Per­sis­tence in prayer is the key to ev­er­last­ing life

Belfast Telegraph - - CHURCHES - Canon Wal­ter Lewis

At school, I played hockey, rugby, cricket, ath­let­ics and ta­ble ten­nis. Later, as a ju­nior master at uni­ver­sity in Dublin, I coached three Le­in­ster Pro­vin­cial Cup-win­ning hockey teams.

I have al­ways en­joyed play­ing, coach­ing and fol­low­ing sports. For me, the best spec­ta­tor sport vis­ually is rugby, es­pe­cially at in­ter­na­tional level, but there are also ex­cit­ing Euro­pean club tour­na­ments like the Mag­n­ers and Heineken leagues and the Guin­ness PRO14.

Rugby is one of the most ag­gres­sive con­tact sports in which the short-term and long-term dam­age to joints and limbs must be sub­stan­tial. It is a tough man’s game.

Hence my sur­prise when I ob­served, in a Rugby World Cup se­ries, pow­er­ful men from Tonga and Samoa, gath­er­ing to­gether on the pitch af­ter their sep­a­rate de­feats. In front of huge crowds, they knelt and prayed.

For me, that was re­mark­able. In our sec­u­lar world, and watched on tele­vi­sion by mil­lions, these men gave thanks to God — in their de­feat, but in their joy as well.

I later learned that many of the play­ers on the Tonga and Samoa teams are de­vout Chris­tians. Prayer is im­por­tant for them.

Prayer was im­por­tant in Old Tes­ta­ment Ju­daism. For ex­am­ple, the prophet Eli­jah in 750 BC fled to Mount Si­nai to be with God. And God spoke to him on the moun­tain in a still, small voice. You may re­mem­ber also that the young boy, Sa­muel, spoke to God in the night on the in­struc­tions of his master, Eli, the priest of the Tem­ple at Shiloh.

Fur­ther, prayer was im­por­tant in New Tes­ta­ment Chris­tian­ity. Je­sus fre­quently went away to a quiet place to be alone with his Fa­ther. Je­sus taught his fol­low­ers to do some­thing sim­i­lar — to with­draw and be alone with the Fa­ther. Je­sus gave thanks to the Fa­ther as he took the bread and the wine at the Last Sup­per and gave it to his Apos­tles. He prayed to the Fa­ther.

Je­sus stressed the im­por­tance of prayer. “You need to pray al­ways, and never lose heart”, he said. Un­der­ly­ing this was Je­sus’ aware­ness that peo­ple might give up and stop pray­ing. Je­sus urged them, “Even though you might ap­pear to be mak­ing no head­way, keep on pray­ing! Don’t give up!”.

Speak­ing to his dis­ci­ples, Je­sus used the im­age of a widow who des­per­ately wanted jus­tice on a par­tic­u­lar vi­tal is­sue against an­other per­son. The only per­son who could de­liver jus­tice for her was a dis­hon­est judge, and he said no. How­ever, such was the widow’s ab­so­lute de­ter­mi­na­tion that she per­sisted. Again and again she bad­gered the judge, and through her un­remit­ting strat­egy of at­tri­tion, she wore him down. He gave up and ac­ceded to her re­quest.

Je­sus said that, like the widow with the judge, per­sis­tence is the key to suc­cess. You and I should per­sist in prayer. Never give up — keep on pray­ing.

I con­clude with a very sim­ple but im­por­tant story about the ef­fec­tive­ness of prayer — of hav­ing a liv­ing and friendly re­la­tion­ship with God/Je­sus. This is a mag­nif­i­cent and mov­ing story, dis­arm­ing in its sim­plic­ity and il­lus­trat­ing that prayer does not need to be com­pli­cated or wordy.

Jim was a serv­ing soldier on an army base. He was not re­li­gious or pious in the con­ven­tional sense. Ev­ery day as he went about his du­ties on the base, he popped into the chapel and said, “Hi Je­sus, I’m Jim.”

Time came and Jim was drafted to front­line ac­tive ser­vice. Sadly, he was killed in ac­tion. He came be­fore Je­sus. Je­sus ap­proached him, took his hand, and said to him, “Hi Jim, I’m Je­sus.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.