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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Blake

Wrestling in Prayer and Preaching

I was very struck by a headline on the BBC news on Sunday. “Sajid Javid says prayer meeting moved him to quit”. The BBC article explains that inspired by a sermon on integrity in public life at a prayer meeting in parliament, Sajid Javid made up his mind, went back to his office and wrote his letter of resignation. The events which have unfolded since then have been quite extraordinary and British politics look very different from this time last week.

This weekend, in between reading the news I’ve been writing an assignment about preaching and reflecting on the ways preaching may or may not have an impact on those who hear it. Sajid Javid shows that sometimes it can have extraordinary and unexpected impacts.

The Bible is full of examples of where God spoke or appeared to people, transforming them or guiding their actions. In evensong we heard about Jacob wrestling with a mysterious man who he eventually understood to have been God. Through this wrestling and an injured hip, Jacob’s self-reliance and determination to control everything were challenged. What followed was reconciliation with his older twin Esau who he had deceived and fallen out with so many years before.

It can be easy for us to hear sermons or say prayers on the surface and carry on as we always have. But sometimes in prayer or the words of others we find God “shaketh us by the noses and pulleth us by the ears” such that we have to take note and listen to what he is telling us.

If ye inwardly behold these words, if ye diligently roll them in your minds and afterwards explicate and open them ye shall see out time much touched by these mysteries. Ye shall perceive that God by this example shaketh us by the noses and pulleth us by the ears.

(Hugh Latimer sermon, 1536)

Take me often from the tumult of things

into Thy presence.

There show me what I am,

and what Thou hast purposed me to be.

Then hide me from Thy tears.

O King and Saviour,

what is Thy gift to me?

And do I use it to Thy pleasing?

(a prayer of Hild of Whitby, 614 – 680)

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