An Invitation to Pray

 An Englishman, an Irishman (and lots of other people, possibly including a Scotsman but I can’t be sure) were beside a swimming pool in Portugal….

I have recently returned from a wonderful family holiday in the Algarve and our visit coincided with an Irish wedding, to which around 120 guests had been invited, many of whom were staying in the same resort as us.

I got chatting to one of the guests, about my age, whose name was (honestly) Sean. When we first spoke, it was the morning after the night before, so to speak, and it seemed that the night before (indeed, the whole day before) had gone very smoothly, lubricated as it had been by very large quantities of Guinness.

I asked Sean if he had a good time and he assented but then shook his head and, referencing his intake of the black stuff told me in a wonderful Irish Iilt: “Simon, I feel as sick as a small hospital.”

I love language, warm voices and the skilful use of words and Sean clearly has a gift for the amusing turn of phrase – I fell about laughing at that one!

Sean and I spoke only briefly that first time, but I bumped into him again on our last day and we chatted some more. I asked him a little bit about Ireland, his job and family and he opened up to me about some of the joys and challenges, not least caring for his elderly mother and his having chronically sore knees from his work as a carpet fitter.

In turn he asked me what I did and I told him I was a Baptist minister in training and briefly how that had come about when I’d been perfectly happy running health clubs. Sean and I had hit it off, and something in the atmosphere (OK, God) told me I ought to offer to pray for Sean and I did so.

Afterwards, he was beaming and told me how our conversation had really made his day. Two guys, standing by a swimming pool with beers in their hands… but suddenly God is all over them.

It’s amazing how easily God can come into – and inform – our conversations if only we are open to the possibility. My conversations with Sean blessed me (“sick as a small hospital” is one of the funniest lines I’ve heard for ages) and it blessed him too. Funny what happens in our little human dramas when we bring God in on the scene, or rather, when we turn the spotlight on God, who is there, centre stage, all along.

My thoughts recently have been on the gracious invitations that God offers us, and how we should both accept those invitations personally, and extend them to others. God invites us to come and talk with Him (that is, to pray) and isn’t it sad that often it’s only when we’re really wrestling with something that we take up His invitation?

God will, no doubt, use those hard times and we will grow closer to Him, getting to know Him and ourselves better in the process, but shouldn’t we be in conversation with God all of our days, not just in the tough times? I wonder if it grieves God if we only come to him when we’re full of tears and troubles? As a parent, I know how it feels to be there for my children when they’ve stumbled and hurt themselves – and of course I want to comfort them over their grazed knee! But my goodness, it’s lovely when they just come and give me a hug too, just because they love me!

At EBC, we have in recent months set aside a garden room for prayer. I wish it were busier. Not because I want people to have to come because they’re struggling, but because I want to know that people are delightedly accepting God’s invitation to come and talk all the time. Not just with grazed knees or grazed hearts, but with praise and thanksgiving and all of the joys of life in its fullness. Of course, it needn’t be in the Garden Room, but you are coming to God in prayer… right?

I think God loves it when we invite people to be prayed for, too. I want to encourage – and invite – you to pray for people more often. And when you offer to pray for people, and they accept, pray for them right there and then. Don’t defer it, but pray for them right there, out loud. God hears our prayers when we’re alone behind closed doors, of course, but we miss the invitation to bless people and to say something about God incarnate, (which is to be evangelistic) if we don’t pray for and with people on the hoof and on the spot too.

So here’s the invitation. In your own life, with all of its joys and struggles, accept God’s invitation to pray. Accept His gracious offer of forgiveness and joy and meaning… and invite Him consciously into all aspects of your life. Invite Jesus in on the scene – turn the spotlight onto Him – in your conversations with people. Be open to the Spirit’s prompting on this and just see what happens!

Invite people to church – even if only for a coffee in the garden! If you’re part of EBC, I want you to know that it’s your church, your garden, your kitchen, your prayer room to invite people to. And, of course, it’s so much easier to invite people to actual church services once they’ve had a glimpse of what EBC is really like. Listening, loving, prayerful… just like you, the person in front of them who has invited them, and who reflects the love of the Father who put you with them, and in whose image you are made.

God lovingly, graciously makes His invitations to us to come to Him, and our evangelistic mission, and duty, is to invite others too. RSVP…

May God ever bless and keep you.

With love,

Simon Lace, 10/08/2022