For the night sessions at the Methodist Prayer Convention, Rev Dr Viv Thomas talked about prayers. On the first night, he taught participants about developing intimacy with God with reference to two texts from Matthew (Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 10:16).
First of all, we need to be God’s friend. As human beings, we are always following something; we follow our favourite football teams, we follow our careers or money and so on. However, Jesus says to us, “Follow Me”.
“To follow” is a movement; it requires momentum. To follow means to be attentive in the right way. To follow means you have to trust. When Jesus says, “follow Me”, He is asking for our trust in Him.
Where is Jesus leading us in our friendship with Him? We have to pay attention to these 3 things: (1) Communion with God, (2) the community, (3) our mission to the world.
1. Communion with God
We are called for a life of communion with God. When we pray, the main purpose is to commune with God: God listens to me as I talk, and I listen to God when He talks. What is most beautiful about prayer is that God wants you to be there with Him, or someone puts it, “prayer is wasting time with God”. When we love someone, we seem to “waste time” with them but in fact, it is not. We really enjoy every minute of it, for example, we go for walks, have meals together and spend time together. We share our love, our devotion and our expectations. When we pray, we are spending time with God. In our relationship with God, we can talk a lot about what I love, what I don’t like, what brings me joy and what brings me sorrow. The Psalms in the Bible teach us how to communicate with God. We can tell God how we feel and be transparent in His presence.
2. The Community
God has given us a community to work with. We learn to grow together in the community.
3. Our Mission to the World
Rev Dr Viv reminded us to live in a way that it is not all about us and ourselves. We have to learn to care about others.
Rev Dr Viv then asked us to imagine these 3 things as 3 circles: (1) the communion circle, (2) the community circle and (3) the mission circle. These 3 circles are linked together in our intimacy with God. What would it be like if these 3 circles come together?
(1) Salt of the earth
Jesus has called His disciples to be salt of the earth. When we follow Him, we carry the flavour and the essence of salt. We are to be the salt of the earth.
Jesus says that we are the light of the world. We are to let our light shine before men (meaning to do good deeds) so that people will see our good works and for these, God will be glorified.
Jesus teaches us to be as shrewd as snake. That means, we are to be fully aware of what is happening around us. Our society is always changing. The people are changing under different circumstances. We must be alert. We are to take good care about the things going on around us and make sensible counter-reactions. This brings us back to the importance of being in a community with people, as well as reaching out to others in mission. When we are fully aware of what is going on, we are able to make decisions that will bless others.
We are also called to be like doves. We are to be pure, open-hearted and living a life of gentleness, tenderness and mercy.
All these above are what friendship with Jesus is like. We will be salt and light to the society, as well as shrewd as snake and gentle as dove.
What else do we need to do? Rev Dr Viv urged us to pay attention to Jesus by reading the Gospels and watch how He lived His life. May our life be a blessing to many.
Praying in the Name of Jesus
On the second night, Rev Dr Viv Thomas talked about praying in the name of Jesus by basing on John 16:23-36. Rev Dr Viv said we were each shaped by our names. We respond to the world by our names. For some of us, we may have “lost” our name perhaps due to some unhappy memories associated with it. However, we are to come to Jesus, for He is a name changer. In our prayers to God, Jesus has taught us to begin the prayer with, “Our Father”. Through Jesus, we have become the children of God. We are God’s children. God wants us to come to Him in prayer. Saint Augustine wrote, “True, whole prayer is nothing but love”. Richard Foster, a Christian theologian and author also writes, “Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but falling in love.” Through Jesus, we have a new identity. And prayer is our response to God’s love.
Reported by Rev Candy Liong