Earlier in the year I spent a very inspiring day at Pusey House in Oxford with a group of fellow priests from the Society of the Holy Cross. Our mission arm, ‘Mission Direct’ had organised a study day on the subject of contemporary mission and a number of the brethren took advantage of the opportunity to meet together. Both Father Harri Williams, vicar of Walsingham and Father Grant Naylor, vicar of St. Matthew, Calver Street, Sheffield spoke of the approaches they took and the successes they had had in their vastly different parishes. Mrs Clare Williams, children’s work advisor in the Diocese of Norwich, also spoke about work with children and Father Stephen Edmonds, an assistant archdeacon, spoke of the changing patterns of parochial ministry across the Church of England.
One of the things that particularly interested me was Father Harri Williams’s encouragement to ‘intentional prayer’. Father Williams spoke of the intercessory work carried out across the parishes, but felt that opportunities for asking for specific things were often missed because intercessions frequently took a general form. Whilst there was nothing wrong with a general intercession, there was further scope for asking for a desired outcome. For example, at Walsingham, prayer that more people may join the congregations for worship had borne fruit and had been a blessing in the villages.
Intercession is a large part of my own discipline of prayer and has always been important to me. Father Williams’s thoughts have helped me to reflect on my own practices of intercession and have encouraged me to make more specific requests in prayer. I suspect that was a greater part of my practice in the earlier years of my ministry, but as time has gone on and the number of intercession lists before me has increased it has diminished somewhat. I am not suggesting that I now only read out lists, but that I should take more time to reflect and ask for specific things for people, organisations and situations. It isn’t quite a case of ‘those who don’t ask don’t get’ because God’s generosity is boundless and often surprising, but rather that bringing needs to our heavenly Father and asking him for specific things (where that is appropriate – and it won’t always be) is part of the economy or the life of prayer.
I can see two different but complementary approaches based on the advice. The first is when praying in general to make a specific intention. This will already be true for many of us because the Prayer for the Church Militant in the Book of Common Prayer is general in its scope and we will probably be in the habit of including in our hearts and minds situations like the war in Ukraine, unrest in Sri Lanka or people in need who are not on the parish intercession list. These are our private intentions.
The second approach will mean asking for an understanding of God’s will for a particular person or situation and then making what is felt to be a suitable request. Just to give a concrete example, I have a commitment to pray for Leah Sharibu one of the Dapchi girls who was kidnapped by Islamic militants in 2018. It is easy just to mention her name or commend her to God, but more important that I ask God specifically that she may be granted freedom, protection from abuse, healing and a martyr’s fortitude. I feel called to ask for these things as part of my ministry of intercession. I realise that I should probably use a similar model of intercession when I am tempted to do no more than ‘offer the list’ either in my stall or at the altar. Obviously intentional prayer is more time consuming, but nothing worthwhile is done without effort.
Of course, the lists are endless and there are occasions when we should review our use of them – too many or too few? It would also serve well to consider how we use intercession lists so that we can offer Godly intentions. I shall write a little more next month.
Pray for discernment over the future of the Family Service.
Pray too for the people of Ukraine and Russia, especially those who live amongst us.
The PCC is making arrangements for the repair of parts of the church roof and a small amount of repointing. The cost is expected to be in the region of £40,000 providing the builders do not discover any further issues. Costs are being met from existing funds. Grants are also being sought, but any donations to help defray the expense of the work would be most welcome.
From the diary
Sunday 24th July Trinity 6
Wednesday 27th July, 10.00am Mass (St. James, Apostle)
Saturday 30th July, 12 noon Patronal Festival
Sunday 31st July Trinity 7
Wednesday 3rd August, 10.00am Mass
Friday 5th August, 7.00pm Mass (The Transfiguration of Our Lord)
Sunday 7th August Trinity 8
Wednesday 10th August, 10.00am Mass (St. Laurence, Deacon, Martyr)
Friday 12th August 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 14th August Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Wednesday 17th August, 10.00am Mass
Friday 19th August, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 21st August Trinity 10
Wednesday 24th August, 10.00am Mass (St. Bartholomew, Apostle)
Friday 26th August, 7.00pm Mass
Saturday 27th August, 12 noon Holy Baptism
Sunday 28th August Trinity 11
Wednesday 31st August, 10.00am Mass (St. Aidan, Bishop, Missionary)
Friday 2nd September, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 4th September Trinity 12
no midweek services
Sunday 11th September Trinity 13
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am
From the registers
7th July Victor Paterson (76 years)
In July we heard the story of the Widow’s mite and used the opportunity to explore Jesus’ teaching about generosity in giving. We also talked about the coinage in use during New Testament times and about how pocket money works today. Fun was had doing some coin rubbing.
Image by Ben White on Unsplash