In preparing for this Monday’s prayer meeting I re-read one of my favourite pieces on prayer; an essay entitled ‘The Efficacy of Prayer’ by C.S. Lewis (published in the collection The World’s Last Night). I was prompted by a recent conversation about whether it was right to pray for good weather for a wedding. Is it right to pray for such a small thing when there are probably far more important needs for the world’s weather patterns than a local wedding? It seems even more trivial when at this moment a young man in our community lies terminally ill from cancer. ‘Does prayer work?’ asks Lewis. ‘Can we believe that God ever really modifies his actions in response to the suggestions of men?’
Lewis reminds us in his essay that petitionary prayer is both allowed and commanded to us. But, he says the very question ‘Does prayer work?’ is the wrong one to ask from the outset. Prayer is not a machine or magic. It is not automatic. Rather it is a request. It is personal contact between ‘embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete person.’ Lewis reminds us that there are many more dimensions to prayer other than petition – thanksgiving, confession, adoration and enjoyment of God’s presence. A better way to look at petitionary prayer is an invitation to participate in ‘the dignity of causality’ - God invites us through prayer (as he does through all our actions) to collaborate in his work of re-creation, to participate in the building of his kingdom. He could do things far quicker and more efficiently himself. But he invites us to be co-creators with him. That is the dignity he gives us as creatures made in his image, enabling our finite free will to co-exist with his Omnipotence, in a reality that is, as Lewis says ‘doubtless not comprehensible by our faculties.’
So here are our thanksgivings and requests which, together with you, we bring before our heavenly Father, knowing that in prayer he invites us into the dignity of causality.
We have had good numbers of students visiting so far this term, with a really good mix of nationalities. At a lunch table this week I had students from 5 different continents round the table.
Many good things are happening amongst the students. One commented today ‘for the first time I feel I can be honest with God.’
Merran and I are very thankful for our sabbatical over the summer. We return to the work feeling refreshed and affirmed in our continued calling to L’Abri.
I have finished a first draft of my book on heaven and have now re-edited the first four chapters.
Phillip and Christa Johnson (Phillip was a worker here for two years) are expecting their first child in March.
Andy and Lindsey Patton now have a car thanks to the help of a local friend who helped them find one at a very reasonable price.
Our prayer requests:
Our major need right now is for the renewal of work visas for the Merz Family. The Merz Family love the work but are considering the needs of their children as they grow older. The cost for visas for the whole family is over £14,000. We have been trying to put away money each month for this but are still very short.
We are also making decisions this term over new workers at Greatham. Since Phillip left we have a space for a single worker but the gap could also be filled by a family. We need wisdom and also practical considerations such as the extra finances involved.
The Merz Family are still looking for an affordable 7-seater car. Thankfully, they have been able to rent one from a Christian company that provides cars to missionaries. But this is only a short-term solution.
From November 30th to December 1st Josue, Lili and Marsh go to Budapest, Hungary, to speak at a small L’Abri conference organised by Hungarians who have visited Greatham. Please pray for the Lord to bring those of his choice and also for wisdom and guidance of how to encourage this work.
On November 30th I am leading a book discussion at CARE for their interns in politics. We are discussing ‘To Change the World’ by James Davison Hunter.
On December 3rd I speak at the Southampton Medical School Christian Medical Fellowship meeting.
On December 7th Edith is speaking at the UCCF staff Christmas service.
I go to the L’Abri Trustees Meeting from December 6th to 12th. This year we are meeting in Yang Yang, at the Korean L’Abri. This is partly to meet and encourage the team there but also so we can speak at a L’Abri conference in Seoul. I will also speak at an IPC congregation in Seoul on the Sunday. Pray for InKyung, the director of the Korean branch, who is also recovering from a major operation.
Our numbers are a little lower for the second half of the term. Please pray the Lord would send us more if that is his will. It’s particularly on my heart to have more British students at the Manor. They still form only a small minority.
We would also love more invitations to speak at UK student events.
Thank you for your prayers. It is wonderful to know we are lifted up to the Lord so often.
With love from the whole team.