Seven and a half years ago, I penned my first contribution for Archbishop Writes. Now, some 75 editions later, I find myself composing my last article.
At my inauguration as Archbishop, I preached on John 17: Jesus’ threefold prayer for himself, his apostles and for all who believed on him through their word – which includes us all! I then addressed the same text in the September 2013 edition of Southern Cross.
Prayer is essential to any Christian’s discipleship, and all the more essential to ministers of God’s word. It is a great honour that our heavenly Father has bestowed upon us to allow our weak and feeble words to ascend before his throne.
Christian prayer is borne of the Spirit of God.
This is no mere trifle. Christian prayer is borne of the Spirit of God. It is our response to God’s invitation to pray, to bring our requests and thanksgivings to the Father. His Spirit not only prompts us to pray, he also intercedes for us with the Father.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
When Paul speaks of the Spirit, he is referring to the Spirit of the ascended Son, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Our union with Christ and the gift of his Spirit give us special access to the Father in our prayers. For God promises to hear our prayers, when we ask in Jesus’ name (John 16:23).
I have on my desk an anonymous card sent to me last year at the height of the pandemic in Sydney. It simply says: “Please stop praying, it’s making things worse”. I keep it before me as a reminder that it is not the strength of my prayers that changes things, but the God to whom I pray that changes things.
The card keeps me focused to keep praying – despite the intention of its author! It is a humbling reality to know that it is not simply our efforts, but God’s sovereign working in our lives that brings glory to himself. He calls us to pray, thereby graciously including us in his purposes, but it is he who answers our prayers.
Daniel’s response was immediate when he read Jeremiah’s prophecy that the people of Israel, after 70 years of captivity, would pray to the Lord for deliverance (Jeremiah 29:10-14). When Daniel read that letter, some 70 years after his deportation, he immediately prayed (Daniel 9:1-3). Moreover, God graciously answered that prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer for Christians is another example of God’s inclusion of us in the fulfilment of his will. How often do we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done”? By such a prayer we hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord (cf 2 Peter 3:11-12). What a privilege! What a responsibility! Such is the importance of prayer in accomplishing God’s purposes.
Last year I encouraged you to pray at 1900hrs for COVID-19, and I am grateful for the many prayers that have been offered during 2020. Rest assured that your prayers have been effective in the successful development of not one, but many vaccines around the world, three of which will be available in Australia.
While the researchers are to be congratulated for their efforts, the prayers of God’s people are not insignificant in seeing this outcome in record time. “Unless the lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
In September 2013, I wrote:
I have been overwhelmed by the prayers that the Diocese has offered up for Dianne and me these past few months and especially since the Election Synod. Your prayers have calmed my spirit and warmed my soul. I too, as your chief pastor, am committed to pray for you, which is the responsibility of all pastors (Acts 6:4; 1 Thess 1:2). Join me in prayer for God’s love and unity to be so manifest among us that the world may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Father, whom to know is life eternal.
I now write to thank you for your prayers for me and Dianne since taking up this office. Without these prayers, my ministry would have been ineffective. Some have prayed each week, many friends have prayed every day. I am conscious of these prayers, for the strength that God supplies is greater than human strength alone. I am aware that one dear friend, for example, prays for me daily as he fills the kettle for an early cuppa. I am therefore going to follow his good example by doing the same each morning for the next Archbishop.
The Election Synod will be held in less than two month’s time. Do pray for each of the nominees. Remember, they are not candidates for office – as if they were seeking the position. Rather, they are nominees, recognised by some members of the Synod as good and godly men who, by God’s grace, can take the reins of episcopal leadership for the whole Diocese, and for the glory of God and the benefit of God’s people.
Do pray for them and pray for the Synod that God’s mind might be clearly discerned by its members.
May God’s blessing rest on all Anglicans in our Diocese, that we might see Jesus honoured as Lord and Saviour in every community. Amen.
Watch the Archbishop’s official farewell from St Andrew’s Cathedral on Friday night, 26 March from 7pm Livestream here.