable à ce prêtre catholique mort depuis plus de cent ans. Dites-vous très souvent de tout ce qui se passe: «Dieu m'aime! Quelle joie! Et réponds hardiment: «Et je l'aime vraiment aussi!» Alors, allez-y tout simplement de tout ce que vous avez à faire et ne philosophez plus. Car ces deux phrases sont au-delà de toute pensée et font plus pour nous que n'importe quelle pensée pourrait faire; ils sont sont suffisants de tout.

Béni soit Dieu le Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Il nous a bénis et comblés des bénédictions de l’Esprit au ciel en Christ.

'Dieu m'aime! Quelle joie! .., "Et je L'aime vraiment aussi!" Je reviens toujours à cette vérité, en revenant aux versets qui commencent la lettre aux Ephésiens. L'abbé nous encourage à être notre propre directeur spirituel en nous répétant les choses que nous devons entendre.

De la même manière, je vous invite à lire doucement et dans la prière Ephésiens 1 versets 3 à 14  pour vous mieux rendre compte la vérité de Dieu pour vous - vous êtes aimés, choisis, libérés, pardonnés et pour toujours!

Une telle vérité est mise dans notre langue par l'abbé de Tourville - voici trois passages riches que je veux vous laisser, cadeaux ramenés d'Angleterre en France:

D'abord sur la primauté de l'amour de Dieu:

Que Dieu est heureux de nous aimer! Comme les parents qui adorent leurs enfants ... Nos âmes ... sont la joie de Dieu: non pas à cause de ce qu'ils font pour lui, mais à cause de ce qu'il fait pour eux ... Il n'y a qu'une chose qui dure et qui est complète en soi: Dieu, et le travail qu'il fait dans nos âmes à travers le temps ....

Deuxième chose, en nous aimant:

Que notre effort soit toujours vers plus de largeur et de générosité en nous-mêmes ... laissons-nous avec charité et essayons de nous gouverner comme nous aimerions gouverner les autres ... en utilisant envers nous-mêmes une habileté douce et persuasive, qui nous retournera délicatement comme on tourne un gant.

Enfin sur la mort chrétienne:

La vie limitée par la mort? Absurdité! C'est une grande erreur. La mort compte à peine; c'est une simple apparence; nous avons déjà la vie éternelle et cette réflexion devrait nous donner une grande tranquillité, comme ceux qui se sentent éternels.

Frères et sœurs, je désire ardemment ce matin pour le pain sacré de la vie éternelle et le calice du salut éternel!

Que le Seigneur nous réveille de nouveau à son amour et à sa sainteté qui transcendent notre dénomination d'église, défient notre importance et décevront les mâchoires de la mort quand ils se referment sur nous.

Béni soit Dieu le Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Il nous a bénis et comblés des bénédictions de l’Esprit au ciel en Christ.

Saint Pierre, St Loubes, Bordeaux  (15B) 15 July 2018

I am grateful to Fr Arnaud for the invitation to speak again in Saint Pierre.

My links with you go back 40 years, as long as my friendship with the Oliver family.

As priest of the Anglican Church I am honoured by the hospitality given this morning by our sister church with which we are part of ‘the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church’.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ we heard in our second reading. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence.

The blessings of God come to us as Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox or Protestants - they do not respect denomination!

This point was made by the priest Edward Bouverie Pusey writing of the separation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics: it is what is unholy on both sides that keeps us apart.

It is what is unholy that keeps us apart. God wants the churches together in holiness. When Fr Arnaud asked me to preach I felt my heading needed to be not football or 14 July or Brexit but ‘Spiritual Ecumenism’. This term is mentioned in the Vatican II decree on ecumenism as change of heart and holiness of life, which along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians is the soul of the ecumenical movement.

No book I know reveals that soul, the soul of Christianity, better than the Abbe de Tourville’s Letters of Direction - here are some excerpts which I hope will have more power through being read by an Anglican priest indebted to this Catholic priest who died a century ago:

Say to yourself very often about everything that happens, ‘God loves me! What joy! And reply boldly, ‘And I truly love Him too!’ Then go quite simply about all that you have to do and do not philosophize any more. For these two phrases are beyond all thought and do more for us than any thought could do; they are all-sufficing.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

‘God loves me! What joy!.., ‘And I truly love Him too!’ Again and again I come back to this truth, as I come back to those verses that start the letter to the Ephesians. The Abbe encourages us to be our own spiritual director repeating to ourselves the things we need to hear.

In the same way I would invite you to read Ephesians 1 verse 3 - 14 prayerfully in the coming week and see the things it says as being God’s truth about you - you are loved, chosen, freed, forgiven and forever!

Such truth is put into our language by the Abbe de Tourville - here are three rich passages I want to leave you with, gifts brought from England back to France:

First on the primacy of God’s love:

How happy God is in loving us! Like parents who adore their children...Our souls… are God’s joy: not on account of what they do for him, but on account of what he does for them… There is only one thing which lasts and which is complete in itself: God, and the work he is doing in our souls through time….

Second on loving ourselves:

Let our effort be always towards greater breadth and generosity within ourselves… let us put up with ourselves in charity and try to rule ourselves as we should like to rule others… using towards ourselves much gentle and persuasive skill, which will turn us inside out as delicately as we turn a glove.

Lastly on Christian death:

Life limited by death? Nonsense! That is a great mistake. Death hardly counts; it is a mere appearance; we already have eternal life and that reflection should give us great tranquillity, as those who feel themselves to be eternal.

My brothers and sisters I yearn with you this morning for the holy bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation!

May the Lord awaken us afresh to his love and holiness which transcend our church denomination, challenge our self-importance and will disappoint the jaws of death when they close upon us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Ascension, Haywards Heath on Prayer 1 July 2018

Our individual prayer time is foundational to our spiritual life along with our gathering Sunday by Sunday on the Lord's Day, in the Lord's House, with the Lord's People around the Table of the Lord.

One of the most important things about our daily prayer is in fact the time we give.  Whatever we feel or don't feel at prayer the offering of 5, 10, 15 minutes daily is pivotal.

Archbishop Ramsey's quote – when asked how long he prayed for each day he said about two min but it sometimes took him half an hour to get there.

Time matters.  It is also important to offer Our Lord what we might call ‘prime time’.
We will make way for him better when we are most fully ourselves.  Some say the morning is the best, avoiding that burned out feeling at night, and I am one of those who prays in the morning, with more of a nod to God at night.

Time, and then secondly, place.  We might set apart a prayer space at home. We need then to be quiet, but perhaps not too quiet so we keep our feet on the ground. In a household there needs to be agreement.  (My own set up). We need perhaps to be comfortable, not so much that we fall asleep. Prayer invites attentiveness.  Some people say a hard backed chair gives you that business like feeling.  

Then what - now we move onto the real business of prayer and for that we enter on a number of options as starting points.  Prayer is a lifting of heart and mind to God and there are many different ‘airports’ for lift off. Wherever you ‘lift off’ from you have to be ‘there’ to get a lift.

Story of Theology professor Tom Smail’s sharing about prayer. God beating him on the head to get his religion from his head to his heart - the vital 14" - to be ‘there’.

So I’m there, ready. Before the start of my prayer I decide how my prayer will set off.  

Shall I choose a bible passage? Or am I so tired it would be better to sit looking at the Cross? Is there a piece of paper with some prayer biddings that I could start from? Or something that struck me in that sermon on Sunday? Or that spiritual book I’m reading? Shall I get my rosary out? Or say the Jesus Prayer to empty my mind of distraction? Today I will say Common Worship Daily Prayer and stop to contemplate wherever the Spirit underlines something. Or - it’s about time I did a thorough self-examination so I’ll get out a sin list or read the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians and see where love, joy, peace and all the rest are growing in my life. There was something terrible on the news this morning so I’ll look up Job 38-40 and think how God is so wonderful and beyond us. I was asked to pray for that lady whose son’s on drugs so I’ll start with them before I forget and see where my intercession leads. Or – what a lovely view through the window this morning – the sun on the leaves. Let’s start there.

I say Let’s – prayer is something we do with God. It’s also a human discipline.
It helps to have a decided basis or presupposition, so called, as you start your prayer.  It also matters to hold yourself to it eg. holding the bible for all 20 minutes to keep the focus.

Confession of sin before you pray is important – the bottom line for prayer is honesty.

Scripture is important - read through prayerfully until God touches your Spirit and then holding yourself at that point once such a prayerful impulse has been given to you. In prayer we talk to the Lord – and we listen! Scripture is so often God’s mouthpiece to us through which we hear his guiding voice. Listen so that you can do what Jesus says!

Story of my own use of Luke 7.11-17 The Widow of Nain (my mother) - ‘he gave him to his mother’.

Explain how the expectation of scripture speaking to me had been raised by spiritual direction over a retreat and how I had experienced spiritual direction and we have the same opportunity 16-22 September down the road at St Richard, Haywards Heath.

For Christ to dwell in our hearts we need to be exposed to his radiant love. Christian friends, holy priests, spiritual directors all of these help – but nothing can replace our own individual business with God, particularly silent contemplation. When did you last sit in quiet before the Lord?

Contemplation is a true refreshing of the soul. There is a story of how the Cure d’Ars, that great French saint of the 19th century, kept seeing a peasant sitting every day in church before the altar. What are you doing? He once asked him. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’ the peasant told the priest.

I’ve heard such contemplative prayer described as ‘spiritual radiotherapy’. St Augustine once said that ‘the whole purpose of life is the healing of the heart’s eye through which God is seen’. The Chapel with the Blessed Sacrament reservation and its light is a particularly graced place when we can come into church between services. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’

A barrier to contemplation is the way our minds get so distracted that our hearts are hindered from contemplation. This is where the repeating of short words can be helpful as in the Orthodox Jesus prayer - you may be interested in my book (show) on Using the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer is ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’. It combines Peter’s act of faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the prayer of the Publican, ‘Lord have mercy on me, a sinner’. It's simple yet profound, a biblical prayer we can trace back to the 4th century with a gift of settling the mind towards God. It’s always been central to Eastern Orthodoxy and the Orthodox influence on the Anglican monastery I visit in the woods at Crawley Down was my initial encouragement to use this form of prayer at all times. This monastery by the way always welcomes visitors.
I have found the Jesus Prayer contains the power of Jesus’ name and draw pray-ers more profoundly into the faith of his church and to deeper value scripture, sacrament, creed and commandments.

The simplification of anxiety and mental distraction sought in Buddhist type mindfulness exercises is found in the Jesus Prayer as, if you like, ‘God-given mantra’. Above all the Prayer helps relate worship to life and builds indwelling in God’s merciful love.

Prayer is a lifting of heart and mind to God. It’s a forgetting of self and a remembering of God. Because of our fallen nature that’s not natural. Though prayer’s a gift it's also a life-long struggle. That struggle is against self-love, self-pity and self-will in all its guises and disguises. It's a resolve to consecrate heart and mind, body and soul into God’s praise and service and not our own.

Through the discipline of prayer our aspirations, affections, resolutions, searchings, and strivings get directed away from ourselves to God. Our bodies are pledged to work for him in full health and ability. Our hearts open to enshrine the love of Christ as the principle of our whole being: life in remembrance of God, forgetful of self.

It’s been said that the Church of England is like a swimming pool.  All the noise comes from the shallow end. The Ascension is not a noisy Church as far as I can tell. Pray God, we have a depth about us and we want to go deeper.  We don't particularly want to be 'intelligent' Church or 'with it' Church, ‘low’ or 'high Church' so much as 'deep' Church - do we?  

Christianity is the gift of Jesus but it involves us in the task of prayerful devotion. Through that devotion, renewed in us as individuals, may others catch on to what Jesus is doing and be drawn to him through us.

When the church becomes a house of prayer it’s said the whole world will come running!