The 2013 Grays Leaders Prayer Fast Day took place on 10 January in the Youth Room at St Margaret’s Parish Church Hall in Stanford-le-Hope.
This is the seventh year running that this event has taken place, an annual early-in-the-new-year retreat for ministers and leaders of all kinds of denominations to gather in unity to pray with and for each other and the church in the Grays area and across the borough of Thurrock.
Present for all or some of the day were (in alphabetical order): Colin Baker (pastor, Grays Baptist Church), David Bates (Thurrock Methodist Family and Children’s Worker), David Bareham (team leader, Chafford Hundred Community Church), Andy Blakey (Mission Shaped Community leader, Thurrrock Christian Fellowship, Grays), Celia Brockhurst (co-pastor, North Stifford Family Church), Paul Cave (Lighthouse Seafarers Mission), Jimi Fawehinmi (New Covenant Church, Grays), Tim Harrold (church-in-the-house & Transformation Thurrock), Andy Higgs (Rector, Stifford Parish), Bob Love (Stifford Parish), Solomon Momodu (pastor, Faith Foundation Fellowship Centre, Grays), and Maggie Watts (Grays Methodist Church).
Obedience brings fruitfulness
David Bareham brought an observation from the stories of Abraham in Genesis and Jesus in the Gospels. He noted that the promises to Abraham of many descendants, and the abundance of fish in the disciples’ nets, showed fruitfulness through obedience to God’s word.
Bob Love pointed out that Abraham is known as the father of faith and Jesus known as the man of faith.
Colin Baker read from Isaiah 56 that God’s house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples – the foreigners are in! It was forgotten by the Jews that Abraham was not a Hebrew.
Andy Blakey said that Abraham’s promise took generations to be realised, but for Jesus’ disciples, the promises of Jesus were instantaneously realised.
Promises and Declarations
After some worship, Tim Harrold opened prayer for the borough around the following scriptures of promise and declaration, all from the Book of Isaiah:
60:1-3 (a word over the nation)
‘Arise, shine, for your light has come,?
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth?
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
?but the Lord rises upon you?
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,?
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
62:10-12 (a word over the Thames Gateway)
Pass through, pass through the gates!?
Prepare the way for the people.?
Build up, build up the highway!?
Remove the stones.?
Raise a banner for the nations.
The Lord has made proclamation?
to the ends of the earth:
?‘Say to Daughter Zion,?
“See, your Saviour comes!?
See, his reward is with him,?
and his recompense accompanies him.”’
They will be called the Holy People,?
the Redeemed of the Lord;?
and you will be called Sought After,?
the City No Longer Deserted.
41:17-20 (a word over Thurrock)
‘The poor and needy search for water,?
but there is none;?
their tongues are parched with thirst.?
But I the Lord will answer them;?
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,?
and springs within the valleys.?
I will turn the desert into pools of water,?
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert?
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.?
I will set junipers in the wasteland,?
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,?
may consider and understand,
?that the hand of the Lord has done this,?
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Seeing the Bigger Perspective
Looking at the map of the borough spread out on the floor, held down on each corner by a Bible, Bob brought an inspired and insightful challenge. This is the gist of what he said.
“Looking at the map of Thurrock, the main routes are like arteries, and the smaller ones like capillaries – they’re all interconnected. God sees the whole; he sees the church not churches. We also need to see bigger perspective. We need to see things from God’s perspective.
“In Jeremiah 32:13-15, the prophet buys a field at a time of little future, and then places the deeds in a jar as a sign of God’s promise of redemption (or buying back) of the land.
(Bob suggested we roll the map of Thurrock up, place it in a receptacle and bury it in ‘the field of promise’ – a field that John Guest has shown him which he considers to be a particularly ‘thin place’ – as a prophetic action. In effect, God would be saying, ‘I have a future hope for this borough and we are to seed it in this field for a future harvest.’ It’s like the managing of the feeding of the 5000, we have our part to play however small or silly it may appear to be.)
“Luke 9 (Jesus sending out the disciples and feeding the five thousand; Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah; the Transfiguration; healing) teaches us about the reality of partnering effectively to reach people and the challenge to coordinate together. What is vision for Thurrock? What is the vision for finance, food etc.?
“Luke 9 shows us that miracles will follow the signs – there’s a stirring up. We must look for and create opportunities, e.g., starting a bank – we must use our gifts together to extend kingdom.
“When Jesus fed the five thousand, it was as if the insignificant particles of food became significant when they came together – there was a multiplication. Likewise, Jeremiah’s parchments on which the deeds were written were in themselves insignificant, but placed in the jar became prophetic for the land.”
Towards true unity: wake up to active partnership
Andy B mentioned the idea of a credit alliance and the Big Local initiative which is releasing £1m for the Grays Riverside area.
David Bareham asked again, what is vision for Thurrock? Can the Transformation Thurrock website be used for this?
Colin suggested we pray into key issues affected Thurrock, e.g., hate crime and gang violence. He also discussed the Wellbeing survey of last year which was reported to place Thurrock as the place people least want to live in.
Bob referred us to Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13, which describes a unity not just of ‘churches together’, but a union that can only be expressed in full through partnership in activity – that is, one body, one church.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
… and, following on, Jeremiah 29:11, which expresses God’s (inevitable) purpose for the church in union, the body as one:
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
Colin quoted a section Isaiah 51, focussing on verse 17:
Jerusalem, wake up! Rouse yourself and get up!
He suggested a Wellbeing conference to celebrate where transformation is taking place as signs of irrefutable evidence of the activity of God. By doing this the church would make itself accountable to the Thurrock community.
Blowing on the Dry Bones
Tim made the point that an anagram of OBEY is OY! BE! God is reminding us that only when we obey him do we discover the true purpose of our existence. It’s the difference between ‘Martha-ing’ and ‘Mary-ing’. Martha’s misunderstanding was thinking doing leads to being, but Mary understood that being (sitting at the feet of Jesus) leads to doing (works of faith prepared for us). “OY!” is the call to wake up to the fact that before we “do” we must “BE” – “OBEY” him in this, then “OBEY” him in from this.
Tim then read out Ezekiel 37:1-14, the vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones:
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’
I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’
Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.
Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Therefore prophesy and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”’
Tim pointed out that the next section is entitled One nation under one king in his Bible.
He then declared over Thurrock, using the map: “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
Then he repeatedly read out, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live,” over each town and village on the Thurrock map, naming each one by one.
Everyone present then joined in blowing over the map (because God’s breath is in his people), declaring together, “Breathe o breath of God – dry bones live!”
After a break for liquid refreshments, those remaining (about eight) prayed over each other (and for Rosemary Pritchard of Grays Methodist Church, away in Ghana), and towards the end of our time together we broke the fast with communion.
See the reports from the GLP Fast Days of 2012, 2011 and 2010 by clicking on the links to the left of this webpage.
- What have been the recurring themes?
- In which areas have we got bogged down?
- Where have we moved forward?
- What do you think God is saying to the church of Thurrock for 2013?
- How should we respond?