Saturday, May 11, 2013

Try Praying?

This is the view from my bedroom. And, more than once it's been a helpful prompt as I open my curtains.

In a sense it's aimed at me, but really at my friends, my neighbours...

I'm not critiquing the church over the road - they've just got me thinking. For that I thank them.

In our city where a few thousand will be in church meetings each week but the best part of 100,000 wont be... Try Praying leaves me asking these and more questions...
  • What is prayer?
  • Pray to whom?
  • Why pray?
  • Pray what?
  • And who are you to tell me to pray?
How would you answer those?

In a Christ-haunted (to use Flannery O'Connor's term) culture 'try praying' has a broadly Christian meaning, and we might only need to awaken people to do it. But in a post-Christian, Christianity-inoculated culture things are surely very different.

If the banner gets people asking questions like that then all well and good...

But might it just be more very well meant irrelevance?
Christians really want everyone to get to know Jesus.
And Jesus really is for everyone.

But, might our signs and attempts to connect with our city just be talking past people?  Are we talking not listening?  Thinking we're connecting to our city when we're not? Imagining - as optimists like me do - that we're getting somewhere when we're just spinning our wheels in the mud.

I have on-there-own elderly neighbours, a family working night-shifts who moved here from another country, a middle-aged woman whose elderly mother was fatally run down on the road between the try praying sign and our house before Christmas, a single-mum family and several others...  and I really want them to know Jesus, to try praying...

There are many churches in the city with many people in them, but we're very few in reality. My city is a prosperous regional centre with a relatively high number of "larger" churches, and maybe 5% of people going to church meetings on Sundays. And 3% of the population (largely those who wouldn't identify as Christians) turn out at the annual University Christian Union Christmas carol service at the football ground. 
"Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jeremiah 29:5-7, ESV
For our church, is this our story? For the University Christian Unions I work with - is this our story?
Or do we accidentally, well-meaningly work against ourselves?
Are we missing the mark?
Are we over optimistic about we're doing? 

I have questions.... 

Tim Keller says in Center Church that he had to think long and hard to find answers to thoroughly work out the implications of the good news of Jesus where we find ourselves.  That could look very different to anything we've done before. That could look very different here compared to there.

Harder thinking. And in the end, TRY PRAYING is the message I need to hear each morning as I open the curtains, because some things only break with prayer and some things, most things, are beyond what I can do. If I don't call on the Father in heaven who sent his Son then all I'm left with is just to TRY. And so, like a child, I don't try to win the fight myself but I call my Dad and trust that he can do what's needed.

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