Monday, 31 December 2007


The stark statistics which spell out the poverty of Afghanistan can be found on the web pages of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation:

Long years of war have impacted particularly on women and children, as is always the case, and a staggeringly high proportion of women die in childbirth. The proportion of children who are malnourished and stunted is also frighteningly high.

Dear Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer for Afghanistan. May the people of Afghanistan be able to achieve a lasting peace. May they be able to send all their children to school for a good and complete education - girls as well as boys, and may they be helped to develop effective health services. Lord, I pray especially for the children of Afghanistan, that they may receive adequate nutrition to grow strong and healthy.

Father, I pray also for our forces in Afghanistan. My they carry out their role with integrity. May their situation be properly understood by the government and people of the UK, and may they all come safely home.

Saturday, 29 December 2007


Trafficking is the modern version of the slave trade. Instead of picking cotton, most trafficked human beings nowadays are conned and coerced into the sex industry. 120,000 women and children are trafficked into Western Europe every year. Many of these are bought and sold into forced prostitution, beaten, imprisoned, raped and sometimes killed.

Lord, for everyone who is taken against their will to somewhere they don't want to be, who is forced into labour that is not of their choosing, I pray for your command to be honoured:

Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice and let the oppressed go free. (Isaiah 58:6)
As you used the evil done to Joseph for the good of many, and set Joseph in a place of honour, I pray you would lift your mighty arm to save the slaves of today and bring them to a better destiny.

A relevant web page is:

Monday, 10 December 2007


Dear Lord,

How your heart must grieve to see not only the suffering of the hungry, but the complacency of those who have enough to eat. Father I pray that you would disturb all the world on this subject of starvation and malnutrition, until poverty, hunger and ignorance really are history. But Lord, where there are the resources now to feed all the people adequately, I pray that you in your righteousness and mercy will move hearts and minds so that inequality of any kind does not keep women and children hungry.

Thank you for the abundance that I enjoy. I pray that more and more people in our world will come to enjoy such abundance. I pray for farmers everywhere that they may learn how to cultivate their fields without stripping their fertility. I pray especially for subsistence farmers to be able to grow the food they need and to have a surplus to sell. I pray for fair distribution of food globally and locally. And I pray that you would forgive me the little I do to address the huge problem of hunger in our world, and show me how I could make more of a contribution.

God's justice asks:

When I was hungry, did you feed me?

More than 800 million people in the world are malnourished.
2 billion lack essential vitamins and minerals in their diet
Women and small children are disproportionately affected.

For detailed information, he following web sites are relevant:
(See "Background information about food and hunger)

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Female suicide bombers

Heavenly Father, I pray for any and all young women who may be at risk this very day of becoming suicide bombers. I pray that you would minister to their angry and despairing spirits, and help them to see that all history and all justice are in your hands. Turn their hearts to prayer, Lord, rather than to murder and suicide. Give their families wisdom and love enough, Lord, to see their daughters' despair, and to comfort them.

Father, we feel so helpless to bring peace and justice to a world riven by hatred, fear and violence. Truly, mankind has created a very hell on earth. Forgive us, Father, whenever we allow injustice and oppression because we are too complacent or apathetic to stand against it. Give us widsom, I pray, to see how each one of us, no matter what our faith or culture, may become a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.

And finally, Father, I pray for the families of all the young people who have died as suicide bombers. Please comfort them in their bereavement and give them courage to stand against the forces that would claim for death the young lives that you created for creativity and joy.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

If your eye causes you to sin....

Prayer Day 13 of ""30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless" requires us to reflect on the way that women and even children are exploited, harmed and depersonalised by pornography. We might also reflect on how it leads the purchaser into a degrading addiction, and puts families at risk of a perverted set of values and desires.

Holy Lord, you created men and women to be companions for one another and to find delight in one another. I pray that you would recall us to our true status as loving partners and mutual supporters, and help us to defend our communities, our families and especially our children from the evil lusts that are formed and perpetuated by pornography.

I pray that your church, as the Bride of Christ, would take a lead in seeking to eliminate this evil trade. I pray for the lawmakers, who seek to eliminate pornography from the internet, that you would guide them with the gift of wisdom. I pray especially, Lord, for the law enforcement agencies as they seek to break paedophile rings. May they develop ever greater professionalism and skill. May they be successful in gaining convictions, and may they, their families and their communities be blessed and encouraged by their success.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Infertile couples and childless women

The title of Day 12 of "30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless" has so offended me that it has taken me some time to get round to this day's prayer. I have now retitled it entirely for this entry.

Lord, I pray that you would comfort and heal all couples who long for children, but who have not yet conceived. The stories of Hannah and Sarah teach us that, with you, anything is possible. Please bless these couples who have love in their hearts for their as-yet -unborn children. May they at last receive your greatest gift of new life.

Father, I also pray for all those women who have not had children because they have not yet found a life partner, and who enter their menopause with the sad realisation that they never will know the joy of motherhood. Surround them and affirm them with your love, Father, and lead them to the places and roles where they are able to rejoice in having a significant and honoured role in nurturing others who so need the love they have to give. May they also be affirmed and loved by your people, the Body of Christ on earth.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Tamars of Today

Absalom was not just an ambitious son who couldn't wait for his father to hand the kingdom over to him. He was also a brother with a terrible wrong to avenge. The main part of Tamar's story is told in 2 Samuel 13, although the repercussions can be seen to spread like a stain over the following chapters also.

Father, I pray for all girls and women who find themselves in Tamar's situation. Be their shelter and comfort as they come under threat, Lord. Be healing streams for them as they seek to recover.

And Father, I pray with Absalom that justice will be done, and that those who have power and authority will protect and treasure these defenceless little ones, and cause them to lift up their heads again. May they know that the shame and the blame does not belong to them.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


On Day 10 of prayer for the voiceless, we are asked to pray for China. Because of its traditional preference for boy babies, combined with the single-child policy, China now has a gender imbalance that is thought to be the longest-lasting and the most severe in the world, with 120 boys for every 100 girls in 1996. This is due to selective abortion and female infanticide.

Lord, I bring China and her people before you and plead for them that you will help them to recognise what is happening in their society and appreciate the value and importance of bringing babies of both sexes into the world.

I pray for all human life to be welcomed with joy, cherished and respected, in China and across the world. Lord, may no baby be less than totally welcomed and rejoiced over on account of his or her sex.

A relevant web site for information is:

Monday, 5 November 2007

Female Labourers

The writers of "30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless" describe the lot of women who work too long, too hard and too much, especially in back-breaking manual labour. An example is the typical African peasant woman who works 16 hours daily, trudging long distances to find and carry firewood, animal fodder and water, growing and harvesting food, tending crops, cooking and caring for her family. This leaves little time to seek education and training which would enable her to break free from the cycle of low status and poverty.

The nurse who was linked to my church and went to Africa with a missionary society explained that the small children of these women are often too tired to eat by the time the evening meal is finally cooked and so are malnourished, thus adding another vicious twist to the downward spiral of poverty.

Almighty God, please in your majesty and might act to rescue the poor from those who are too strong for them - especially,Lord, show them ways in which they can help their families to walk free out of poverty.

I pray, Lord, that you would move the hearts of our political leaders to keep working to make such poverty history. Lord, if you want something new to start with me, please show me the part you have for me to play in your rescue plan.

Relevant web sites are:

Friday, 2 November 2007

Women in Purdah

Dear Lord, please give us understanding hearts and ears that listen, so that we may learn to see the reasons why some cultures want to wrap their women in purdah, and can debate with its proponents about the costs to women and to society when women are restricted in this way.

I pray Father that you would release every human being from any restriction or oppression that prevents him or her from enjoying a full, active and useful life, in which all their valuable potentialities can develop.

The challenge for today is to keep a log for 48 hours noting every time you leave home and what you did. Then to reflect how different your life would be if you were confined to your home.

For me the answer is:
  • going to work
  • visiting a friend
  • shopping (twice)
  • going to take part in Youth Church

Without the ability to go out, and to do so alone if necessary, I could not be economically independent. I could not contribute my time and talents to help people in need and to add my labour to the local economy. I would not be a taxpayer, so the nation would also be the poorer. I would be unable to make any friends at all ouside of my family circle, or if I did, I would find it very hard to maintain any meaningful contact and relationship with them. I would have to pay for food and other necessities to be delivered, and it would be hard for me to come by new ideas about what to buy and from where. I would not be able to be part of the church's ministry for young people.

On the other side of the coin, I have to admit that British men are generally respectful and egalitarian, and do not pester a woman just because they see her alone in a public place. I know this is not so in all cultures. Thank you God that the culture where I live is firmly on the side of equality and diversity.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Young women with eating disorders

Men and older women can have eating disorders too, but of the 70,000,000 people worldwide who are struggling with eating disorders, 90 - 95% are women and 95% are aged between 12 and 25.

Dear Father God, you made each one of us in your image, and you love us just as we are. Please help each one of us to accept her own body and to appreciate how wonderful and how beautiful it is. Lord, it just blows my mind to think of the intricate work you were doing to create me as I grew in my mother's womb. Thank you that I was born with a fully functioning body that had the potential to grow and develop.

You gave me life, and said "yes" to that life continuing every time it was threatened. Please help me and other women to accept that gift of life with both hands, and to take delight in everything it offers.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Women seeking asylum

Day 6 of 30 days of prayer for the voiceless is for refugees

Dear Lord, please comfort displaced people, heal their memories and give them a new home to live in.

May the churches both reach out and speak out, Father. May they reach out to offer practical help and hospitality to immigrants and refugees, and may they speak out against bigotry, injustice and harsh mistreatment of asylum seekers.

Father, the challenge for today is to "approach an immigrant this week and listen to her story." Please God give me the time and opportunity to do that. Thank you for the opportunity to do a little of that in the past week.

I thank you, Lord, for your word for refugees:

"Oppression and destruction will end, and those who are devastating the country will be gone. Then one of David's descendants will be king, and he will rule the people with faithfulness and love. He will be quick to do what is right, and he will see that justice is done." Isaiah 16 v 4b - 5, Good News Bible.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Women remembering abortions

Prayer for day 5 in "Voice for the Voiceless" is on the subject of abortion.

This is so hard,Lord. Please move my heart by your Holy Spirit to pray your prayers on this subject.

You know, Lord, that my heart goes out to those women who have had abortions, and who are forever haunted by a mother's grieving for a lost child, compounded with guilt. Father, forgive them, let the past lie behind them as a closed chapter, with the word"forgiven" stamped across it. I pray this through the merits and death of your own dear Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Our dead sisters

Please see the web sites that describe the abuses of women in Pakistan. My heart is too heavy to write about it.

Oh Lord of life and love, restore the dignity and sanctity of women's lives in Pakistan. Raise up righteous officials to enforce the law of the land, speak to the consciences of all in positions of power - whether in families, or police forces or courts or government, and help them to perceive what they are doing and allowing to be done in its true light - which is a tragedy for all involved.

And Father, please show us women in the west, who are so privileged by comparison, how we may stand alongside and support our Pakistani sisters, not just on Day 4 of thirty days of prayer, but for as long as it takes for Pakistani society to change.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The bruised and bleeding women

When I write the words "bruised and bleeding" I know they are inadequate for the horrendous nature of the injuries inflicted. We've all seen some of them whenever a TV programme has featured domestic violence. As Paul and Susi Childers say, "The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and often physical or sexual violence." The aim is control, and the method is to intimidate and undermine.

On day 3 of the thirty days of prayer, I pray for all victims of domestic violence, be they men or women, and I particularly pray, Father, that you would free men from the neurotic needs and insecurities that lead to abuse of the person who loves them. I pray that all the victims may be set free to live in health, safety and peace, free at last from their constant agonising fear and despair. Father, I pray for governments, health services and police forces everywhere to develop the legislative framework, the resources and the skills that enable them to respond to the horrifying scale of this abuse and to be effective in preventing and stopping it.
Lord Jesus, you expressed how precious marriage is to God, please stir up your Church to teach and uphold the ideal of mutual respect and kindness in marriage.

Relevant web sites are:

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Contaminated Women

I've been researching, as my new book suggested, to find out how AIDS is affecting women in Botswana. The problems are horrendous in terms of numbers of people with HIV/AIDS, in terms of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and in terms of women and children with HIV/AIDS. Yet to me the saddest thing of all is that the nation is suffering such a terrible pandemic because of the attitude of its men towards women.

HIV positive men believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them. Having this belief, they believe it is all right to deceive a young woman about their HIV status, to have unprotected sex with her, to leave her infected, and any child she has conceived also infected, very possibly orphaned at an early age. When I say "leave", I mean "die and leave". They have of course not helped, still less cured themselves, but they have blighted the life of another human being - maybe more than one - and condemned their own child or children to poverty and suffering.

If I cry out to God to avert this tragic waste of lives - and I do - it just leaves the human race still vulnerable to self-destructive behaviours. Any nation that regards its women as being of no account compared to men and their well-being is creating its own suffering. Without strong, healthy, respected women, children will not be brought up to be healthy, happy and stable, and the future is in pawn to irrational beliefs and fears.

Lord, my prayer is that you will teach men to cherish and honour women, and women to cherish and honour men, each recognising the high value that the other has as a vital part of humankind.

I pray that new infections of HIV can be stopped, not just in Botswana, but across the world, and that this disease can be wiped out by both prevention and cure.

Relevant web sites are:

Saturday, 20 October 2007

The "Chosen" women

It's Saturday 20th October and 2,500 women from all over the south of England are gathering at Bournemouth International Centre for a conference called "Chosen". For some, like me, the attraction is wonderful speakers, who I know will inspire and motivate me. For others, it's a chance to be resourced and empowered in their work with and for women. For at least one group, it's the ultimate Christian hen party.

What a thrill to hear Michelle Guinness, Debra Green and J John speaking words from God's heart for women! What cheered me especially was the thought that at last the charismatic evangelicals have grown to maturity, and can no longer be accused of being a "bless me" club. This conference was not about the feel-good factor in Christianity - although it did feel good - it was about being chosen for a purpose, and not our own purpose, but God's purpose.

Since those of us on this Learning for Discipleship course are just coming up to the first assignment, which is on prayer, it was particularly helpful that Debra majored on prayer and it was an important part too of what J John had to say. (Thank you, Lord!)

I came away with a slim book called "A Voice for the Voiceless", which is a resource for thirty days of prayer addressing gender injustice. It is a call to both prayer and action.

Day 1's prayer is that God will arise and defend the little ones who are kidnapped or sold into child prostitution; that he will raise up people in every country who will recognise and have the skills to publicise the horrible crime committed against these children, that he will empower governments to act against it, that he will bring an end to this savage exploitation. Amen to that, Lord.

The web references from the book are:

The world is changed, one heart at a time. Let the next heart be yours. Say AMEN to today's prayer.

Day 1's action is "Make a short presentation on the prevalence of child prostitution and how your government could take action. Share this in your church, work place, and circle of influence." This blog entry tries to answer part of that challenge to action. What action do we want our government to take? What would make a difference? I don't honestly know. Any ideas welcome!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Praying at the Baptism

That was such an amazing experience!

As I got up and went to the back of the church to pray, I felt such an open-ness to join in. Then when I got to the part for the sick, I didn’t add any names, but just left a space for each person to name sick friends or relatives silently in their heart before God. I was nearly overwhelmed with the feeling of floods of prayer going up.

These entirely subjective feelings could be pure imagination, so it is interesting what people said. One father, who came with a five year-old and a three year-old said thank you for the prayers, because the children really tuned in to them. (Praise the Lord for these little ones who love him!)

Then at the party afterwards several people commented what a “lively church” we had, obviously meaning it as a compliment.

The interesting thing about these comments is that they seem to indicate that these people wanted and expected a “cathedral” style of worship, and were pleased when it was offered to them.

I am using the term “cathedral” style here to refer particularly to the communal aspects of prayer and worship, their embedding in a structured liturgy, led from the front, and the inclusion of lots of praise and adoration.

In contrast, other members of the congregation have met people who only like to have a Prayer Book service (1662 and al that) and the traditional hymns. Bradshaw is right that these people become very upset if their expectations are disappointed, and it may indeed be the case that they wanted to be wrapped in their own very private cocoon of prayer, in a style that he would term “monastic” prayer.

Here indeed is a recipe for conflict, with some clergy, who take the “Body Church” teaching very seriously, seeing this as theologically unacceptable.

A view which is not necessarily opposed to this emphasis on “the gathered church”, but which seeks to understand the traditionalists, offers the thought that these different styles of prayer and worship may correspond to personality differences between extroverts and introverts.

The key point for the rural Anglican Church is to recognise that their church may be the only local church and as such, must seek to minister to people with different styles and traditions of worship – ideally by offering different kinds of service on different occasions, rather than making each service a ragbag of styles.

Thank you, God, for helping me to think through that difficult reading from Bradshaw in a context that was so happy and meaningful to me.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Thinking some more about my problem

Intercessions at a baptism : reflections

As I prepared the intercessions, I was aware that:
* Our incumbent had asked for them to be concise
*That I would be asking the congregation to assent to each request, and to make it their own.
*That this service is a family service (with baptism) and therefore that the prayers need to be accessible to children, but not childish.
*That many people present will not be used to prayer, private or public, and so will find it hard to concentrate and hear what is said, still less agree with it, unless the prayers are relevant, concise, and as concrete as possible.

I thought about how far this might illuminate so-called “cathedral prayer”. The first thing I noticed was that planning public intercessions made me much more responsible about being sure that I was praying for our community’s common concerns, much more self-conscious about the words and phrases that I used. I wanted to enable as many people as possible to join in the prayer in real agreement, not just a rote response. The prayers thus became in a way an intended ministry to the congregation, as well as petitions to God.

It could be said that here was an example of corporate prayer as opposed to individual prayer in Bradshaws’ terms.

The other thing I noticed was that I held each section of the intercessions in my mind all day, asking God for wisdom and guidance, and so giving him a chance to take the initiative with me and with the congregation. This is in contrast to extempore prayers, arrow prayers and routine prayers.

This God-initiated versus human initiated dimension is one which Bradshaw does not mention. It is also present in the places where I have left gaps, to permit thoughts from the sermon or from the needs of the benefice to be inserted tomorrow.

The effect of this was that I included less thanksgiving than I had originally planned. I felt that some of the farming community might not appreciate my personal lyricism about the buzzards, butterflies and bees, the hedgehogs, badgers and slow worms. Anything that might bring forth internal dissent was therefore excluded, lest it create a distraction that might prevent anyone from joining the prayer. Thus although it will be true tomorrow that “ministers preside” it is also the case that each individual will be responsible for at the least adding his or her own assent, possibly adding some petitions of their own , e.g. for sick people known to them.

This didn’t mean that the intercessions were not “monastic” in the sense that they didn’t meet the needs of the person praying them. All my personal concerns are in there somewhere, just not necessarily spelled out in great detail. So they were an inward exercise today, as well as an outward one tomorrow, and they are intended to lead each member of the congregation into both inward and outward prayer. Bradshaw says that “Once the morning office is over, the same prayer (if monastic) can be continued while sitting plaiting ropes or performing other manual tasks…”. I really don’t see why that couldn’t also be true of these petitions, if the intercessor has read the signs of the times and the hearts of the people aright, although it is certainly true that the element of agreement would be lacking later.

However, our church is not strong on ritual and this is something that Bradshaw is at pains to stress in describing “cathedral prayer”. We also specifically eschew a focus on any one celebrant, including as much lay participation as possible, so it may be that we are in fact usually quite a long way away from a purely “cathedral” style of prayer.

The contrast between constant praying (“monastic”) and occasional praying (“cathedral” ) is certainly rightly observed.

However, insofar as I believe that the Lord was with me in the composition of the intercessions, they were also a part of my personal relationship with the Lord, helping me to share in his concern that no bruised reed should be broken and no smoking flax quenched. I sensed his beaming joy that non-believers would be coming into his special place, and his commission to love them and minister to them in his name. In this way, the preparation and praying of the intercessions was a “monastic” exercise in Paul Bradshaw’s terms.

Here are the intercessions as first planned, and as typed on Saturday.

Dear Lord and Father of us all, we thank you for beautiful sunny days and for all the lovely colours of autumn. We thank you for all creatures great and small that we see around us.
We pray that you would keep the flocks and herds in our countryside free from disease. Please help farmers in other parts of the country to recover from having their cattle affected by foot and mouth, by blue tongue, or just by the standstill orders.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We thank you, Lord, for Jesus, and for all the people in this church today who love him and follow him. We thank you especially for baby X, and for her parents, Y and Z, her godparents, and all their family and friends, present and absent. We pray that you will watch over X each day of her life; keep her safe, help her to grow happy, healthy and strong, Please help each one of us here today to be willing to encourage her, support her, and help her to grow in faith and love of you.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for Elizabeth, our Queen and also for her government, her armed forces and all the other services provided in her name. Please be their guide in everything they do, so that our nation may live in peace, act justly and support the poor and weak.

Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray for all our family, friends and neighbours. Help us to love and serve one another as you have loved us.

Lord in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray for everyone we know who is ill, or in pain, or In any kind of trouble or distress. As Jesus touched the sick and made them well, we pray you would touch our sick and suffering friends and family with love, and bring them back to health and strength.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, we rejoice to be part of the worldwide fellowship of faith, and ask your blessing on all Christian people everywhere.
Merciful father,
accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Friday, 5 October 2007

I've had a problem with a course I'm doing. It's called "Training for Ministry" or something like that and I'm just a few sessions into it. The last session was about prayer, and looked at:
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • Prayers in the Bible
  • Two methods of prayer - "cathedral prayer" and "monastic prayer".

This was my problem:

I wonder what you thought of the passage about “cathedral prayer” and “monastic prayer”, Lord? Did it seem unhelpful to you? Why do you think the course staff put it in?

Are they just trying to draw a distinction between individual and corporate prayer do you think? Can they really be separated? Does it matter?

Would you have liked the group to have learned about the prayer of agreement? I sort of feel you would, but there is not much else coming through, Lord. If you want me to get hold of some new ideas here, I’m going to need the help of your Spirit.

In a way, the problem got worse today, although I certainly felt that God had given me a set of situations that gave an answer. The problem is worse now because the answer I think I got is that there is a lot to pray about, and God isn't so much bothered by how we pray as that we do pray. There are the big issues like the persecuted church, mission, justice and peace; there are the caring issues like praying for people we know who need our prayers; there are the events and plans of each day and the people we meet in each day. God is in the detail of our lives and it's there we encounter him and line ourselves up with his saving, healing, creative purposes.

Lest I lapse into making myself and my concerns the centre of the universe, there are also the prayers that God initiates as he speaks to us through his word (the Bible), through his Church and its liturgy, through the community of the saints and through his Holy Spirit.

This I am sure is not what the course team want to hear! I shall think about it some more tomorrow, as I prepare the intercessions for Sunday's Family Service and Baptism, and on Sunday evening, when the service and the celebration are over.


One aim of this blog is to save trees. If I write everything I'm interested in recording or remembering, acres of Amazon rainforest would die, just for ephemeral thoughts, reminders, musings, that would then clutter up my house and probably get lost.

So another two reasons for creating a blog are about organising thoughts and avoiding clutter.

The fourth reason is because I've found that a computer keyboard in some way sets me free to explore my thoughts and dreams in a way that pen and paper never did.

So, welcome to my eco-friendly, hopefully practical but also dream-filled blog.