By Trevor Ramsey (President, Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland)
We will all tell our descendants about the year 2020. It has been like the Big Dipper—we have been tested mentally, emotionally, economically and spiritually. Farewell 2020. I am sure we will not miss you all that much! People used to ask, “What did you do in the war daddy?” In the future they will ask, “What did you do during the pandemic?”
From the first lockdown to the optimism of the early summer (remember “Eat out to Help out”?); from the anticipation of a return to “normality” in the autumn, to dashed hopes by the second wave and further restrictions. It has definitely been dramatic.
Like you, I have at times felt spiritually energised and at others dejected. Sometimes flying; sometimes falling. Sometimes progressing; sometimes regressing. That is okay. It is part of the human condition and a consequence of living in this broken world. It reminds us all to pray as the psalmist did, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). Note how he did not want to stay where he was, he wanted to go higher to a greater place of refuge.
This year our Association was hoping for churches to get together to “Unite to Pray”. Unfortunately for most of the year that was not physically possible, though some churches did get really creative and imaginative in hosting joint meetings online.
As we draw this somewhat changed initiative to a close, the reality is that we still need to continue to pray. In December we will be praying for church planting and outreach efforts connected to our churches; for a movement of God; for many to hear and respond; and for ourselves, that we might avoid harsh, cutting or thoughtless words and be kind and sensitive to others. Our final prayer point is this:
“Pray that the commitment to prayer throughout this year will continue into the future.”
Soon we will make a new start, the pandemic will be over, lockdown will be a thing of the past and we will regather again as we did before. Prayer must be even more central to our personal and church life.
Is it not odd that we have to pray that we will continue to pray? That is because often we are slow learners.
As I was writing this blog, I broke off to have a coffee with my wife. We were talking together about various church and family issues. Then we realised we should pray about them. It struck us again that sometimes it is easier to talk than to pray (I am a pastor. I should know that!). So we stopped and prayed for a few minutes and suddenly the issues seemed a lot clearer.
That is often the way. Prayer helps us focus and get a clearer perspective. That is what I want to remember in 2021.