Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord

On Friday night my eldest child came down stairs to tell me that there was a commotion going on outside on the street opposite our house. I did the nosey neighbour thing, went upstairs, opened the window and tried to see what was going on. 

As I peaked through the trees I could see and hear a young girl rolling around on the pavement screaming at the top of her lungs. Her friends were around trying to calm her down, yet the more they tried to stop her yelling and thrashing the more violent she became. I reached for my mobile and as I did I heard one of them say that she should have learnt from last time that she couldn’t hold her vodka. These children were not much older than 14 maybe 15. I dialled 999 to get her some help and an ambulance turned up very quickly.

I felt a huge sense of sorrow for these young people, especially the girl who was so unwell because of alcohol consumption. My heart broke for all the young people in our town who spend their weekends like this, playing Russian roulette with their lives, whether it is with alcohol, drugs, or racing fast cars. 

On another night, as I was driving home at around 11:30pm I saw a young boy walking along the road on his own. He was not much older than my son who turned 8 yesterday – these babies, alone in the increasingly hostile world that we live in, fending for themselves.  

And it’s not just the children who are at risk, young adults are witnessing harder and harder environments to study in, student loans are increasing leaving most in debt of around 40k and graduates are fighting for a job after study. My friend who has recently been teaching Young adults who have struggled in secondary education, speaks of students who cannot write full sentences, who have been forgotten in the system because they find it difficult to learn in certain ways. 

This week that a young man lost his life just down the road in Falinge, through senseless violence.
I felt and feel helpless when I think of the young girl, the little boy, the forgotten students, and the young man who died this week.  

All I could do was pour out my heart to God and pray.

By praying we start to chip away at the hardness of our hearts, we are hardened every day by the deluge of news that we absorb every day. We are less shocked by terrible things, images on the screen of war zones and queues outside food banks become so regular we can’t see the shock anymore.

Ezekiel perfectly describes the process of prayer, the power of conversing with our Father,

 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

We see from this passage how inviting God into our situation carves and releases our hearts from the numbness of witnessing events that harden and freeze us. Through regular prayer our hearts beat again with the spirit of God, opening our eyes and minds to the plight of His people.

Through His spirit as we cry out Him, He says to us you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

In the Gospel reading we hear Jesus praying for His disciples. I find this amazing. Jesus, the son of God praying for His followers. If Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, prays for us, then we are seeing first hand how important prayer really is.
Jesus prays, I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

This is an important example of how our prayer can shape the world around us, we ask God on a person’s behalf, so the young girl, the little boy, the murdered man, we pray for them on their behalf, we stand in the gap between heaven and earth, and pour out our spirit filled hearts.

Jesus prays that we may know the closeness of the Father that he knows, that we and Him can be one.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

One community, one kingdom, one love in the Father, through one act – prayer.

We are in the middle of Thy Kingdom Come, An initiative created by our Archbishops to get us all to pray together over the period between ascension day and Pentecost. Through these ten days all who pledge to pray are one, just as Jesus prays for us to be.

If anyone would love to join in, we are encouraging you to pray for five friends, the prayers are on this piece of paper. If you are struggling to choose five people, please pray for Rev Mark and his ministry here with you all, and please pray for the renewing power and joy of the Holy Spirit for us all here in Rochdale.

Jesus prays that the Father’s word is truth and this is what we should keep close to our hearts. 
We keep close to us the promise and witness of the resurrection of Jesus, that in dark times Jesus exploded from the tomb, conquered death, ascended in joyfilled glory and sent the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire.

This weekend we await the coming of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and I encourage us all to speak to our Heavenly Father, whether this might be the first time, or the first time in a while, or a renewal of a lifetime of prayer, take time and sit in God’s presence, and lift up to Him those who we can on their behalf.  

The forgotten young, the lonely, the destitute, the abused, the drug user, the alcoholic, the prostitute, the councillor, the homeless, the traffic wardens – we are one, one in Christ always.

God of mercy,

who in your great love

drew your Son from the depths of the Pit,

bring your people from death to life,

that we may rejoice in your compassion

and praise you now and for ever.