Tied in knots Arthur Magahy is one of the leaders of Missions Discipleship Training in the UK. Below he reflects on honest prayer and gives a taster of how the disciplines of Jesus feature as part of MDT. Perhaps it is just me, but sometimes I listen to my own prayers and hear myself asking, “Do you really believe that?” Over the years, I have been asked to pray for healing, for divine intervention, for wisdom, for God to speak, and during the last few months I have been asked to pray – and have prayed – for all of these in response to the current COVID-19 crisis. And often, while praying, I have found myself distracted by an internal conversation about the effectiveness, or utility, of my own praying. At times like this, I often revert to a physical aid to prayer which I have shared as part of our modelling of Jesus disciplines as part of the MDT UK training programme. Let me explain. Ingredients A length of string. About 12 inches works well The Lord’s Prayer Instructions Tie a simple knot halfway along the string. Tie a simple knot halfway between the first knot and each of the ends of string (you should now have three knots on your string). Finally, join the end of the string with one large knot (you should now have a circle of string with four knots). You have now completed the most difficult part of this exercise! But you also have in your hands a simple aid for your prayers. People from a variety of faith traditions use physical objects to aid them in their private and public praying. Don’t be frightened of doing the same. The Bible demonstrates the benefit of physical objects – the patriarchs erected stone piles, the Tabernacle and Temple communicated the nature of God and our approach to him in a way that addressed all of the physical senses, the Lord’s Supper, the Psalmist looked to the hills, and so on. Our Father in Heaven Start with the largest knot (where you joined the two ends) held between your fingers. So that you can feel it. Be aware that it is there. And pray the first part of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in Heaven Speak out words that express the character of God, or the names of God, or what God means to you right now. The purpose is honesty, not religious repetition. Start with what you can genuinely declare. Your Kingdom come 2. When you have run out of things to say, and before your mind wanders away to think about the weather, or your next DIY project, or tonight’s TV watching, or your doubts about the effectiveness of your prayers – move to the next knot in the circle. And pray the next part of the Lord’s Prayer: Your Kingdom come Take time to be aware of, and to speak out, the things in the world – especially your world – that do not, right now, reflect God’s kingdom (which is good, and plentiful, and pure, and healthy). God probably knows them already, but it is good for you to let him know where you would long of for His Kingdom to come. Give us today our daily bread 3. When you have listed the parts of your world where God’s will is not being done, move to the next knot in the circle. And pray the next part of the Lord’s Prayer: Give us today our daily bread You have needs. Needs for today. You probably know that God knows your needs – but you are now invited to let God know your needs. The list might be long – or short – depending on the confidence you can muster. You might want to include the need for forgiveness here or be reminded of relationships which have been broken or damaged by your own actions. Forgiveness and good relations are part of your daily needs. But stay real and stay honest. As soon as you begin to feel the need to speak words that are not authentic you risk your might wandering back to that internal questioning. Keep us from the evil one 4. When you have described your needs for today move to the next knot in the circle. And pray the next part of the Lord’s Prayer: Keep us from the evil one The evil one in both the Old and New Testaments is portrayed as “the accuser of God’s people”. This one who gets between us and our God. Perhaps it is the evil one who orchestrates your mind wandering and your internal, self-critical conversations. Here, on this fourth knot, is your invitation to tell God that you need His help to deal with those accusing, self-critical voices that pollute your ability to pray. If you can do nothing else at this point, at least ask God to help you. Our Father in Heaven 5. When you have asked for God to help you with the accuser, move to the next knot in the circle - which is the first knot in the circle. Begin, again, to pray the first part of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in Heaven. You might find you have new things to say, things that you did not think of the first time round, or things that seem more authentic, more honest this time round. You might finish here; but you also find that it is useful to follow the circle around again. And again. There really is value in getting tied up in knots with prayer. This is just one of the Jesus disciplines you would have time to explore as part of Missions Discipleship Training. If you’d like to know more about MDT Live! beginning in September 2020, you can find details and how to apply at the link below. Tell me more about MDT Live!