Two key themes appear in our readings today; unity and the importance of prayer.
Psalm 133 tells us that where there is unity, there the Lord will bestow His blessing. Blessing and unity exist hand in hand. One cannot live without the other.
The unity Jesus speaks of is the unity that exists between himself and his Father. It is a unity that is built upon love and obedience. A love that binds and strengthens. Jesus’ prayer is that ‘they’ – his disciples, the church .. you and me – may know the same unity as Jesus and His Father experience. Isn’t that amazing?
The practical demonstration of that unity we can see in the verses from Acts and, in the way they chose to live their lives. We are told that they ‘joined together constantly in prayer’.
The focus of our Lent reflections was upon The Lord’s Prayer, and as a church we are joining with the Benefice, the Deanery and the nation in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – a prayer initiative from our Archbishops, calling the church to pray, that many would come to know the love and the joy and the transforming power of a relationship with a living Jesus. Prayer changes things. When we pray, things happen. We pray, not so that God’s will can be aligned with ours but that our will may be aligned with His. The difference is crucial.
For those involved in the 24-hour vigil of prayer on Ascension day, a common experience has been shared; that the more we prayed, the more we wanted to pray. As we gave ourselves in prayer (and in some cases at sacrificial times of the day and night) the Holy Spirit began to take us on a journey that drew us closer to God and to His heart. When we begin to pray in line with God’s heart … things happen.
Prayer must be at the centre of all we do. For the early church it was, quite simply, a way of life. Prayer can take place in lots of different ways. There are times for sitting down or kneeling in prayer, times for walking in prayer, times for quiet prayer, times for ‘loud’ prayer, times for reflective prayer and times when we are praying on the move - in the car, walking the dog, doing the shopping, getting the children ready for school. Prayer is conversation with God so the main thing is that we just pray. Prayer binds us one with another but, more crucially, prayer binds us with the Lord Himself.
As disciples of Jesus we are called to action to be ‘witnesses’ for Jesus. To be a witness requires a public declaration and a declaration that is built upon our own experience. As Jesus leaves the earth in a glorious ascension, he promises his disciples that they will receive the power to fulfil his commission – more on that on Pentecost Sunday, but it is when we are in conversation with God that we receive from Him and we all need to experience that by the bucket load.
God is not hiding and his desire is that everyone should know eternal life - Jn. 17v3.
Disciples of Jesus live their lives as resurrection people, full of the power and purpose and promises of Jesus. That comes down to an initial decision to commit our lives to Him and then a lifetime of decisions to stay ‘on programme’ and experience the joy of eternal life every moment of every day; but it begins and ends with prayer.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale