Praying….

The Lord’s Prayer Controversy

It has been in the news recently that the agency that handles advertising in British cinemas has refused to show an advert in cinemas in the UK which features the Lord’s Prayer believing it would upset or offend audiences.
On the one level I find this ban itself upsetting and offensive. In my opinion, our culture of political correctness causes far more offence than it does bring harmony, as more and more people are restricted from speaking freely about what they believe. It is often the case with these kind of stories that our main reaction is to sit and moan about the erosion of our freedom of speech and that ‘this used to be Christian country’ etc etc. However, on another level I’m glad that something the church has done has caused this kind of reaction. If we are truly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus then it should rightly be offensive and split opinion down the middle. The gospel is a powerful and subversive message that should rightly challenge the world.
Rather than write my own response to this situation I’d like to share a blog written by Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield. I feel the Bishop articulates something that is important for us to grasp and understand. Take time to consider his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer and use it as a meditation to pray the Lord’s Prayer again afresh.
At the end of the day, all the noise and hype that this story has generated can easily drown out the reason why this advert was produced in the first place, namely to invite people to pray. So lets pray!!

The Bishop of Sheffield’s blog post can be found at here but I’ve copied all the text below.


Seven reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer

Britain woke up this morning to the news that the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from cinemas.

The Church of England has produced a sixty second commercial.  The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on.  It’s a beautiful film, Certificate U. The ad is to promote a new website, Just Pray.uk.  The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new Star Wars film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray.  What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening.  They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.

Cue indignation from the press, fury from the Archbishop (according to the Mail anyway) debates about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.

But wait just a moment.  Suppose the cinema chains got this one right?

I disagree with their decision and I disagree with the reasons they have given.  I hope it’s reversed.  I don’t believe the film will offend or upset audiences, in the way they mean, and I don’t believe it creates a new precedent.

But from the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, from the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age, there are very good reasons indeed to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and from culture and from public life.

This is a prayer said by billions of people every day in every language on the planet.  In every single moment in time, someone is praying these words.  They are the first words of prayer we learn as children and the last words we say at the moment of death.

The Lord’s Prayer is powerful for a reason.  These words shape lives and families and communities and whole societies.

There are real reasons why the Lord’s Prayer has been banned by the demigods of consumer culture, in the boardrooms of the cinema chains.  Here are seven, one for every line.

First, this prayer gives to those who pray it an identity and a place in the world and a countercultural community.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”.  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time.  It opposes the myth that our lives do not matter.  It opposes the myth of fragmented humanity.

We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human beings who are therefore our sisters and brothers.  Only someone who has found this new identity can stand against the advertising culture which night and day seduces us to define who we are by what we spend.

Second this prayer gives us the courage to live in an imperfect world.  “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish his kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.

Third, and most powerfully, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to live with just enough.  This is the most dangerous reason why it cannot be shown with the adverts at the cinema.  It teaches us not to want more.  It teaches contentment, the most subversive virtue of them all.

“Give us this day our daily bread”.  This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer only for what we need.  Every other advert in the cinema is there to encourage us to spend money in pursuit of happiness.  This one restrains our greed.

Fourth, the Lord’s Prayer teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  There is a way to deal with the rubbish in our lives.  “Forgive us our sins”.

Consumer culture holds before us the image of perfection.  We cannot be happy until we look like this person, live like that one.  Each image is a lie.

The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  The Lord’s Prayer offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily. The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.  Grace subverts the whole culture of advertising.

Fifth the Lord’s Prayer offers a way of reconciliation.  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  We are not meant to feud or live in hostility or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.  That reconciliation happens without expensive presents, without going into debt, without credit.  People are not made happy by more things, another consumer lie.  The greatest happiness comes from relationships.  The key to great relationships is reconciliation and forgiveness.

Sixth, the Lord’s Prayer builds resilience in the human spirit.  When you say this prayer each day you are prepared for the bad days.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 

When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale, a saccharine creation of film makers where every story has a happy ending.

We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where we are tested, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the midst of the most challenging moments of our lives.  Faith is for the deep valleys as much as the green pastures.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.

And seventh the Lord’s Prayer tells us how the story ends, how this life is to be lived and lived well.  “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen”.

The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  Our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Life is to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.

+Steven

Note:

This post is based on a sermon given in Peterhouse, Cambridge on Sunday 22 November.

To view the Lord’s Prayer film go to: https://youtu.be/vlUXh4mx4gI

To view the Just Prayer website go to: justpray.uk

For the Pilgrim Course on the Lord’s Prayer see: http://www.pilgrimcourse.org/

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Praying for Addlestone

Last night the church gathered to pray (in my absence!) for our town. The themes in prayer seemed to be of new beginnings, and regeneration.
There was a burden to continue to pray for our town so people arranged to prayer walk next week on Wednesday evening.

In light of this I thought it might be helpful to share a couple of things I felt the Lord put on my heart recently for the town.

The first thing comes from Ps85 which is about God’s manifest favour and love bringing fruitfulness to the land. I’m feeling the urge to pray this psalm daily for our town, asking the Lord for restoration and fruitfulness (of every kind) in and on the land in Addlestone.

The second thing springs from Ps85 and is a scripture the Lord put on my heart for Addlestone when I first moved here over 15 years ago.
2Kings2:19-22 tells of a city that is ‘well situated’ but the ‘waters are bad and the land is unproductive’. Elisha’s ‘cure’ was to throw salt from a new bowl into the city’s spring speaking healing to the waters of the spring, and the waters and the land were healed from then on. I’ve never quite known how to interpret and re-apply the bowl of salt in Addlestone, but I do believe that through prayer we can powerfully change and transform the town we minister to. So lets go about boldly speaking healing to the water and the land in Addlestone!

Touching the hem

We had a great prayer time yesterday, praying for the glory of God to be revealed. Whilst we were praying Emma shared, very powerfully, something she felt the Lord lay on her heart. I asked her to write it down, as felt it was important for the whole church to hear. So here is what she said:
“Whilst praying on Tuesday evening at home group I felt that the Lord had firmly placed a familiar story in my mind, but was urging me to see it from a very different perspective. The prayers from others that followed made me sure that what I was understanding was exactly what God wanted me to say.
The Story was the account of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment and was healed, but He was urging me to understand that in this season we are Jesus not the woman.
Folk around us in our community will not only see Jesus in us, but we will be Jesus to them, even to the point that they will want to ‘touch the hem of our garment’ because they will know where we are, as a body and as individuals, that they will find transforming power, peace and healing. They may feel as the woman did, so unworthy, that simply to dare to touch the hem of our garment is to draw close to God and know his transforming power in their lives. This is not to set us up as equals to Jesus, but to recognise the position of privilege and huge responsibility of being a people whom God is choosing to work through and alongside in our community.
People will be drawn to us, reach out to us and touch the hem of our garment, and we will know that power has gone out from us.”
(I also want to remind you that we prayed a few weeks ago for people to be stirred in their gift to hear from God. I think we are starting to see the answer to this prayer! Let’s keep getting into the river!)

Pray blessing

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but while we take a pause in reading Primitive Piety I thought I’d just write a quick entry to say how I feel we can be praying over the next few weeks. Very simply it is to pray for God’s blessing!
Let us pray for God’s blessing in every direction we can think of! On our church, on individual people, on local businesses, our neighbours, local authorities, our building, our ministry, the people who come and use our building………. you add others to the list!
At the end of the day let us pray to see God at work in and around us in all kinds of ways.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Praying for Technology

This week we want to specifically pray for our new computer suite. At first glance we may not see the direct connection between a room full of computers and Jesus! However, I have often heard people say that cutting edge Roman technology facilitated the spread of the Christian gospel – this cutting edge technology was an extensive system of straight roads. The road network enabled the empire to function by enabling troops, supplies and trade to move around with relative ease, but it also enabled ordinary people to travel and take with them the gospel of Jesus. So our desire is to see current technologies serve the gospel of Jesus! We believe this will happen when people, who are on the margins of our community, experience the justice of God that enables them to be elevated and empowered.
Some of the activities we envisage happening in the computer suite include a homework club for children who don’t have internet access at home, adult learning classes and the ability for people who don’t have the internet to fill in online forms.

Let’s pray along these lines:
– That through our computer suite those who are disconnected become connected.
– That through our computer suite those who are disadvantaged and excluded are able to access resources and services they need.
– That people are empowered and grow in confidence to engage with the modern world.
– That through modern technology people’s lives are strengthened and enhanced
– That through modern technology community is built and developed in The King’s Church.
– In all of this we continue to seek the Lord for His provision of finance, skills and wisdom to make His will happen!

Remember to share what you feel what God is saying to you so that we can discern his voice together.

Praying in the Kitchen

This week we want to specifically focus in prayer on our kitchen! As we have discussed before, we feel that food and eating together are key in how we are to minister. Some of Jesus’ most dramatic gospel actions happened when He sat down to eat with people.
Eating together builds relationship, community and family. Eating together offers welcome and acceptance, and creates unity. And beyond that eating is foundational to health and life!
In order to fulfil this ministry a working kitchen is vital!

Let’s pray along these lines:
– That our kitchen allows us as a church to walk the Jesus way and enables us to sit down and eat with people.
– That our kitchen is a place that empowers people to serve and contribute into the lives of the people around them.
– That our community meals draw and gather the community, especially those in the greatest need.
– That we grow in an understanding of church that fully appreciates the importance and significance of ‘breaking bread’ together.
– In all of this we continue to seek the Lord for His provision of finance, skills and wisdom to make His will happen!

Remember to share what you feel what God is saying to you so that we can discern his voice together.

Praying for our position in the community

One of our of our desires for our church building is that it would become a focal point of the local community. We would like The King’s Church building to be a landmark in our town and recognised place on the map that identifies the area around it. We are not wanting to make a name for ourselves but simply make the name of Jesus known in and through the ministry of the church in our area.
Through the way our building is used we desire to see community built, healed and reconciled (to God and each other). Through the way our building is used we want to build connections with the people around us. Through the way our building is used we hope that those who are disconnected find a way to reconnect and find where they belong.
We desire that in and through the ministry of our church in Marsh Lane that there would be a recognised place where God ‘is’, a foundational place of prayer and worship in the local community.

Let’s pray along these lines:
– That The King’s Church building becomes a hub for the local community.
– That The King’s Church building becomes a place where the presence of God is known in our local community.
– That in The King’s Church building people become connected to God and connected to one another.
– That in The King’s Church building a regular rhythm of prayer and worship is maintained.
– That the The King’s Church building begins define the area around it rather than the other way round. (Instead of ‘Oh, I didn’t realise there was a church on Marsh Lane’ it will be ‘Marsh Lane? Isn’t that where the church is?’!)
– In all of this we continue to seek the Lord for His provision of finance, skills and wisdom to make His will happen!

Remember to share what you feel what God is saying to you so that we can discern his voice together.