Category Archives: prayer

Benedict… A Beginner looks at the Beginner’s Rule

The idea of a Rule of Life intrigues me. Why on earth do people follow St Benedict as well as the Gospel, over 1500 years on? Find out


Dead man walking

resurrectionI just read this lovely blog post: Resurrection? You Must be Crazy! . It reminded me why people would look at Christians and think we’re nuts, and of the risks in taking a step of faith – of placing my trust in the resurrection of Jesus. I’m reminded of what a challenge my faith presents to others who don’t share it. I’m also challenged to rethink whether I really believe its claims.

I don’t believe that Christians are crazy, or I wouldn’t be one. But it’s good to step back and consider it for a moment. After all, our faith declares that a dead man walked (and much more, but let’s leave it there for now- that’s crazy enough for starters). I’m not about to trot out the evidence for the resurrection. Other places can discuss that better than I could. But I do want to reflect for a moment on the reactions of those to whom Jesus appeared.

Even the people Jesus had lived alongside, his closest family and friends, those who believed he was the Messiah during his life and had heard from him in the run up to his death about what he was going to do, found it difficult to believe that he was raised from the dead.

Mary thought he was the gardener until she heard him speak; the men on the road to Emmaus walked and talked with a traveller for hours before they recognised him as Jesus; and the 11 remaining disciples thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus appeared amongst them. It’s not that surprising really! You WOULD think you’d gone nuts, wouldn’t you? I mean… if you saw, or seemed to be having a conversation with, your recently murdered friend. And if someone told you THEY’D done seen those things,  you’d think they were crazy, or deluded, or both. It’s a little ironic (and maybe a touch harsh) that Thomas goes down in history as “doubting” because he wanted proof that the dead man standing in front of him was the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It’s also good to know Jesus was able to persuade him.

It’s interesting too that according to the biographical accounts in the gospels, Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (which sceptics put down to mass hysteria or delusions amongst other things) include accounts of him walking, talking, eating, showing his wounds, preparing food, blessing people, performing signs, and meeting individuals & groups. There was certainly variety in the ways people claimed to encounter him.

Saul was the last of the apostles to see Jesus. He hit the deck on the Damascus Road when he encountered Jesus. No-one would’ve seen it coming: Saul was a God-fearing Pharisee, a strict follower of the Jewish law, and doing a pretty good job of persecuting Christians. Turning to Jesus was no easy matter for him; it involved flying in the face of everything he’d previously stood for, and there were respects in which the rest of his life involved trying to make sense of that transformation. The important thing is that Jesus was able to catch his attention. Was he crazy? Some people would say so. But then, as he later said to King Agrippa when he was under arrest and had to explain himself: “why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead”? Now if  there’s a God, I think that’s a pretty God point.

Maybe Paul was crazy. Maybe every other Christian in history has been crazy with him. Or maybe the world doesn’t work in quite the confined manner we box ourselves into believing is the case. Maybe just because we can’t prove something with science, it doesn’t make it impossible, but simply makes it  something we can’t explain, at least yet.  

I’m quite glad I don’t understand everything. I like it that sometimes I just have to be; to trust; to let God – assuming he’s there – be God and to believe that if he is, he’ll see me waiting and if he’s not, I won’t lose anything by taking a breather. 

Dear God… honest prayers, faith & doubt

I found a new website about prayer today. The link to it is at the bottom of the post.  I’m not sure what I make of it yet. It’s full of harsh, stark, beautiful prayers from all sorts of people in all sorts of places facing all sorts of challenges. It’s profound, but profoundly what? Reassuring? Disturbing? Maybe both, I think.

It intrigues me that a website about prayer should overtly distance itself (as this one does) from any connection with anything faith-based, because its posts are from real people with real needs, addressing God. They don’t seem believe they’re screaming into a void, or why bother to address an Almighty? I’m reassured by this site that we all search – whether we recognise it or not –  for something more to life than the emptiness of now. The very utterance of these prayers suggests that something deep inside us knows there is something more. That somewhere inside each of these people there’s a mustard seed of a faith. Prayer helps, somehow. I guess the question, the mystery, is why.

I’m disturbed about the places we look to for help, though. At the end of the day we all make choices about faith. John Ortberg puts it like this:

“…making the right choices about faith — like making good choices for life in general — does not seem to rest primarily on IQ. Smart  people mess up as easily as the rest of us. 

“Three men are in a plane: a pilot, a Boy Scout, and the world’s smartest man. The engine fails, the plane is going down, and there are only two parachutes. The smart man grabs one. “I’m sorry about this,” he says, “but I’m the smartest man in the world; I have a responsibility to the planet,” and he jumps out of the plane. The pilot turns to the Boy Scout and speaks of how he has lived a long, full life and how the Boy Scout has his whole life in front of him. He tells the Boy Scout to take the last parachute and live. “Relax, Captain,” the Boy Scout says. “The world’s smartest man just jumped out of the plane with my backpack.” 

“Our world is full of smart  people jumping out of planes with backpacks. One of the paradoxes of faith and doubt is that it is the ultimate intellectual challenge, yet simple and uneducated  people may live with great wisdom and PhDs may choose folly. One thing is for sure: sooner or later the plane is going down. 

“We all are on the same plane. Smart guys and Boys Scouts alike: everybody has to jump. Everybody has to choose a parachute. No one will know who chose wisely until after they jump.”   (Faith & Doubt, Zondervan, 2008).

I choose to put my hope in the promise of Jesus. That hope seems absent from some of the posts on Dear God. The harder question, therefore, that this site raises for me is about different concepts of God. It makes me ask whether one concept of God is the same as another. In the bottom of my heart I want the answer to be yes, but I don’t think it is. 

I’m humbled by the honesty of the Dear God posts, though. That people are searching, really searching for answers to life’s big questions. And I believe that the truth is there to be found if we search in honesty and humility. 

Today I stopped again to reflect on Jesus’ claims. Are the narratives of his life and death just pieces of random social and political history shrouded in myth over 2000 years? Was he just a generally good guy who got up the authorities’ noses, or is there more to it than that? Who, really, was this self-professed God-man who claimed victory over evil; promised forgiveness; loved the unloveable; taught the drop outs; healed the broken; washed the dung-plastered feet of his own followers; and who offers these things to you too? What does it evoke in you to hear that he was hated and hunted, that he allowed himself to be convicted, publicly humiliated, beaten and slowly killed? And that 3 days later his tomb was empty and his followers met him again.   We each have to decide which way to jump.