I've been reading a book called Lover of God, an introduction to the 18th Century theologian Jonathan Edwards. Apparently, at the age of twenty-three, Jonathan Edwards fell in love with a woman called Sarah Pierpont. Lover of God records one of his romantic reflections on Sarah and I used it to pray for my daughters and for the daughters of members at the Village Church. This is my prayer:

Father, I pray that our daughters would know that they are loved by you, the One who made and rules the world; I pray that there would be special seasons in their lives where you come to them and fill their minds with delight, and that they would hardly care for anything except to meditate on you; I pray that they would know that you will raise them up out of the world and into heaven, where they will dwell with you and be loved by you forever; I pray that in light of your love for them they would disregard and care not for all the world with the richest of its treasures, and that they would be unmindful of any pain or affliction; I pray that our daughters would be conscientious in all their actions, that they wouldn't be persuaded to do anything wrong or sinful, that they would be sweet, calm and kind; I pray that wherever they go they would sing and be full of joy; I pray that they would love to be alone, to walk and to wander, conversing with you, the Almighty, Amen

Judith has written an encouraging post for us to read and reflect on:

As the world around us seemed to turn upside down this month, I was challenged but also greatly comforted by the account of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat was facing an invasion by a “vast army” (v2). Jehoshaphat was one of the good kings of Judah who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” (v32). In this chapter we see: (1) Jehoshaphat's response to the crisis, (2) Jehoshaphat's prayer, (3) God’s answer, and (4) the consequences...

Jehoshaphat’s response

Initially he was alarmed but in his alarm he also made a decision to speak to God – in his anxiety, he 'resolved to enquire of the Lord.' (v3). He then encouraged the people to come together to fast and seek God. How do we respond when our hearts are fearful? Do we immediately turn to God in prayer and encourage others to do so? In our present crisis we are prevented from physically meeting, but with phones and the internet we can still encourage one another to pray, share spiritual songs and God’s Word. In these days social media can be used for good and we can thank God for it.

Jehoshaphat’s prayer

He approaches God as – "ruler over all kingdoms," (v6). He reminds the people that God had previously delivered them (v7), and he cries out in faith and trust, "you will hear and save us." (v.9). They acknowledge their present helplessness and dependence, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." (v12).

Note that whole families “stood there before the Lord” (v.13). What a beautiful picture! Oh that our whole nation and even the world would cry out to God now.

God’s answer

"The Lord says to you : 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'" (v15). This did not mean they could sit back and do nothing; they had to, "take up your positions; stand firm and go out to face them." (v17). Similarly for us we heed advice from the experts and take care to protect ourselves and others, while also helping others as much as possible. God told Jehoshaphat to face the enemy but assured him that He would be with him. What a promise! What reassurance!

The consequences

The amazing thing was that the people were so overjoyed by God’s promises that even before they went out to engage in battle they 'fell down in worship before the LORD.' (v18). What a challenge that is to us! Are we still praising God this week for his attributes and all His promises to us? Then Jehoshaphat addressed the people and encouraged them to trust God and keep on singing, "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." (v21).

After successfully subduing their enemy they continued to worship God and give Him the glory. And the end result? The kingdom was at peace, God gave rest on every side. May we, like Jehoshaphat, cry out to God for help in this present crisis. Not just for ourselves but for those in our world who are far needier – those living in poverty and overcrowded conditions without a reliable water supply, and possibly without enough food. May we also follow Jehoshaphat’s example by encouraging others to seek God and to acknowledge our weakness and inability to overcome these difficulties without his help. May our eyes be “on HIM”

Let us thank God that we can look forward to eternal peace and rest because of Jesus who is victorious over sin and death.

After leading a seminar on prayer at the recent Bristol Women's Conference Hannah has written a short summary for all of us (men and women) to read...

I have to admit, when I first agreed to lead a seminar on the topic of the Lord’s Prayer, I felt very unprepared and unqualified. My prayers often feel so short and shallow. However, as I started to do some reading, I started to see how beneficial this would be for me. I had learned about the Lord’s Prayer previously. But this time, one thing stood out for me. I came to the realisation that prayer is not about me, it’s all about God. This is not ground breaking, in fact this lesson could be applied to any area of our Christian life. But for some reason, I had not assimilated this into my prayer life. As I payed attention to my own prayers, I realised how selfish they were. My prayers had become a way for me to try and take control, wanting God to do things my way.

But Jesus’ prayer stands in stark contrast. His prayer is all about God and he wants our prayers to match. The first half of the prayer is completely focused on him. We are reminded of what a great God we are talking to and we are called to prioritise his holy name. This is what this world is actually all about and that’s what our prayers should be about. Only after this, does the prayer turn to our needs. But by this point, our attitude has changed. Andy Stanley words it like this in his sermon

series called Permission to Speak Freely: 'Jesus says: you want to pray, I’ll tell you how to pray, I want you to spend a few minutes recognising who it is you’re praying to, I want you to declare the greatness of your heavenly Father and then I want you to do the next logical thing, that is to say that, Great and Awesome God, you are so great and awesome, your kingdom takes precedence over mine, your will over mine, as scary as it is, as threatening as it is, I am surrendering … to you. I want

your will more than I want my will for me.' Before we come to God with our many requests, Jesus calls us to surrender our will to God, allowing him to take control. We are to come to God as a humble child asking for care from a loving Father.

John Piper takes this a step further. He explains that the first request, being the primary focus of the prayer is the reason all the subsequent requests are made. In his series called Look at the Book, he says: 'The ultimate purpose for God in the coming of his kingdom, the ultimate purpose of God in everyone doing his will on the earth, the ultimate purpose of God in sustaining us with physical life and giving us an abundance of physical things, the ultimate purpose of God in forgiving our sins and in not leading us into temptation but delivering us from evil, the ultimate purpose of God in all these is that our hearts would be engaged fully in esteeming and revering and valuing and treasuring and loving his holiness, his transcendently pure and precious and infinite value.” This completely transforms our motives. We are no longer selfishly focusing on ourselves. Instead, we come to our loving Father with our needs, knowing that without our basic needs being met, we simply cannot serve him. Coming to God with this perspective transforms our prayers. We may not always have the time to go through each line of the Lord’s Prayer in depth. But if we focus on the hallowing of God’s name whenever we come to our Father, it will transform our prayers. Prayer is so much more meaningful when it’s all about God.

Sunday at 10:30am

Mangotsfield Primary School

Emersons Green

Church Farm Road 

BS16 7EY

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