At the hour of prayer last Wednesday evening Ryan started the meeting quoting Eugene Peterson on prayer: "Prayer is the cultivation of a grace-filled relationship with God. We begin experiencing ourselves and the world not as a problem to be solved, but as a reality in which God is acting."
Just hours before this I had been reading a quote from President John F. Kennedy, in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles (on 15 July 1960); he said, 'We stand today on the edge of a new frontier... but the new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises - it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.'
Not just prayer, but life itself presents a set of challenges and problems which sometimes seem overwhelming, bearing down on us like a heavy weight. As a church the Go and Grow project epitomises this kind of challenge. How do we respond to these challenges? By seeing them as the world conniving to get us down, or as an opportunity for overcoming, or perhaps even the crucible through which we are refined?
President Kennedy looked to the American people for the solution to the challenges the nation faced. We look to the Lord. But as we look to the Lord, we are aware that we are his servants and the challenges we face are not likely to be magicked away. We need both to be carried through the difficulties we face and at the same time be changed by them by persevering through them. God will surely answer our prayers by inviting us into partnership with him in this exciting and demanding adventure we call following Christ.
For us at St Bs, looking at the challenges of the Go and Grow project, we are being asked once again to consider (or reconsider) how much we can give. And the Lord is speaking to many of us about giving beyond what we thought was possible when we started out on this journey. If you were at St Bs on Sunday you will have heard me share the journey that Jane and I have travelled with regard to our own giving commitment to Go and Grow and how costly that has been for us. God is indeed refining us.