Engaging the Silence

Like many of you, our 24-7 Prayer Scotland team has been journeying through Lent along with Lectio 365, which is using Pete Greig’s book God On Mute as a basis for reflection. We are all finding it challenging, encouraging and helpful. So over these next few weeks we will be sharing our personal reflections and stories from this journey.
This week, Sam shares some of his personal wrestlings with silence.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Mother Teresa

Sometimes I don’t pray when I say I will pray, should pray, or could pray. That might seem controversial to some – after all, this is the 24-7 Prayer blog – but it may be comforting to others who might feel like the only Christian out there who struggles with maintaining a regular practice of prayer. Our lack of praying is regularly diagnosed as a lack of discipline but I think it goes deeper than an inability to stick to routine.

Often, I ignore the place of prayer out of a deep sense of apprehension, sometimes even fear; a fear of what lurks beneath the surface of my soul. In stark contrast to a lot of our human interactions, when I sit in the presence of God, all that seems to greet me is silence. Quiet. As I sit in the silence, my heart starts to reveal itself to me, and often it isn’t pretty; in the worst-case scenarios, it actually feels overwhelming in its messiness. Due to my love for comfort and abhorrence for anything painful, I will often ignore prayer if it means ‘silence’. Sometimes it is just simply that life and circumstances around me feel too heavy and I don’t feel like I can handle anything else. But in this space, I have mistaken the place of prayer for a spiritual therapy room, rather than a wide-open field where I can rest under the shade that God’s presence offers.

Silence can often create the perfect environment for the very real and visceral lies that I believe about God to come to the surface and confront me. One of the most challenging of these that I have wrestled with – and continue to wrestle with – is that silence is the absence of the presence of God. When I sit and wait, I can hear my inner voice saying, ‘See, God wouldn’t share time with someone as faithless as you’, or ‘See, God is actually far off and distant.’ Yet silence has also often given me the gift of clarity around the state of the thoughts that shape my interactions with God; which in turn becomes an invitation from God to offer them to him, and let that shape the conversation we have as we journey through life together, as he inevitably proves these assumptions false and assures me of His faithfulness and mercy.

As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate silence as a process of becoming more comfortable with the fact that God doesn’t feel the need to rush to quieten my fear or fix my problems, but that he can rest and enjoy his creation with all its cracks and failings. My fidgety heart is yielding, little-by-little.

* If you want to learn more about engaging with silence in prayer, check out this ‘Prayer Tool‘ in the Toolshed on the Prayer Course website.

Sam lives just outside Glasgow in Kirkintilloch and is the Youth Work Coordinator at Bishopbriggs Community Church. In his spare time he loves to watch a good film and spend copious amounts of time with friends ( he is another level of extrovert ). His passions are Jesus, prayer, people, new plans and food.

Oor Scotland’s Identity

It’s Burns Night tonight!

So we thought we would share this beautiful, stirring prayer poem written one year ago by our team member Rachel Dhillon.

The poem is something that flowed out of Rachel’s heart as she sat praying and processing with God on a Scotland-bound train following our annual 24-7 Prayer EuroLeaders training weekend.

She had been pondering how, often when different nationalities are invited to pray in their native language, that we as Scots somehow feel we are not included in this. And a fire began to burn in her heart to see Scots stand unapologetically in their identity as Scots, to remember and cherish the rich Christian heritage in this land and to believe in and fight for the soul and purpose of this nation in prayer and in unity.

These words are the result of that fire lit within her, words in the heart language of Scotland.

A’m wantin’ tae see revival o’er oor land.
Fur oor folk tae staun oan the shudders o’giants.
Fur bairns tae na langer sit under th’ breid line.
Fur ilka body tae hae a hame.
Fur Scootlund tae wance again be a steid o’ beauty ‘n’ justice.
A’m wantin’ tae see Scootlund reclaim oor identity.

Ye huvtae understaun that ath’gither we huv a braw wee story.

We staun an we fought th’gither, we gret th’gither, we laughed th’gither, we aw sung th’gither, we raaged th’gither, but aboon a’ else, we loved th’gither.

We ur a faimily.

We ur a nicht warrior nation. Fae the Hielands tae th’ Borders, tae Glescae tae Auld Reekie. We ken oor faithers ‘n’ oor mithers ‘n’ th’ faith.

Thay said let Glescae flourish thro’ th’ preaching o’ thy word ‘n’ th’ praise if o’ thy name. An guid auld Scootlund wid be a land o’ th’ book. We mind th’ revival in the Isle o’ Lewis ‘n’ th’ battle fur oor nation.

‘N’ no it’s about time again; tae mind oor Scootlund’s identity.

As a nation that shouts withoot fear I’ a’ brass neck, that stauns in unity w’ yin another, whaur poetry ‘n’ songs ur written ‘n’ where justice flows lik’ water. Sae th’ day, we staun’ere ‘n’ say, that in this land, Oor God Reigns.

*Photo creds: Ciara Menzies Photography

Songs in the Wasteland: the Now and Not Yet

In the final post of our Celtic Advent blog series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’, Naomi Black shares some reflections from her personal journey through Advent in the midst of this strange and difficult time.

As I’ve journeyed through this Advent season, I’ve been reading every day about why Jesus came. Each day has brought a different truth, a different declaration: he came to bring light to the world, he came to bless the nations, he came to fulfil the law, he came to do what Adam could not… the list goes on. Each day as I’ve read, I’ve marvelled, and my heart has expanded with thanks and reassurance at what this Christ child came for. In a season of great uncertainty, when plans can change at a moment’s notice and it seems that very little can be relied upon, it has helped me every day to read something steady.

More and more this year my heart has been drawn to the promise of eternity with Jesus. Songs that speak of ‘that day’ make my eyes smart with tears, Scriptures that promise an end to pain and sorrow and suffering fill my heart with yearning. I know that eternity has been placed in our hearts, it shouldn’t surprise me as a believer to long for such things. Yet I also know that the reason I long for it more now is because all around me I see that pain and sorrow and sadness of the ‘not yet’, and it breaks my heart. So, as I read these declarations and truths about Jesus every day, there was one that stood out more than I was expecting – it certainly doesn’t feel very Christmassy! It was this: Jesus came to defeat the enemy.

It reminded me of a piece I’ve sung several times, a particular movement from Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’. Most of the eleven movements in this piece are beautiful to listen to, awash of festive choral magic – complex, yes, but beautiful. Not so with the movement I was remembering, ‘This Little Babe’. Its tone is darker, its tempo is rapid, but it is its text that sets it apart from the rest. It depicts a battle between the enemy and this Christ child; the strangeness of a helpless babe being powerful enough to defeat a raging enemy. It’s opening line sets the scene and my heart is fortified every time I remember it: “this little babe, so few days old, is come to rifle Satan’s fold, all hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold doth shake…“.

Jesus came to defeat the enemy. This is a vital truth to hold on to this Advent. Satan’s fold has indeed been well and truly rifled by the power of Jesus Christ and hell does indeed tremble at his name. In other words, the days of injustice, of pain, of deep sorrow, of hunger and of need, are numbered. Because Jesus came to defeat the enemy, and he comes good on his word – always. I think that this Advent, my ‘song in the wasteland’ is to remind my heart that it won’t always be this way. One day the ‘not yet’ will be fulfilled completely. But in the here and now there is still hope – because the Kingdom is also ‘now’ and Jesus is foiling the works of the enemy still. This Advent, this Christmas, celebrate the power wrought through the Incarnation and speak the powerful name of Jesus into the places of darkness and distress, standing in the truth that Jesus came to defeat the enemy.

Naomi is from Northern Ireland but now calls Edinburgh home, where she is part of the Central Church family and staff team. She loves to pray and to help other people pray as well. She also teaches singing and has a particular fondness for dogs and excellent cups of tea.

Songs In The Wasteland: Hope

Daniel Ferguson continues our Advent series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’, sharing some reflections from his journey through this year and his struggle with mental health.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel

This year has been like no other. It feels like everyone has struggled along the way. Personally I have felt the rollercoaster of emotions like so many others have.

I’ve felt great Joy. We had the joy of our son Ezra being born! He is a gift, utterly beautiful and has filled us with even more love than we thought possible. I’ve felt tired. I know that a newborn will always bring a sense of tiredness, but it’s gone further than simply that. I’ve felt fatigued as this year has gone on, felt in so many ways ‘tired’ of the fact every day and week has been so familiar. I’ve felt a captive in many ways. A captive of this crisis, a captive of my own mind, a captive of 2020.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been hopeful and joyful moments along the way, but I know I’m not the only one who has felt low at moments, a captive of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and honestly – I’ve felt far from God at times.

I suffer from depression and this year certainly hasn’t helped with that. Yet, in the midst of the darkness of my mind and the darkness of this year – is there hope?

I truly believe there is. I’m not sure where I would be without this hope and I am so thankful that I do have hope. My hope is found in Emmanuel. My hope is found in Jesus.

Emmanuel means “God with us” and that’s where I have found my hope. I have found hope in the fact that God is NOT distant, far removed and untouchable. In fact, he is the opposite. He is close, he is near, he is present and he is WITH US. This is my hope. Life has been a struggle this year and I wonder if it has been for you too? This hope in Jesus doesn’t mean everything suddenly becomes perfect in my life or yours. However, it does mean that we are not alone – there is someone there to lift us when we fall, there is someone there to restore our broken hearts, there is someone to breathe fresh life into our tired bodies and fresh hope into our weary minds. This is what Jesus brings to me and I know he wants to bring this to you.

Like this famous carol says, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”
This is a prayer for us this year. We may have felt captive, we may have felt imprisoned in our circumstances and perhaps even in our minds, but there is hope and that hope is found in Emmanuel – Jesus.

Daniel is married to Becky and they have two kids – Zoe & Ezra. They live in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, where Daniel is the Youth Pastor at Westhill Community Church. Daniel is also the founder of THERE IS HOPE – a mental health awareness movement; and of JOYFUL – a musical vehicle to ignite hope & joy in a world of fear & pain.