Category Archives: Prayer

“Learn to see” – my prayer for 2021

Father, help me to see the church as it should be

Not as it is now, but as you see.

No longer regard people from a human point of view

See with God’s eyes how we will be made anew.

See the bursts of glory all around

Exchange the errors for the profound.

See the potential in others; sin in myself

Forgive, forget, restore back to health.

“Bless others”, He says, “as you have been blessed”

“Unconditionally, relentlessly, indiscriminately”, I confessed.

Embedding whole life discipleship into your church’s DNA

A review of Scattered & Gathered by Neil Hudson

This is my third book review on our Thrive Scotland reading list. If the first book (Thank God it’s Monday) helped us understand our work as a joyous calling to kingdom living, and our second book (Every Great Endeavour) helped deepen our biblical basis for whole life discipleship, then this book is our manual for embedding these truths in our churches.

Neil writes with warmth, sensitivity and empathy, learnt no doubt through years of helping church leaders wrestle with these meaty topics. He uses his experience to gently unpack our established expectations of church – what it means to be a gathered community.

Throughout this is a book of encouragement and exhortation for church leaders, who Neil wants to spur on rather than drag down. This is not a book selling a new formula for quick fix discipleship, or a list of new initiatives to do on top of our current activities.

Instead it is a realigning of what we are already doing across a broader canvas and with our frontlines in sharper focus

Each chapter starts with a reframing of testimonies from biblical characters – shedding fresh light on some familiar stories. After delving into key topics such as worship, preaching, small groups and fellowship from a whole-life perspective, he then identifies helpful examples of how it might look in practice, alongside advice on making a start on incorporating a wider kingdom perspective into our church rhythms.

This is a timely and practical book for church leaders keen to equip their church for life on the frontline. For those who have sought to create a church culture more supportive of our scattered lives, but seen it remain a fringe issue, this book provides the blueprint to moving from gesture to posture, for…

“Gestures are fine and are appreciated when offered, but a posture is permanent“

This series is in anticipation of the Thrive Scotland conference coming in September.

Hold on to hope

imageA poem for Easter written during our 40 hours of prayer as part of the 24/7 prayer initiative. I hope it encourages you to find hope this Easter.

Hold on to hope

In the darkness when all is lost
When guilt and shame reveal their cost
Hold on to hope

Unnumbered souls hang by a thread
Look inside all strength is dead
Hold on to hope

Feeling so weak, so small, so frail
Writing my sins, hammering the nail
Hold on to hope

Millions lost in the barren land
Desperate for love, but no helping hand
Hold on to hope

Despair creeps and crawls over the walls
Give up, it’s too hard the Devil calls
Hold on to hope

Not much to give, not long to live
One life to live, one life to give
Hold on to hope

Just a fickle love and a messed up life
Worn with age, like a blunt knife
Hold on to hope

Your love Lord is greater than mine
You sent, you gave, you wait to shine
Hold on to hope

One at a time you send out the call
So quiet, so unnoticed by us all
Hold on to hope

Thousands saved every day
But not so many in the UK
Hold on to hope

Do here what you do elsewhere
That all may see that you really care

Hold on to hope

One day all will see your glory
Just Help us now to tell your story
Hold on hope

Revive us Lord, we are so cold
Make your people strong and bold
Hold on to hope

Take all the glory, it’s all down to you
Revive our nation and, our love renew
Hold on to hope

This is our prayer for our generation
A million lights causing a conflagration

Hold on to hope

Read less, pray more

Book 3 Chapter 20 Section 1-52

In this epic chapter on prayer (a total of 52 sections over 58 pages) Calvin outlines his four golden rules for entering the throne-room of God. But before these four steps to heaven, Calvin outlines the reasons why we should pray at all. Firstly, we should pray so that our hearts are always aflame with a “serious and ardent desire of seeking, loving and serving him”. Secondly, that we would learn to expose every thought and desire to the presence of God. Thirdly, that we would be full of continual gratitude and thanksgiving for all his blessings. Fourthly, that as we receive what we ask for we would be “led to long more earnestly for his favour.” And finally, that we would by experience learn to recognise and submit to his providential care in our lives.

So if these are the reasons Calvin gives for encouraging us to pray, how are we to go about it? How can we approach this sovereign, righteous, omnipotent God we have heard so much about in the last three books of his Institutes? Well Calvin’s four steps to the throne-room of heaven are:

1. Reverence to God – “to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God”. Turning all our thoughts to God and not being distracted by wandering thoughts. Calvin exhorts us to rise above ourselves – not in the sense that our minds are disengaged, but rather that we should make use of whatever is driving us to our knees to supplicate passionately, for “it is by much anxiety that the fervour of prayer is inflamed.”

2. A sense of our want – “we must always truly feel our wants, and seriously considering that we need all the things which we ask”. We should not let habit, or custom, make our prayers cold and our hearts indifferent. If we struggle to feel our need we would do well to consider that our daily inner battle with sin and temptation – then we will always have fuel to fire our hearts with supplication to God.

3. The suppression of all pride – he who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vain-glorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth. We must “discard all self-confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory.” We must come humbly, seeking his pardon, for humble “confession of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of right prayer.”

4. A sure confidence of being heard animating us to prayer – we should be animated to pray with the sure hope of succeeding. While it may appear that there is a contradiction between “a sense of the just vengeance of God and firm confidence in his favour”, they are actually perfectly aligned for “it is the mere goodness of God that raises up those who are overwhelmed by their own sins.” For just as repentance and faith are tied together in our salvation (Book 3 chapter 3), so in prayer they must both be present.

Recognising the high standard he has set for our prayers, Calvin adds the caveat that the four laws “are not so rigorously enforced, as that God rejects the prayers in which he does not find perfect faith or repentance.”


As I meditate on this chapter on prayer it challenges me to examine my own pray life. How do I fare when assessed by these criteria? How often do I genuinely feel the weight being in God’s presence? Do I spend long enough in prayer that my coldness and apathy are burned away?

I confess that my prayer life is not what it should be. On one level the excuse of having a young family and a full-time job mean its hard to carve out time to be alone with God. However, over this year I have managed to find the time to keep up with a demanding reading and writing schedule. Through iTunes I am able to listen to preachers from all over the world on my way to work, and I get great insight from Christian blogs that I follow. But for all the great teaching that fills my thoughts how much time do I spend cementing this teaching into my life through prayer?

It is so easy to skim the surface of the Christian media and not realise that this is not feeding my soul at the deepest level. One of the great dangers of our day is to have all the best teaching in the world at our fingertips and still have a superficial relationship with Jesus. I realise that I need to read less, but pray more. I need to listen to fewer sermons and pray more. It seems to me that good teaching is like the yeast that works through the dough – only a little really good teaching is needed, the rest of the effect is produced by the kneading of prayer as I meditate on the truths and ask God to build them into my life.

[PS. I know this blog post might mean I get fewer readers, but if that is because people are praying more then great! I’m sure God would be pleased with that result!]

“Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10.41-42

Father help me to take these truths that I am learning and turn them into godliness by the work of your Spirit as I spend time in your presence. Help me to discern the good from the best and prioritise above all else spending time with you. Amen