Simon Flinders, Senior Pastor at St Mark’s Anglican Church Northbridge and former MTS Apprentice in the mid 90’s, has found prayer to be extremely formative in his faith – both in knowing God better personally, and understanding the theology of his faith.
Early experiences with prayer
From his earliest days, Simon was taught the Gospel. Having been born into a Christian family, he says, “I’m one of those blessed people who can’t really remember not being a Christian.”
Growing up Simon was a part of the Anglican Church, and on Sundays the service he attended used the prayer book. He says, “As an older adult I’ve come to appreciate how much those prayers in the Anglican prayer book taught me about God and about the Gospel and about prayer itself. Those prayers that I heard repeated in church Sunday by Sunday were actually quite formative and influential in my thinking about prayer, and I think that’s where I learnt a lot of early theology.”
In addition to experiencing prayer in a corporate setting, Simon also recalls having helpful models of prayer in his family and church community. He says, “I got to hear other people pray and that formed my attitude to prayer in a significant way. One of my very vivid memories of my childhood is my dad locking himself in the garage every morning and spending time praying and reading the Bible.”
Having seen how important this dedicated time to come before God privately was to his Dad, Simon formed a similar habit spending time each day reading God’s word and praying.
Growing in prayerfulness
Simon describes his experience with prayer throughout his Christian life as much like other Christians would find it. He says, “I think my prayer life over the years has been a series of ups and downs. Lots of times of being kind of spiritually dry or lazy, where I’m not praying as often or as earnestly as I wish I had. And other times of very earnest prayer, and times of real joy in prayer.”
Now having been a Christian for many years, Simon has learnt a lot from his prayer life. He shares. “God has taught me to be more thankful in my prayers. Over time, I know that there are ways in which I’ve learned to value prayer more, and learnt to trust God more deeply.” While it is not always the way Simon or others have hoped for or anticipated, God has continually been working in answer to prayer through Simon’s life.
For Simon prayer has taught him a lot about God. It has revealed to him what God is like in a way that makes sense. Simon says, “What a great privilege it is to be given the opportunity to pray. When Jesus says in John 15 (John 15:1-8) that He is the vine and we’re the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing, that teaches us something about who we are and how needy we are.”
This teaching from the Bible causes Simon to pray, as does so much from God’s word. Simon says, “[The Bible] also teaches me in places like Ephesians 3:20, that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. So I might be very powerless and weak, but he is more powerful than my brain can comprehend. And that too is a great encouragement to my prayer.”
Applying ourselves to prayer in and for ministry
Prayer is not a passive thing, it is talking to God as a part of relationship with him, and we need to actively pursue it. Simon uses lists and ministry prayer letters as a system to help him be continually prayerful.
He says, “For myself personally I’m a bit of a list guy, so I have lots of scribbled notes [on cards] to help me pray. I also have lots of prayer letters that come from ministry organisations (like MTS), missionaries and others in ministry that I know. I’ve got a bit of a plan to work through that pile on a regular basis, so that I’m praying regularly, particularly for people in my church, but also for friends, family and other ministry organisations.”
In addition to his personal prayer, Simon also encourages dedication to prayer in his family and at his church. With his family, they spend time most evenings reading the Bible and praying. He and his wife also pray each fortnight on their regular date night. In the staff team at St Mark’s Anglican Church Northbridge, they pray through their church roll a small group at a time. This is in addition to their regular public prayer meetings and other systems of prayer at church.
For those struggling to find rhythm or dedication in their prayer life, Simon has encouragement. He says, “Don’t just try harder – look to God and know God better. Our best moments as Christians come from seeing his glory rather than making great efforts.
Yes of course there is discipline and effort in this area of life, like in every other, which is really important. And there are plenty of times when I don’t feel like praying, but I’ve prayed anyway. If all we throw at it is extra trying, we often fall flat on our faces again. Knowing who God is and why it makes sense to pray is what has sustained me in prayer.”
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