We have prayed for the elderly (any one more than 10 years older than us) and today’s subject is “children”. I take that to mean “young children” because every single human, is someone’s child. One big feature of life for young children is change. Compare 30 years old with 35 years and you are unlikely to see much difference in that person’s appearance (not impossible, of course). Compare 5 years old with 10 years and you will definitely see a change in height and appearance – even their teeth will be different. Growing up is what we expect to see in children. We also see some of the more vulnerable members of our society and we naturally want to be sure that they are properly protected as well as nourished and nurtured. It is right to pray for the protection of children.
Children can also be found in our churches and are part of the church family. Some people describe them as “the Church of tomorrow”. I respectfully disagree: they are part of the today’s Church and should be included, appropriately, in the life of the Church. That includes asking their opinion and includes praying for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The ministry that a child has will likely be very different from that of an adult, but they will have one. Our task as adults in the Church is to ask for the gifts of discernment and encouragement in order for everyone to find and follow their calling in Christ’s Church.
A prayer for all people’s ministry
Almighty and everlasting God, by your Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified. Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, so that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Common Worship)
Leaders is a general term and we might automatically think of political leaders, prime ministers, presidents, kings, queens and the like. Yet many people lead whether in an official or unofficial capacity. Some people influence others and do not think of themselves as leaders – they just happen to like telling other people their opinions about what should be done…
If you are in a position of leadership, you may well realise what a responsibility it is. In fact, the more power you have, the more you might be scared of it. Thinking about it, it is not so much a surprise to find how many leaders started out very reluctantly: Gideon, Moses, Jeremiah and Peter in the Bible immediately spring to mind.
In our cynical world it would be easy to doubt the expressions of humility from our politicians. Yet it says something when we recognise that some of our best leaders are those who do so because they believe they are called to lead. They may have an inkling of the trouble and hassle that accompanies the task of leading others; they may not even be comfortable with the idea of wielding power; but, for the good of others, their company, community or country, they accept the task. We should pray for all leaders, not just the truly humble ones, because no one can succeed on their own.
A prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
God, from of old, you taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit. Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen. (from Common Worship)
Prayer for “singles” – not the 7″ 45 rpm discs I remember (so last century), but presumably those who are not in a marriage/partnership/family relationship. I suppose that includes young adults who have left home and have gone to live and work or study away from their family. It might include some who are “looking for love” but being single includes divorcees, widows, widowers, and those who have chosen the single life. For some being single is a temporary state of transition, for others a natural state of being and for yet others it is something to be lamented. It would be too easy to assume that being single is automatically a problem. What comes to mind when you hear the word “single”? Loneliness, independence, uniqueness?
I think it is appropriate to pray for singles as a counter to the assumption that everyone lives in a family. After all, we put on special “family services” in church; I have yet to hear of a “singles service” – sounds too much like a dating service!
Almighty and eternal God, sanctify and govern our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that under your protection, now and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the Book of Common Prayer, contemporary version)
I noticed some confusion from one writer who suggested that physical disability should be included as well as mental disability. The reason is because the topic is mental health. Mental health is to mental disability what physical health is to physical disability. Some physical disability, such as myopia, can be dealt with quite simply with the right pair of spectacles; an amputated limb, such as a leg, requires a lot more effort and support to come to terms with. Physical ill-health such as a bout of flu might knock you out for a few weeks but it is likely (not inevitable) that you will live to tell the tale; whereas there are chronic conditions which have long-term consequences.
Mental health, today’s suggested topic for the novena, is something that has begun to be talked about more openly but is still often misunderstood. A mental health problem is not the same as a disability – although some people’s prejudice can be disabling. You can have a mental health problem and yet run a country and win a war: Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s war-time leader suffered from bouts of depression.
Be with us, Lord, in all our prayers, and direct our way toward the attainment of salvation; that among the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may always be defended by your gracious help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the Book of Common Prayer, contemporary version)
Today’s novena prayer topic is “women” and I have the same reservations I mentioned last Saturday. Having said that, it is true that men and women are treated differently – cruelly even – and it is right to pray for everyone’s needs and aspirations.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Have compassion on our weakness, and give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the Book of Common Prayer, contemporary language, version)
“When I was young there seemed to be more old people than young; these days there are more young people than old. Surely it should be the other way round?” So wrote Sir Terry Pratchett in one of his Discworld novels. For me these days it is a fifty-fifty split, I think, but when I was a teenager the “old” did seem to outnumber the rest of us. Not that we gave it much thought then. Falling in/out of love, the latest gadget, fashionable music, getting a job, finding a place to rent/buy, making a mark, changing the world, getting enough money – these were the topics uppermost on our minds. Mind you, just listening to our conversation might have given the impression that only the first three topics mattered.
It would be too glib or too patronising to say what “the Young” need prayer for when I haven’t taken the trouble to ask them. Still, I think I would like to pray for hope for all those who consider themselves as “young” that frustration may be turned to determination to change the world for the better and that anger may become action to bring it about for the good of all.
“New every morning is the love, our waking and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought, resorted to life in power and thought.” (John Keble, 1792-1866)
To begin with his disciples were at a bit of a loose end. That is not to say that they had no chores to get on with. Think of it like this: someone you are close to has just left town. You have said your last ‘good bye’ and now the train/plane/taxi has disappeared from view and you have the rest of the day to yourself. You know that it is likely that the next time that they will come and visit will be for your funeral. In your heart you wish it were not so, but you realise that with the difficulty of the journey it is so. I dare say most of us as some point or other in our lives have had to say ‘good bye’ like that.
Then what? We should get on with the rest of the day whether it’s going back to work, finishing the weekly shop, doing the household chores. But if we had set aside the whole morning then there is no rush. What do we, their family and/or friends, do now? Isn’t there a kind of listlessness; we are not yet quite ready to get back to normal – or rather to the “new normal” that we have begun to realise?
I sense it would have been a bit like that for Jesus’s disciples except for the fact that he had given them a task to do: to pray and wait together; to pray for and to wait for the Holy Spirit.
Today’s novena topic is prayer for the marginalised. We might have a specific group in mind but I suspect that in every walk of life we may be surprised to find out who are the marginalised in our sphere life.
A Prayer for the Sunday after AScension Day
Risen, ascended Lord, s we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, so that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (Common Worship: Additional Collect)
I suppose it is OK to pray specifically for men given that women are included on another date. Men and women are different (at the very least, biologically so!) but I hesitate to explore questions of skill, abilities and temperament. This is because while there are, I believe, differences that go beyond physical appearances, we tend to over-simplify. While something may be true 9 times out of 10, we behave as if it were true all the time and talk as if the majority way must by definition be the only right and normal way. It just ain’t so.
For example, it is true to say that there are more men mathematicians than women mathematicians and it may be true to say that over the whole population men score more highly than women in that subject. That is not the same as saying that all men are better than all women at mathematics, nor is it true to say that women are not good at mathematics. It would be quite wrong to assume that the person is good or bad at maths simply on the basis of whether they are a man or a woman.
So, I would say it is OK to pray specifically for men and any particular issues you choose to highlight may naturally be appropriate for many of them. Please, do not assume that they apply to all men; and please realise that it is normal for some people to be different to the majority.
A collect for “all conditions of men” from the Book of Common Prayer (1662)
O GOD, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men: that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholick Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those, who are any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [*especially those for whom our prayers are desired;] that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them, according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen
St Matthias is one of those people who tend to get chosen just to make up the numbers. He was one of the apostles (the replacement for Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus) and, apart from a few verses in the first chapter of the book of Acts, we know precious little about him.
But that’s OK. There are plenty of people who do something worthwhile, who have an important role, who also do not get much in the way of publicity or public recognition.
Today’s suggested topic for the novena is prayer for the elderly. Ask a child to define “old” and they may suggest anyone over the age of 20, ask a 60 year-old and they may suggest 70. I suspect for most of us any one who happens to be more than 10 years older than us makes them appear old. Yet many “old” people say they feel much the same inside as when they were 17 or 18 years old. For our purposes here, I would think of those who are old enough to draw their pension.
A prayer from Cardinal John Newman
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Previously, I mentioned the Novena which starts tomorrow. Today in the church’s calendar, Ascension Day, we remember the day Jesus went back to heaven some 40 days after being brought back to new life (Easter Day).You can read about it in the last chapter of Luke’s gospel (chapter 24) and in the first chapter of the book Acts.
The particular emphasis today is on triumph. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated his victory over the forces of darkness, over sin and death. The battle was won, and his new, risen life observed by a number of people. Now, he returns home to heaven, victorious. In art Jesus is depicted as sitting on a throne because Jesus is King of the whole world, of the whole known universe. A king who won without the force of arms but through the power of God’s Spirit.
Sometimes it feel like that Ascension Day is simply a little be of tidying up of some loose ends in the story. It is not. I tend to think of it as being end of part 1; part 2 continues after a brief intermission
A prayer for Ascension Day
Risen Christ, you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven. Help us to seek and serve you, so that we may join you at the Father’s side, where you reign with the Spirit in glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Common Worship, Additional Collect)