Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

A Prayer for Christmas and Epiphany

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
our eternal Father and David’s king:
You have made our gladness greater and increased our joy
by sending to dwell among us
the Wonderful Counsellor, the Prince of Peace.
Born of Mary,
proclaimed to the shepherds,
and acknowledged to the ends of the earth,
Your unconquered Sun of righteousness
destroys our darkness and establishes us in freedom.
All glory in the highest be to you:
through Christ, the Son of your favour,
in the anointing love of his Spirit,
now and for ever and ever.
Amen

From the Prayer Book for Australia (p.436)

United in Prayer

‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Each Sunday at St. Nic’s we have a prayer and worship service at 6pm, which (although I know you’re not meant to have favourites) is most definitely my favourite service to attend! It’s usually a smaller gathering of around 7-20+ people who come together, firstly to spend time worshipping God through song, then to pray.

Each week this looks different. Sometimes we sit in smaller groups and pray into different situations that have become apparent in church or in the community. There are some great testimonies to how God has answered prayer following this dedicated time of prayer – but again, that’s for another blog post! We have also used prayer stations, prayer walks and often we spend time simply seeking God’s face and asking Him to speak to us to share a word or a vision that He may have for us as a group or as a church.

Churches Together, united in prayer

The most recent Churches Together united prayer service was represented by 7 different churches and had 41 people attending, who gathered together in Jesus’ name, believing in the power of prayer. And how amazingly powerful it was. We began with a time of worship, and it was a real testimony to how ‘where two of three gather together in [His] name, there [He is] with them’ (Matthew 18:20). It really was beautiful to see different churches, people of different nationalities and of different denominations come together to worship the same God.

Prayer stations and a prayer walk were the two main ways that had been set up for our time of prayer – and we were asked to choose one. Then in small groups, we spent time praying into these different circumstances. We prayed for individual churches, for leaders, for streets and areas within Australind, Bunbury and the surrounds, highlighting places that were placed on our hearts and praying over them. We also prayed for the leaders of churches and over other aspects within the community.

There was also an area dedicated to quiet time in prayer, with Bibles available and scriptures available to provide a starting focus for prayer. I spent some time asking God to speak to me and I was really encouraged with a word for everybody, from Romans 12:4 ‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us’.

Together we are one body

It was a real encouragement for the individual churches represented there to continue doing what they’re doing and that they each have their own gifts that they can use to bless different areas of the community in different ways. Not every church needs to be great at youth ministry, and it would be unrealistic and unnecessary if we all focused on that one aspect! Similarly, not every church needs to provide a playgroup to bless the local community. However, together we are one body, united; with all local churches individually doing a great job at what they’re already doing! Isn’t that encouraging?!

Fortunately, as I spoke about in my previous blog post, we are called to pray into and focus on the areas that God has placed on our hearts according to our passions and interests. So this applied directly to churches too. What are people specifically gifted at in your church? What are you passionate about that you could serve your church in? Maybe God has placed one of His desires on your heart and has been nudging you to act upon it; something that you are personally deeply passionate about that you could serve God in.

Give it back to God

I would really encourage you to pray about this – give it back to God and ask Him to give you the reassurance or the nudge that you might need to act upon it! God calls us, just as we see in Jesus’ life on earth, to serve others. ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). Don’t get me wrong; we are not all called to give our lives, but throughout scripture, we are reminded to ‘serve one another humbly in love’ (Galatians 5:13). I would love you to share any words or passions that God places upon your heart following this blog post. Let’s come together, united in prayer, believing that prayer changes things.

Blessings, Zoë x

Prayer Changes Things

‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The thing that struck me the most about St Nic’s when I first started attending almost 2 years ago, was their heart of prayer. Prayer that supports, prayer that heals, prayer that changes. It changes circumstances, it changes hearts, it changes relationships and it changes lives! All we need to do is call upon the Lord, pray to Him and He will listen to us (Jeremiah 29:12). There are so many promises throughout the Bible of God promising His people (that’s us!) that if we engage in a relationship with Him through prayer, He hears us and responds. Although that response may not always be in the way that we imagine or hope for, we can trust that ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways higher than your ways and [His] thoughts your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).

Recently I have been wonderfully blessed by two separate events at St. Nic’s: The Australian Prayer Network (APN) Foundational Level prayer course, and the Churches Together united prayer evening. I just wanted to share some of my experiences, some of what I’ve learnt and how I have been encouraged me in my own prayer life in the next two blog posts…

Prayer Changes Things

The APN has several ‘levels’ of different prayer courses and this was the first one which focuses on the beginnings of really learning about how prayer works and how we can put into practice some Biblical truths. I want to focus on HOW prayer works. The main thing that I took away from this session was that prayer only changes things if we do what God tells us to do in response to our prayers to Him. There is no point in us praying and hearing a response from God then completely ignoring what God is telling us to do! Prayer requires action.

Prayer requires action

Prayer is an activity of God and it requires our cooperation: to be ‘totally available and radically obedient’! He wants to work through people – through you and me – to change the world. There’s a thinking that prayer requires God’s cooperation; that when we pray we want God to do exactly what we want and exactly how we want it. But that’s where we’ve got it completely wrong! God is far bigger, far greater than our circumstances, and if we focus on trying to simply find the right words to say, or believing that we have the answers then we’re losing sight of WHY we pray. Prayer is praying into God’s plans and purposes which are already known; ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

You know that feeling of when you’re praying for somebody or something, and you just can’t find the right words to say? That you don’t really know what to pray for? That the circumstance feels too big or too out of your own depth that you are lost for words? I want to encourage you and reassure you that THIS IS OK. It is not our words in our prayers that change the world. We need the power of God to change the circumstances. All we need to do, in every aspect of our lives INCLUDING our prayer lives, is to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…’ (Proverbs 3:5-6) And prayer is one beautiful way that we can reach out and touch the power of God, and allow it to flow through us in our lives! While I am aware not all of us pray in tongues, I have found this I have found that using this gift can really help me personally when I don’t know what to pray for – but that’s for another day!

Prayer and your passions

One of the big questions that many people have is ‘what do I pray for? There’s so much to pray for: my own family, friends, my community, my nation, the world… Where do I begin?’ Don’t worry. God has it covered. Start by understanding the passions of your heart; those individual talents and passions, remembering that He created you in His image (Genesis 1:27) and that He knit you together in your mother’s womb and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). This is where to begin. God wants to use these things that He has given you to make changes in your life and others’.

I spent some time in prayer after this challenge and I wanted to share one of my biggest passions – people. For people who are hurting, people who are in need or who are suffering. And also just to love people, to connect and encourage people as they are, where they are. For those of you who know me, this may not surprise you (ha!) but I’ve been really following God’s passion and trying to take every opportunity that presents itself in action and in prayer whenever I can, on a whole new level. It’s something that comes very naturally to me and I just love meeting and connecting with others wherever I go. But this is what God wants to use! He wants to use what we already love and are already passionate about to increase His kingdom here on earth!!

What you need to pray for every day

So I want to encourage you to seek God’s face and to ask Him what He wants you to pray for. Consider what are your passions? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What encourages you to keep going? These are the things that are God’s call on your life – and what you need to pray for every day.

Lift these things up to the Lord. Place them before Him and then ask Him want He wants you to do – then act on it! Remembering that faith moves the hand of God. Passion moves the hand of God. God searches for our hearts and uses those passions. So keep praying – passionately praying. We can’t NOT pray if we carry God’s heart for something. And we can stand secure in the faith that God will hear us, and He wants to work in us and through us to change the world. All we need to be, is ‘totally available and radically obedient’. That’s my challenge to you today.

Blessings, Zoë x

Journaling Part 1: A Reflection on the Benefits

This week and next week will feature a two part series on Journaling by Dannielle Barry.

Many of us (40 odd!) here at St Nic’s are currently studying the Boundaries course in our small groups on either Tuesday or Wednesday. In our Boundaries workbook there is a section on journaling, which is what I’d like to talk about in these posts.

It’s a love-hate relationship…

First of all I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with journaling. Fortunately now its more often love than hate, and it often comes naturally, but it has taken a little bit of effort and practice to get to that point. I say this to give you hope. If these journaling sections intimidate or even terrify you, it’s okay, it will get easier, there’s light at the end of the tunnel – and I promise the experience is helpful, and maybe even rewarding.

Why Journal?

For me journaling provides an outlet when I feel overwhelmed: with thoughts, with life, with questions. Have you ever had the experience of racing thoughts, too much to think about, that awful panicked or anxious feeling? Try writing some of it down. The act of physically putting thoughts on paper will often stop the thought spiral or slow it down, and making short lists when you feel like you have to much to do helps to form a plan of attack. Often I’m surprised that in taking this time to write I realise that the things I need to do are achievable, and the things I’ve been worried about might not be as bad as first thought.

Another good reason to journal is to keep records, particularly records of prayer requests and answered prayer. This is only something I’ve started this year, but it has been such a blessing to go back over my prayer requests and record some of the ways God has answered them. In doing this I’ve also realised how quick I can be to forget all the times God has provided, and therefore so quick to doubt and question whether he’ll be faithful again in my future worries and problems. Keeping records also helps me to reflect on my life journey, learn from it and see the ways I am constantly growing and changing. Having recorded stories of good memories and not so good has been an unexpected blessing, a way to really see how God is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28).

If you’re not yet convinced there is also some evidence that journaling can be good for your health. One psychologist from Texas, James Pennebaker has researched the strengthening effect journaling has on our immune cells. Other research into problem solving hypothesizes that by transferring our thoughts to paper the right side of the brain becomes unlocked to solve problems from a creative point of view rather than the left brained analytical approach we tend to.

Please visit again for next week’s Journaling Part 2: The only rule? There are none…

1 minute prayer

This week I thought I would share with you a quick and easy 1 minute prayer based on our vision framework for our community life here at St Nic’s.

Lord,
Clothe me with the power of Your Holy Spirit so that today I may
Bless abundantly in Your Name,
Belong wholeheartedly to the Body of Christ,
Believe increasingly in Your Word,
Behave with integrity for Your sake, and
Become Good News for Your glory.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

St Nic’s Snapshot: I wonder…

A picture says a thousand words… Regularly, we will be featuring snapshots of our life together at St Nicholas Church. If you are a member of our parish and have something to contribute please contact Sophie via the Contact Us form or email the office at stnicholasminster@gmail.com

I wonder…

In Godly Play we are wondering about the Lords Prayer and exploring what it means to pray.

Some great connections are being made by the children.

“I chose the communion table and bread and wine to go with Give us today our daily bread because Jesus tells us to remember him”

“I chose the baby Jesus as he came to Earth from Heaven” this was placed next to Your Kingdom Come picture.

“I chose the candles of Advent because Jesus is the Light of the world”. These were placed next to Our Father in Heaven picture.

“I chose the World Communion story because you need all of the people at the communion table”. This was placed next to Give us today our Daily Bread picture.

I love being part of our Godly Play community.

The Lord be with you…
Karen

Prayer & Praise: Blessing & Belonging

Sunday evenings are a joy for me. At 6pm at the church there is an informal, almost organic service of prayer and praise with members of our parish. I wish to encourage you to come and be a part of it. We are always blessed – and are becoming as a community of St Nicholas. The meeting fosters a real sense of belonging. We are greatly ‘lifted in Spirit’ in our praise and worship.

When I first went, I felt this was very good. I felt the Lord was calling me to be a part of it. Personally, I find it to be exciting. Something always happens- either then or later down the track. Every week we each receive a prayer from two people, without hearing what the other person is praying. This I find exciting as I wait to receive the results of those prayers.We pray for matters of the church and also the broader community. Sometimes we pray in pairs, at other times in smaller groups. We are seeing answers to prayer on various scales: personal, for the church and the ministry of the church. Hopefully, you have heard by now about the progress with the Shire for the Historic Church and the no parking signs.

We are able to believe that the Holy Spirit will move amongst us because we see it each week. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are being used as we pray – prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, speaking in tongues and healing.

Wonderfully, the children who are coming learn to pray and be prayed for. They are learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit; to believe that they too they belong in the church community, can behave in a spiritual manner – learn how to bless others, and be blessed themselves – and to become more mature in their faith.

Seeing answers to prayer is very exciting but for me, the best part of it is going there to pray with other people.

By Glory Kitson

Prayer & Praise, 6pm at the church. All Welcome.

The Good Gift of Power at Pentecost

You can move a car by pushing it or you can turn the ignition key and harness the power of the engine. It will travel for longer and with a great deal less personal effort from A to B if there is sufficient fuel. Using fuel and the car’s engine, is using the car as it was designed to be. It’s the same with being a Christian called to be Jesus’ witnesses. We can attempt to live out the Christian life in our own limited power (this will result in failure) or we can welcome God’s design for the Christian and the necessity of being clothed with power by the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 24:49 Jesus asks the disciples to wait in Jerusalem in order to receive what the Father has promised, clothing in power. This power is in Greek the same root word from which we get dynamite! It is the same word that describes Jesus in Luke 4 as he returns from his trials in the wilderness and begins His public ministry: Luke 4:14 ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.’ Furthermore, it is something promised by the Father through the prophets as Peter later points out in his address to the cords on Pentecost in Jerusalem. Here, he begins to literally fulfil the call to witness to Jesus (Acts 2:16ff).

Not just an encounter, but on-going…

This is not just a one off. The scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit’s work and presence in us makes all the difference. As we trust in Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who helps us know and experience the love of God assuring us that we are his children (Romans 8:16). We often see this is the main thing that happens on the Holy Spirit day in our Alpha course. Likewise, it is the spirit who enables good fruit to grow in our lives reflecting the character of Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be effective witnesses through transforming our own lives; equipping us to witness in our actions and words to Jesus- risen from the dead, saviour of the world.

We recognise this is an ongoing need. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled and continue to be filled with the Spirit. Consequently, in each Eucharist we pray ‘Renew us by your Holy Spirit,’ and conclude with a heartfelt prayer ‘send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.’

Clothe us in power…

On Saturday, as part of the prayer movement ‘Thy Kingdom come’ encouraged by Archbishop Justin Welby, we waited upon the Lord for 8 hours, looking to pray in His kingdom in differing areas and across a number of issues . However, we were waiting especially for the Lord to clothe us as a church with His power to be effective witnesses here to the South West of Australia.
This past week in Alpha it was a delight for us to see someone come to that place of trust in Jesus and commit themselves to follow Him. That wonderful moment happened in part through the ongoing witness of Christians in her family and the witness of this church to her. Alpha has helped her think it through further and come to a decision. How beautiful is that? It is a literal fulfilment of what Jesus asks of us and enables us to do through the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:45-49).

Lord, may your kingdom continue to come in us and through us. Holy Spirit, clothe us with power that we might be your witnesses to the ends of the earth, even the South West of Australia.

Amen.

Be Still, and Know the Presence of God: Morning Prayer at St Nicholas

What a better way to start the day then to meet with God in prayer, listening to Him and talking to Him?

It is good for Christians to come together to pray. Today there are many resources to enable us to do this. The Prayer Book of the Anglican church, provides us and encourages us to pray together. This has been a custom in many a church and Cathedral down through the ages, where clergy and laity gather together to say the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.

Where this occurs, one can sense an atmosphere of prayer. I have often visited Durham Cathedral in the U.K. In entering, there is a special atmosphere created by centuries of prayer, over 1000 years. It helps one to be still and know the presence of God.

Prayer is of paramount importance for St Nicholas; if we want to seek God, to follow Him and to see the Holy Spirit at work, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of many who do not yet attend a church. We want to see St Nicholas as a house of prayer and in so doing people will enter into a special atmosphere. When God’s people draw near to God, He will draw near to them.

As I was saying the office and reading the Bible readings for the day, I was struck by the example of the early church. One of the readings was Acts 2:37-47 where we see the new Christians not only helping one another and having fellowship with one another, but also praising God and praying. What happened? God added to their numbers on a daily basis, new believers. Now that is an exciting picture!

I encourage others to come and be part of this time of seeking God, to pray to Him and to listen to Him as we read the Scriptures. Who knows what God will say to us as we open ourselves up to God?

by John Jarvis

Morning Prayer, every Tuesday, at 7.00am.

Churches that are alive to God are living communities

Today is a day tinged with considerable sadness as two members of our community, Grace Paynter and Val Fry, much loved sisters in the Lord died within an hour of one another on Wednesday.  While there is a great deal to be thankful for in their lives we miss them.  At the time of writing I have no information regarding their funerals but will make this known as soon as I can. I may be asking for assistance in hospitality here at St Nick’s . Let me know if you can help.

Churches that are alive to God are living communities. We are adopted together through faith in Jesus into our Heavenly Father’s family and become brothers and sisters. We are learning to love one another, to forgive one another, to do conflict well, to serve one another and together to share the mission of Jesus to make known the Good News. Simply put it’s this: God loves us and is longing for us to come home to Him. The way? Trusting in Jesus who makes it possible through His life, death and resurrection. That’s the message we can live and share made possible with His Holy Spirit working in and through us. Do we know it and believe it? Are we placing the weight of our lives on this glorious truth?

We have one mortal life and one death as Christians. As I accompany my brothers and sisters to their deaths the importance of sharing the gospel grows ever stronger within me. Both Val and Grace knew they were loved by God and loved by many of you. They are both fine now and I along with many of you look forward to seeing them again. As St Paul put it ‘to live is Christ to die is gain.’ Philippians 1:21. But we miss them.

Be sensitive to one another. Pray for the families and close friends who are grieving that it may be a good grief. If you did not pick up my letter to the church last week on service structures please do so today. I did not anticipate how relevant some of what I wrote would be to this past week.

Shalom

Jamie,