I love the fact that the Mothers Union is a worldwide family within a family; the very core and backbone of the Church, in so many parts of the world. Because we are members of the Anglican Communion and the Mothers’ Union, we are united with women we shall never meet in our lifetime and it is our prayer that makes that bond come alive.
Where we live, there is so much anxiety around. Just because we have so much does not make any the less anxious; if anything, the fact we have so many things seems to make it worse. Every year in the UK, four million prescriptions are issued for anti-depressants.
In Philippians, Saint Paul says that prayer is the antidote to anxiety, for many reasons. To start with, when we pray, we actively remember that God exists and that God loves us.
In praying, we are deliberately turning our gaze away from the things that trouble us and want to hold us in thrall – so that we can turn to Him and remember that God’s Spirit prays within us constantly, at what TS Eliot called the still point, the centre of everything and which exists in the heart of every one of us. When we pray, we remember that we are never alone, or lost, or ridiculous
in the presence of nothingness, or the horror many of our sisters face daily.
The kind of remembering I’m talking about here is about so much more than flicking through an album of family holiday snaps. In Hebrew, the word ‘remember’ means to make present, now, the great saving events of God in the past. So, as a Jewish family remembers the flight from Egypt as they keep Passover together, they remember as if they were there personally, fleeing Egypt, with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels. And when Jesus said, ‘do this in remembrance of me’, he wanted us to remember as if we were there with him in the upper room and at the cross on Calvary Hill and by the empty tomb on Easter morning.
So when we pray, we might pray ‘remembering’ Moses standing before God on Mount Sinai, arguing, pleading with God on behalf of His people. And stand there with him.
When we pray, we might seek out a private place, and so ‘remember’ Elijah at the mouth of the cave. And do the same.
The writer of the Psalms knows the value of being transparent before God and absolutely honest with Him – as we pray with the psalms, we can be transparent and open to Him too.
And in the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that prayer is powerful, but needs to be worked at – like the woman in the story who couldn’t afford to bribe the judge, or rely upon influential friends – she didn’t have any! But who bothered him – until he gave in. God, says Jesus, is so much more generous than that judge.
As members of the Mothers’ Union, we are united in prayer – networked together and woven into a beautiful and diverse tapestry of very varied contexts, Churches, cultures, needs and gifts. We are bound to pray for each other and, occasionally, even to hammer on the doors of heaven for one another, remembering that our joy, our unity and our strength is found in Him alone. So may our prayer change us – change our Church – and transform this world we are commissioned to serve.
The Feast day of St. Birinus, 4th September 2015