Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Prayer - Serious and Funny

Prayer 4

3 min script

Well I did say I would try and tackle the subject of serious conversation in terms of prayer.  I said last time we talked that prayer, i.e. conversation with God can be seen as fun, not just as… well we what do many people see it as?  A chore? A pressure?  A duty?  What a shame, why isn’t it fun?  Why isn’t it just normal life?

Before I tell you about that serious conversation, let me first tell you a story.  A good friend of mine one day, in a sort of half-serious conversation asked me if I thought that God could or would tell jokes or make fun. I think he was a little unsure of my reaction, but I thought about it for a moment and then I said, ‘Well it seems to me that if God is our designer, and we can enjoy jokes, we have a sense of humour, then I guess God must also have a sense of humour as he invented us that way.’  I sensed he was relieved by my answer because then he said, ‘Would you like to hear a joke that God told me?’  I wasn’t sure what was coming next but I definitely wanted to know.

My friend told me that he was in a church meeting; he was there because he was taking part in the meeting, but he was not enjoying it. He was sitting by himself at the back of the hall and feeling really bored.  He didn’t like it and he didn’t want to be there, and nothing that was being said seemed relevant to life.  He thought to himself, this is so boring I bet God isn’t even here.  Then he started to pray in a light-hearted way, and he said, ‘Father, I don’t like this meeting, it’s boring, it’s irrelevant and I don’t think you are even here.’ My friend said that it seemed God spoke to him and said, ‘Oh no son, you are wrong, I am here, omnipresence has its problem.’  My friend, sitting at the back of the meeting had put his hand over his mouth to stifle a chuckle, and he said he gave better attention to the people that were there in the meeting after that joke.

So onto that serious stuff, I work in a very busy office with lots of busy people, my wife also works with me, or rather we work together.  Sometimes people give me messages for my wife when she is not in the office, and then they will say to me the next day, ‘Did you give your wife the message?’ And I will say, ‘Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to talk with her.’ They often frown at this comment and ask if I actually live with my wife, and if I do, do I actually talk to her.  Well I do live with my wife and I do talk to her, but there is talking and then there is talking. My home, as well as my office is a very busy place, usually we share it with at least four or five other people, so exclusive conversation is not always easy.  Both my wife and I understand this.

Sometimes I will say to my wife, Pauline, ’ we need to talk.’  Of course, I am talking to her in that very sentence, but Pauline understands what I mean when I say ‘we need to talk’ and she will respond by saying, ‘Okay, let’s go out for a coffee and a chat.’  Now that kind of talk is more in-depth, more serious, more constructive.  It is usually a sharing of ideas, perhaps making plans, sometimes trying to solve some knotty problem or difficulties that we or others are facing. We use this exclusive time to air our thoughts and ideas in a more in-depth manner, this talking time goes beyond our surface conversations, they would not work at times like these.

I often take that approach with God; I find it is possible to talk to God in very general terms and to pray for all sorts of things. I like to think of it as the sort of conversation that goes on between friends all the time, and of course good friends don’t need to be talking all the time, that can be frustrating can’t it?  Friends can just be together and not talk; there is even communication in silence.

So my communication approach to Father God is often the same as with my wife, or course we talk all the time at a certain level, but as you can see there are times when I say to her ‘we need to talk.’  And I also do that with Father God, I say ‘God we need to talk, I know you know where I am at, I know we have had conversations, but I need to talk seriously to you and I guess more importantly, I need to listen to you seriously, I need to understand what you want, think and expect from me right now, I need you to help me understand where this situation is going.’  That’s what I call the serious conversation, I guess that’s what we could call serious prayer, but it’s still talking to God and it’s still two-way, and actually sometimes, what God does say to us can be very surprising indeed, and that might throw us, particularly if we have a view on how God works with his friends, but that’s another subject, maybe for next time.

But the great thing about talking to God is he can share in the fun stuff and the serious stuff, we can talk to him on every level, and if we listen, he’ll respond to us in the same way.

W. 979
Editor A Brookes

Does God have a sense of humour? I think so, be good to hear your experiences.
next Blog
Comments welcome

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Prayer - men in white coats

Prayer 3

Well, as promised, today I’m going to talk about the problem of hearing right when we are praying, and by praying I mean not just saying things to the ceiling, but actual two way conversations with God.  Of course, I don’t overlook the problem these days, especially in the west, of the fact that if you tell people you are talking to God and listening to God, they might rush you off to a place where they put people who are ‘hearing things’.

That almost happened to me, one day I was visiting a person in hospital, actually they had been sectioned because they were ‘hearing things’ I’m not sure where from.  I had brought a friend with me to visit the patient; my friend was a doctor, of medicine not psychiatry. We were chatting to the psychiatrist, discussing the prognosis of the patient and my friend happened to mention that he had heard from God.  I was instantly very nervous as I thought the psychiatrist was going to have my friend sectioned as well.  Therein lies the problem, some people are hearing ‘things’ rather than hearing from God.

Let me tell you a story, this is one of the stories in a book I wrote called ‘Hello is that you God’ which is all about hearing from God, and this is how the story goes.  Some years ago I took a crowd of young people to a friend’s church, the group were mainly English young people, most of them were Londoners, born and bred.  The church we were visiting was a Ghanaian community, and in the past when I had spoken there they had run their meetings in their own language, providing me with an interpreter.  Although the church was based in London, and the majority of the members spoke English to a greater or lesser degree, they felt it was easier to run meetings in their first language.  On this occasion, as I was visiting with a group of English speaking youngsters, they decided to run the whole service in English.

It was a long meeting with lots of singing, dancing and preaching, all in English to accommodate the group I had brought along for the experience, and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Towards the end of the meeting I turned to the group I had brought and said, ‘Isn’t it kind of them to run the whole thing in English because we are here.’ Without exception, they all looked at me with a bemused expression, then one of them said, ‘But no-one has said a word of English the whole way through!’

It was now my turn to look bemused, I didn’t know what they were on about, I said, ‘What do you mean, they’re singing in English now!’  ‘No, they’re not, we can’t understand a word.’ They said to me.  As the song went on, I pointed out the words to them, admittedly the words carried a heavy West African accent, but gradually the light of understanding dawned on the faces of my young friends. ‘Wow, you’re right,’ they said, ‘they are singing in English!’  My conclusion was that I had been there many times, and listened to the people sing and speak, and was now easily able to understand the accent and hardly noticed it was there, but for my friends, this was their first time, something entirely new and their understanding was clouded.

It’s interesting that the same kind of phenomena occurs in the Bible, for example when Jesus was baptised and God spoke to him it’s obvious that Jesus heard and understood the words, but for the crowd of onlookers, they just heard a noise, a bit like my friends at the Ghanaian meeting. Then again, in the account of Paul on the Damascus road, he sees a light, falls off a donkey and then hears Jesus saying, ‘Why are you persecuting me?’  Paul clearly hears the words, and his life is turned around, but those with him didn’t hear the words, they said that it thundered.  So it does seem to me that sometimes, perhaps many, many times, God is speaking to us but we don’t hear him, what we hear is thunder, or what we think is our own mind, or worse the effects of the drink or cheese from the night before.

So where do we go from here, well like a young child learning to talk, understanding comes gradually, and takes practice. The same applies to an older child learning a new language, and all its various sounds, it takes practice. Watch a young child experimenting with language, they are practicing, they don’t always get it right, and they don’t always get it wrong, and the practicing doesn’t seem like hard work, it’s fun. And to hear from God will take practice too, and I don’t think talking to God is hard work, it’s often just fun, there will be some serious talks, which may not be so much fun, but perhaps that’s another subject for a talk or discussion.  It would be great to hear your stories and opinions.

Adrian Hawkes
For UCB scripts
W. 865
Editor: A Brookes If you're hearing a voice in your head after talking to God, it may not mean you need the men in white coats...