From our Minister

From our Minister

I’m writing this before going on holiday in August. Always a cause for some trepidation as we have no idea what may happen in the intervening period between writing and the newsletter being published.

It’s hard to believe that on the 1st September I begin my ninth year in the Weald of Kent Circuit. In this new Methodist year, Sharon Lovelock will be leaving and we will be looking for someone to take her place at Tonbridge Methodist Church and Paddock Wood LEP. From May 2023 we will begin looking for someone to take over at OMC and someone for The Drive. Phil Staddon at East Peckham will be retiring in 2024. A complete change of Circuit staff in a period of 2 years.

What does the future look like as we contemplate the changes locally, amidst the turbulence and problems nationally and internationally? When considering rising energy & food bills, events in Ukraine, China & Russia & Climate change, local issues pale into insignificance. Or do they? Sometimes, when there are huge problems facing the nations, things so large that we feel utterly helpless; even to pray about them, small issues take on a new precedence. It is as though the brain overwhelmed by the big events concentrates on the small ones as a means to displace anxiety and focus on something more manageable.

How do we pray about such things? I wonder if you would agree with this statement: “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” It might surprise you to know who said it: Martyn Lloyd-Jones. MLJ was described by John Stott as one of the most significant preachers of the 20th century. He wrote that statement about prayer in his book: ‘Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.’

If prayer was easy, why are there so many books on the subject of prayer, and on how to pray, in the Christian library? Why do so many of us struggle in prayer? I am encouraged when I read statements, such as that by MLJ, from men and women whom God has used mightily. People who have struggled in prayer and have never been satisfied with their prayer life, but whom God has graciously blessed. What is of paramount importance to recognise; they struggled in prayer, they didn’t give up.

I used to keep a prayer list; it included family, friends, members of the congregation I felt needed prayer, local and national situations, etc,etc,etc. Anyone who stumbled across it might have mistakenly believed the owner was a great man of prayer; he wasn’t and isn’t. Truth to tell; that list, which always got longer and never shorter, was a hindrance to prayer for me. My prayers became repetitive, monotonous, and a chore.

I like to begin my day with daily scripture readings; before I start I ask the Holy Spirit to show me something in them, to help me not read blindly, and to be attentive to them. When I have finished reading I sit quietly, sometimes my mind is blank, I let the scriptures I have been reading into the blankness.

A lesson I learned years ago when facing difficult and threatening situations. I stopped praying specifically about what I was facing, trying to tell God how I wanted his help. My prayer became very simply this:

“Whatever I will face today, help me respond to it faithfully in Jesus.”

I find as I go through the day meeting people, learning of things people are going through, I bring them to God with short, simple prayers. Prayer is relevant, fresh, and never repetitive.

Don’t give up on prayer or personal devotions. If they seem hard and you’re struggling remember MLJ, you are in great company. Don’t give up. I end with something which is significant for me; the words of David from Psalm 62:

For God alone my soul waits in silence
from him comes my salvation
He only is my rock and salvation
my fortress shall not be greatly shaken

John