Archive for the ‘prayer’ Tag

GOOD INTENTIONS

There’s been a notable lack of self-flagellating angst on this site of late. Well, let’s make amends. Truth is, I am rubbish in school holidays and I can’t abide it. I have made God-assisted strides in introducing discipline and constancy into my term-time routine. My diligence then is relatively assured when it comes to quiet times, completion of the work I’m paid for and the avoidance of some of those bad habits I will always battle as a pathetic sinner. However, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the lack of school acts as rug pulled from under my routine. Without an alarm to signal the enforced start to my day things like quiet times and work (anything productive in fact) become things to be put off ever further into the expanse of hours unfolding before me. Faced with time on my hands, I will fall into those traps of sloth, gluttony and lust (I’m not confessing to internet-assisted sin here – that lies in my past, but my imagination is more than capable of filling in the blanks) recognised by any underemployed bloke.

It’s horrible, but the worst of it is that I don’t address it – which is where you, the reader, become my accountability partner. Those, like my wife or fellow-prayer tripleteers whom have heard me moan about this for years have every right to ask – why not set the alarm? Why not schedule activities for those hours and leave the house in doing so? And the horrible truth of the matter? Well, part of me relishes these lapses – part of me, my sinful nature, is forever counting down the weeks to falling off the wagon. Which is why we’re back at another ‘enough is enough’ moment. It is time to repent – and that means more than saying ‘sorry’. It means turning away from my sin, and walking in a different direction. Holidays are no longer outside of my drive to grow in godliness. That would be to run this race whilst neglecting to acknowledge the rules; to claim status as a soldier whilst engaging in civilian affairs (2 Timothy 2, if you hadn’t spotted it!). Come half term, I will allude to this post and will pledge to report on my progress. It is important to set a precedent prior to the vast stretch of the summer holidays – a blessing yes, but dangerous indeed if misused.

So, soul bared, this issue constitutes the first of my list of good intentions for the coming term; intentions I will now share with you. They will not make me any better a person or more deserving of salvation. However, I believe they represent a healthy attempt to fight the ongoing battle within me as described in Romans 7 – a war between my worldly nature and an indwelling Spirit of righteousness. Pray that, by God’s help, I may not fail entirely!

 

Andy’s List of Good Intentions this term:

 

  1. Sort out attitude at half term – same rules apply as at any other time!
  2. Put wife’s needs before my own without resentment, particularly in light of her imminent operation, hospitalisation and subsequent recuperation
  3. Buy food/cup of tea for the homeless I pass in town who ask for money (social justice)
  4. Read Christian books – and finish them!! (By half term – Stott’s The Cross of Christ, Carson’s How Long O Lord, Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Driscoll’s Vintage Jesus all to be finished! (3 out of the 4 currently at various stages of incompletion!))
  5. Continue blogging at least weekly
  6. Get guitar strapped and practise in order to be of better service in church worship!
  7. Spend time on internet only after required work has been done for the day
  8. Bring the gospel in some manner to each non-Christian friend, either by one-on-one chat, by invitation, by email correspondence, or by lending a book
  9. Maintain weekly Bible study with wife
  10. Cycle to work instead of driving 3 times a week this term (good financial stewardship)
  11. Save some money each month
  12. Prepare properly for each lesson I teach (diligence and witness in work)
  13. Prepare properly for school Christian Union sessions – put together series on The Sermon on the Mount
  14. Take some responsibility for development at least one younger Christian who has recently joined church

I’ll let you know…

QUIET TIMES

Posted 27/3/08

The following entry was written by me on the opening page of my quiet time notebook, dated 5th June 2007:

‘Last week has been the sudden whirlwind of Christian excitement that the whole year of growing interaction in Christian life has promised. Prayer triplets in Costa Coffee, prayer meetings at school, inviting people to church, discussing God in the staff room, a weekend away of fellowship (that was preparation for camp), regular quiet times, blogging about penal substitution… I can’t boast as I didn’t ask for any of it. It all just happened – apart from the blog, that’s mainly for my geeky amusement – and I want to record how I feel: Joyful!’

I then went on…

‘It won’t last! Not at this level. So, in order to retain something of this sensation, and in order to enforce order and accountability, I’m starting this notebook!’

As well as showing that I write like this even in notes to myself, this extract is a good reminder of why I began doing and recording my daily studies – not out of duty but out of excitement. That’s fascinating to me on the back of a day when, (being on school holiday) I basically spent my whole time avoiding the quiet time I knew I had to do. Having hoovered, done a cycle of washing, eaten two meals, played online games, watched a movie and some cricket, rung up three people and eaten an Easter egg, I finally did my quiet time at 4pm. This is better than yesterday, when it never happened at all. This says everything about my desperate need for a routine (my quiet time is usually at 6.40am prior to leaving for work – weekends are significantly more erratic!). It also suggests that I have lost a little of the joy that should accompany talking to God along the way. How could this be?

Put that question on hold. First, why have a QT (to use notebook-lingo) and why record it? Well, first off, let’s think about prayer. My notebook tells me that in the past 9 months I have officially prayed for at least 166 separate people/places/things/issues, whether once or repeatedly. They include at least 46 individual church folk, 57 other friends, school leaders, national leaders, kids at school, kids on camp, several people I actively dislike, Earlsfield, Streatham and Africa, issues such as abortion, Darfur or the Rugby World Cup, my flat, my health, my family, my marking and my cat. I’ve prayed for a job, I’ve prayed not to get drunk and I’ve prayed for the washing machine to work. I’ve prayed for the environment, for Bible translators, for persecuted Christians and for Richard Dawkins on three separate occasions! Now I am sure that you, good Christian reader, have prayed for just as much and more, just as I may have done had I not written it down. However, without writing it down there is no way I would now be able to assess how God has answered (Dawkins unfortunately has not fallen blind from his horse en route to Damascus, North London), deliver follow-up prayer or realise, having typed up the list, who is disturbingly missing and shall therefore tomorrow become a matter of urgency! My focus here is on prayer for others because, in my experience, shorn of the QT routine, we are still likely to send up frenzied prayers of repentance or thanks, depending upon the occasion. To pray for others, however, takes time set aside and a certain detachment from the self-involved emotion that triggers much haphazard prayer. It’s a fine reason to have a quiet time and a fine reminder that a begrudging and dutifully observed quiet time is still significantly better than no quiet time at all.

So then, what about reading the Bible? Well the trusty notebook tells me that I have thus far read through 1 Samuel, Galatians, 2 Samuel, Hebrews, half of John (ditched when I found out I’d be leading a group on Romans!), Romans, Isaiah, Matthew and, currently, am ploughing through Genesis. It is very easy to assume you know the Bible by osmosis – particularly if you grew up in a Christian family, hearing sermons and attending Sunday School or camp. However, the fact is the joy of the Bible is in the detail. It not only stands up to, but demands, close scrutiny. Whatever I heard and knew before, the fact is that in any discussion, argument or explanation it is the above books to which I am going to refer because it is them I know best. Only through quiet times do I know them well enough to make them a weapon in my hands.

Others use published notes in their QT and that may well be the best way, but I am a big fan of delving in myself and not tying myself to the deductions of another, even perhaps at the cost of missing something this time around. Chapter by chapter I scribble my notes, usually on the second read-through and, however imperceptible the text seems at first, the Spirit generally reveals something good and important in there, lending itself to application. At first I thought it was co-incidence how well the chapters I chose fit together but now I realise the whole Bible does! The models of kingship revealed in the Samuels are fulfilled by Jesus in the gospels just as surely as are the prophecies of Isaiah. What I have read of Adam and Abraham thus far in Genesis seems so familiar from Romans where those lives are placed into a new covenant context. Basically, the Bible is brilliant and was designed to be significantly useful and coherent!

So then, we return to that question. Why is it so tough??? Well it’s tough because we are deceived and distracted by an enemy who is real. It’s tough because we’re sinful. It’s tough because we live in a world where we’re so busy that to stop and sit down is often inevitably to close our eyes. But I shouldn’t hide in sermon generalities when I’ve vowed to be personal. I find it tough because, despite all I wrote above, on an everyday level, I often feel more excited at the thought of watching football or a Coen Brothers movie than I do at reading the Bible. It’s crazy but it’s true. Nor do I always WANT to be challenged and made to think – to concentrate on prayer or to repent of things I fear my sinful nature will have me shortly do again. And it’s at times like that where we have to recognise what’s good for us rather than what appeals. Maybe my raw excitement will return. Maybe it will make only fleeting appearances. It really doesn’t make any difference. In the meantime I NEED to set aside that 20 minutes and do what is good for me and what I am commanded by my creator. I can’t remember a single occasion on which I have regretted making the effort.