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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter

Thy Kingdom Come and Prayer

This year marks the sixth anniversary of Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray from the Day of Ascension to the Day of Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus.

Since its beginning in May 2016, God has grown Thy Kingdom Come from a dream of possibility into a movement. Christians from 172 countries have taken part in praying ‘Come Holy Spirit’, so that friends and family, neighbours and colleagues might come to faith in Jesus Christ.

After the very first Ascension Day, the disciples gathered with Mary, constantly devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Like them, our reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit is total – we can do nothing on our own.

Throughout the centuries Christians have gathered at that time to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ picks up this tradition. Over the years more and more worshipping communities have dedicated the days between Ascension and Pentecost to pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’. We are praying that the Spirit will inspire and equip us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our friends and families, our communities and networks.

Prayer can perhaps be one of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of being a Christian. What is prayer? And why should we pray? And not only why should we pray, but how should we pray? These are questions I have often asked myself.

The answers I arrived at to these questions come from several years of reflecting on the spiritual writings of people such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Michael Casey; each of them ordained priests, and variously also theologians, monks and scholars.

To me, prayer is simply being in communication with God. It can take place at any time, and in any place. It doesn’t have to be in church or somewhere else that is considered sacred or holy. And it doesn’t have to be on Sunday morning, at night before going to bed, or before eating a meal.

Importantly, it is two-way communication. It involves us listening for God’s response as much as it does us talking to God. And when I say listening and talking, I mean that figuratively, not literally. I personally haven’t heard God’s voice telling me something, and I don’t always speak when I’m communicating with God. It is as much about thinking, as it is listening and talking.

To pray, doesn’t mean to think about God instead of thinking about other things, nor does it mean spending time with God instead of spending time with other people. As soon as we begin to separate our thoughts into thoughts about God and thoughts about other things, like people and events, we separate God from our daily life. At that point we confine God to a specific compartment of our lives where we only think religious thoughts and experience religious feelings. And although it is important for our spiritual lives to set apart time for God and God alone, it is even more important that all of our thoughts— be they beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful—be thought in the presence of God who dwells in us and surrounds us. 

By doing this, our constant thinking is converted into continual prayer, moving us from a self-centred monologue to a God-centred dialogue. In doing this, we want to try to convert our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is not so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts.

Prayer then becomes a way of life, a way of life that enables us to find peace and comfort in the midst of the seemingly endless troubles of the world, where we find hope for ourselves, our neighbour, and our world. In prayer, we encounter God not only in the beauty of His creation that is all around us, but also in the suffering of the world, in the distress and joy of our neighbour, and in the loneliness of our own heart. Prayer leads us to see new opportunities, and it gives us freedom to choose to go where we wish, and to find the many signs that point out the way to a new place in our lives. 

Prayer is not therefore simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in a time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Prayer is living. It is eating and drinking, acting and resting, teaching and learning, playing and working. Prayer pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the never-ending acknowledgement that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive. 

By the discipline of prayer we are awakened and opened to God within, who enters into our very being, into our thoughts and emotions, our hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting. It is by being awake to God within that we also find His presence in the world around us. It is not so much that we see God in the world, but rather that God-with-us recognises God in the world. God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart. 

Prayer, therefore, could be described as participation in the divine self-recognition. The divine Spirit living within us makes our world transparent for us and opens our eyes to the presence of the divine Spirit in all that surrounds us. It is with our heart of hearts that we see the heart of the world.


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