Summary: Starting a new series of talks on prayer I begin with some personal struggles and encourage the congregation to desire to be in the presence of the God.

As we drove home from Hampshire on the M25 last Monday I heard something smack into the windscreen. About ten minutes later Moira noticed the sun glinting off a crack in the windscreen and over the course of the next ten minutes or so we watched the crack slowly growing. By the time we stopped at Cobham services the crack was a good 20 cm and so I decided to make a phone call. Having never been in a car before where a crack in the windscreen was growing before our eyes I just wanted to get it fixed and quickly so I was caught off guard just a little when the lady at the windscreen company said, “No problem Mr Pidgeon we can book you in for Friday afternoon.” I said, “But what about the growing crack?” She said, “It’s not a problem. Even if the crack grows from one side of the windscreen to the other you’ll be OK. Lots of people go around for months with it like that. You’ll be fine.” And so we drove home a further 50 miles and the crack continued to grow.

Yes it’s true. We got home and we were OK and four days later we got a lovely new windscreen, but the fact is it was more than enough to fail an MOT; it was obscuring the driver’s vision, and it had continued to grow by the day. You’re not meant to ignore it!

We live in a world that is cracked and broken but a day will come when God will renew the whole of creation. In the meantime, God was speaking to me through our cracked windscreen because many of us have cracks in our lives and those cracks have been allowed to grow. It’s as if we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s not a problem. The crack may be visible for all to see, and it may be growing by the day, but we look out at the world and we see that other people go around for months if not years if not a lifetime like that. The wisdom of the world says, ‘It’s not a problem. You’ll be fine’; and we continue on through life with cracks growing day by day. These cracks are typically anger, resentment, lies, lust, unfaithfulness.

What cracks are there in your life? What cracks are obscuring your vision? What cracks are causing us to fail when compared with God’s MOT – the Maker’s Original Template?

Part of becoming Christian – becoming like Christ – involves having the mind of Christ. God desires to refit us with the mind of Christ. God wants to refit our desires, refit our attitudes, and refit our love.

God is repairing and removing cracks in my life – cracks that I’d allowed to grow; cracks I had watched grow and develop. One of those cracks under repair is my life of prayer and I want to invite you to join me on a journey of repair, of healing, of renewal and restoration. It’s not OK to look at the cracks in our lives, our personalities, our ambitions, our attitudes and to think, “Well, I’ve been like this for years now. Loads of people go around like this.” It’s not OK! God has the Maker’s Original Template in mind for you!

I believe God is speaking all the time but we’re too often distracted or too noisy to hear or to see what He is saying to us. There’s a lot of noise in the world, in our homes and even in the church – too much noise; and I sense that some of us are tired and weary. Some of us are watching cracks grow in our lives and Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11: 28-29).

“Come to me” says Jesus. It’s a call to all of us. Jesus invites us into His presence and he is here now, present by his Spirit. Yes he loves us as we are, cracks and warts and all – but he loves us too much to leave us as we are. God does not want our vision of Christ, our vision of the world, our vision for His Church, or His vision for our lives obscured by anything; and that includes money and tower repairs!

There was a point during this year’s New Wine Summer Conference when God was dealing with a crack of stubbornness in my life - calling me to humble myself in His presence. One morning around 8 a.m. as I was heading off for a team meeting I was acutely aware of the need to bend my will to His. God was calling me to bend the knee, bow before him – and I knew this would mean a change of thought patterns and an end to some bad habits. We’ve all got bad sinful habits and it was time to deal with some of mine – but I was being stubborn. However, God did not give up on me. As I walked past a tent a Father was clearly trying to arouse his sleeping son inside. He said quite loudly, “Neal. Neil! Kneel!” I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to kneel in His presence but I wanted to keep hold of my independence. However, the Lord continued to speak. As I entered our team marquee one of my colleagues was tapping away on her iPhone and she said loudly to her phone, “O, come on!” Was it coincidence?

Maybe; but I knew it was God speaking directly to me.

Jesus says, “No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (11:27). Jesus shows us the Father. Jesus reveals the Father to us and that’s why he says, “Come to me. Come to me all of you that are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (11:28).

As a Diocese and as a local Church we are called to be a transforming presence. We’re called to be a people who have been so transformed by God’s presence that we will be a people who inhabit Billericay as a transforming presence. Stephen Cottrell (the Bishop of Chelmsford) says that “more than anything else, we need to place a new priority on becoming a people of prayer, whose daily lives are formed and punctuated by our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.”

So how do we begin to pray anew? I believe we need to rediscover the reality of the presence of God. The Lord is here. His Spirit is with us! He’s closer than we imagine. He knit you together in your mother’s womb and counts every hair upon your head so intimate is His knowledge of you. There is nowhere we can go to escape God’s presence. He fills this place. He fills the heart of every believer. His presence fills the height and depth of the Earth; East to West and North to South. His presence takes in every planet, star, and distant galaxy and yet he personally draws near!

He is close and personal but also infinite and majestic. In the Old Testament King David wrote this: ‘You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence’ (Psalm 16:11).’ Later in his life after David had committed adultery and he had been challenged to confess and repent of his sins this was part of his prayer: ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’

‘Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me’ (Psalm 51:10-12). When David finally took stock and dealt with the serious cracks in his life it was the presence of God that he desired; and you won’t be surprised to hear that in times of desperate need most people will admit to having prayed; and I believe this is because we are surrounded by God’s presence. ‘We pray because by intuition or experience we understand that the most intimate communion with God comes only through prayer’ (Bill Hybels); and we pray because we either sense or know ‘that God’s power flows primarily through people who pray’ (Hybels).

Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Community Church in America says that ‘for many years, even as Senior Pastor of a large church [he] knew more about prayer than [he] ever practised in [his] own life.’ But God led him to first explore, then study and practise prayer.

To cut a long story short he read lots of books about prayer and then finally did something radical. He prayed! The Lord is taking me on a similar journey and I believe he is calling us as a whole church into a deeper life of prayer. Will you join me?

It starts with his presence. Recognise and acknowledge Him and simply pray, “Lord your will be done.” It was the response of Mary when the angel told her she would become pregnant and it was the response of Jesus as he prayed on the night before his crucifixion; “Father your will be done.”

Prayer is not so much about what we say to God. It is much more about what he might want to say to us and through us. So to come into his Holy presence does not require words. A humble heart of thanks-giving …yes! A heart willing to bend the knee and bow to his will …yes. A life with cracks exposed willing to be fixed …yes!

Perhaps you feel sceptical that we can be in his presence; and yes, it is true that if the physical and visible presence of God was manifest in this place or if we saw a vision of his physical presence we would be awestruck and terrified. For example, when Jesus walked the Earth he and the disciple John had a deep, close relationship. But when John had a vision of the heavenly Christ seated on the throne he says (Rev 1:17), ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.’ Not a great advert for prayer, but that’s how terrified and awestruck he was; but what happened next is incredible. After saying, ‘When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead’; John writes: ‘Then he placed his right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid”’; and I believe Jesus would say that to you as you desire to know him and to experience his presence: “Do not be afraid.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest!”

Let’s stand to pray.

...A Blessing to conclude the worship service:

Jude 24: ‘To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen.’