Prayer – what to say?

We all could write a lengthy list of requests to God, but what does He want us to pray about?

It is difficult to discuss prayer without also mentioning "sin". This word conjures up all sorts of reactions when uttered in polite company. Christians use the word not just to describe acts which violate a moral code, but more fundamentally to describe an attitude or state we adopt which resists God - usually in favour of our own desires. In this state, God can seem distant and prayer difficult.

I can think of relationships with friends I have hurt or who asked me to do something one way and I insisted on doing it my way. Meeting up again, I felt guilty and a barrier began to form between us. However, when complete forgiveness followed a genuine apology, the barrier was removed and the relationship restored.

A similar pattern can be seen when we resist God. A barrier forms between us as a result of sin. However, Jesus said he did not come to condemn but to save. Because he died for our sins, we can receive forgiveness and approach God with a clear conscience. If we continue to resist Him in our everyday lives, the barrier begins to rebuild but complete forgiveness is assured when we turn back to Him and admit our fault. It’s not a formula but I have found that approaching God in faith, with a repentant heart, has always resulted in this barrier crumbling away and a beautiful sense that my Father is near and listening.

So what do I say to Him then? I often use the Lord’s Prayer as a structure. When I don’t, apart from sorry and thank you, I normally ask God for stuff. A few requests currently out there are for a record deal, love, restored relationships, protection for existing relationships, wisdom concerning life decisions, strength, courage and help writing this article simply with love and without heresy. Then there are prayers for others I love - for all sorts of blessings, including healing particularly but also joy, love, unity and a knowledge of God. Too seldom are the prayers for world peace and the relief of global poverty and, as I write, there are fewer prayers offered up for my enemies than I would like to report - Jesus instructed us not simply to love our enemies but also to pray for those who persecute us.

There are several memorable occasions when I have experienced my own or someone else’s healing after prayer offered to God through Jesus. Not as dramatic but only yesterday, my girlfriend laid her hand on my ear and prayed for it to be healed in the name of Jesus. It had been blocked with wax for about two weeks. This morning, as I began my day, it suddenly popped and my hearing was restored.

It is impossible to prove whether this was a coincidence or an answer to prayer? I like to think it was the latter and thank God for it, but I would be willing to believe my ear was ready to pop anyway. Meanwhile, a long list could be written of unanswered prayers. Perhaps longer still though would be a list of miracles and blessings from God for which I never even thought of asking.

The Gospels describe how Jesus went to great lengths in encouraging his disciples to pray and he made great claims about how faithful God would be to answer. We have heard of many miracles Jesus worked but he told his disciples that anyone who has faith in him “will do even greater things than these” [Jn 14:12]. He told them that he, Jesus, would do anything they asked in his name.

I don’t fully understand the discrepancy between this picture and the impotency I often feel when I ask God to do stuff. Occasionally, I ask God what he wants and then listen. After all Jesus did teach his disciples to pray “thy will be done”.

Adam is a worship leader at New River Church, Islington, a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church of about 40 people. He has a degree in physics, a PhD in neuroimaging and is a member of the electro-indie rock band Personal Space Invaders.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Commons confidential: Away in Pret a Manger

Corbyn's lunch, a Keith "Vazz" hunch and the New Left Book club.

Comrade Corbyn, despite the pressures of leadership, remains the Anne of Green Gables of British politics, maintaining an almost childlike joy in everything he does. Pride of place in Jezza’s Westminster office is a Lorraine Kelly mug. Corbyn asked for the memento after appearing on the popular telly host’s ITV show – where the pair discussed his interest
in manhole covers.

There’s no record, as far as I can ascertain, of Kelly requesting a Corbyn mug. And yet the sustained abuse Corbyn receives from Labour critics, Conservative enemies and the Tory press isn’t generating hostility on the streets. People still clamour for selfies with the bearded lefty. My snout sat in awe in a Pret a Manger (Comrade Corbyn likes to pop out for his own sarnies, rather than dispatch a flunky) as the queue disintegrated, with punters hungry for snaps.

The Corbyn apparatchik and London City Hall escapee Neale Coleman said: “The one thing I learned from Boris Johnson was never say no to a selfie.” Corbyn must hope he absorbed more than that.

Perhaps the unlikeliest odd couple in parliament is Labour’s Warley Warrior John Spellar and the purple shirt Nigel Farage. Both went to the private Dulwich College in south London. Spellar, who spearheaded his party’s anti-Ukip campaign before the election, won a free scholarship and likes to remind Farage that the Kipper’s fees would now be £18,000 a year. “I passed the exam, too,” sniffs Farage, “but my father earned too much, so we had to pay.” One school, two backgrounds.

Trade unionists no longer regard attacks by the Tory press as just a badge of honour. Aslef’s president, Tosh McDonald, a train driver, wears a black T-shirt with the slogan “Hated by the Daily Mail” on it, after being denounced by Paul Dacre’s organ. I suspect Labour’s Keith Vaz is unlikely to revel in a message sprayed on the side of a van in Leicester. The fastidious chair of the home affairs committee is entitled to challenge at least one inaccuracy in the statement: “KEITH VAZZ IS A KNOB.”

“Any idiot in opposition who argues that government legislation can somehow be got through without programme motions should be taken out to the nearest lunatic asylum.” Who said that? Ken Livingstone? No, Kevan Jones. In June 2010. How times, and language, change.

To the launch of the new Left Book Club, where a director of the Corbynista reading circle, Anna Minton, waved a personalised glossy invitation to join the Institute of Directors. The Pall Mall bosses’ club’s direct mailing system is way off target.

I wonder: what could expelled Tory trickster Mark Clarke have on Grant Shapps?

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State