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Sermon – Prayer and Mission

Article posted on 1 June 2017 Leave a Comment

John 17.1-11


Imagine, if you like the first time you go out or go away overnight leaving your children on their own. Or, perhaps the time when your young teenager goes away to University. Perhaps you would be thinking about all those things you do naturally to keep them safe which they will now have to do on their own. There will be a level of anxiety; a sense of not being able to be there should there be a problem. A worry about the scrapes they may get themselves in to. You may just offer a little prayer to God for their protection.

On this first Sunday of Thy Kingdom Come the passage from John is very appropriate. It is known as the High Priestly Prayer, where John provides an insight into the mind of Christ at this crucial time before his Crucifixion.

Within a matter of days, Jesus will have been parted from his closest disciples. He is concerned for their future. Jesus is at the point of transition where the responsibility for the mission of God must pass from him to the disciples and so he turns to his Father in prayer.

Danger of retreat

John, writing the gospel towards the end of the 1st century, is also keenly aware of the danger of the early church retreating into an enclosed group; sheltered from having to defend their beliefs from a hostile world. This prayer may be intended to provide the motivation, support and encouragement of God’s protection for the church down the centuries as they, and now we, extend the Kingdom of God.

Prayer & Mission

Prayer is the wellspring of mission. It is only right therefore, as we gather pace in our direction of movement into mission, that we turn and intentionally embrace the Thy Kingdom Come initiative.

I want today to explore the link between prayer and mission. Is there a tension between the two? Is it easy to view prayer as an unproductive activity which doesn’t actually do anything?

Perhaps at first glance it might appear that mission is a very active, busy kind of activity, appealing mainly to the extrovert, the outgoing, the confident. To them a contemplative, prayerful life might seem like a waste of valuable time; not actually doing anything constructive. Similarly, the contemplative might be content to shelter in the quiet solace of prayer, disengaged from the world and unnerved by the directness of the evangelist.

In truth, it is not an either, or, we need both. St. Benedict calls it ‘contemplative action’

Welby, Cotterill, Augustine, Carey

Justin Welby in his first presidential address as Archbishop said, ‘If we want to see things changed, it starts with prayer.’ Prayer is not something we do because we are doing mission. It is something that powers mission.

Bishop Stephen Cotterill says that, ‘contemplatives make the best evangelists.’ He says so because mission must be rooted and grounded in prayer, aligning ourselves with the mission of God, otherwise it becomes a wasteful human endeavour. But also, to be contemplative without any proclamation of the gospel, holds the danger of retreating into a holy huddle disengaged from the world. We need both.

Saint Augustine, said, ‘Pray as if all depends on God. Work as if all depends on you.’

William Carey, the founder of the Baptist Missionary Society said, ‘Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.’


Our new Bishop of Oxford has been developing his vision for this Diocese. He has given us three words;

  • Contemplative
  • Compassionate
  • Courageous

Amongst other things, he calls us to prayerful compassion for the world and to engage with the world with great courage.

Making New Disciples / Fishing

In their book, Making New Disciples, the authors make a major point almost hidden in their text. They say that success in mission perhaps should not be measured by how many come to join us, but how far we are prepared to go to reach them.

Remember the calling of the disciples in Luke 5. They were fishing and said, ‘we’ve been working all night and haven’t caught a thing’, but Jesus’ request stays firm, ‘put out into deeper waters.’

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.

Thursday / Friday

Over Thursday and Friday, the church has had approximately 150 visitors (including children) to see the stations and light a candle for Manchester. How did they know to come in?

The answer is I asked them. I arranged for children to come from school. I stood outside the door when Pre-school were coming out. Please have a look in church, you may find it interesting. It is about prayer. I stood in the school playground and on the pavement and I encouraged them to come in. The vast majority were total strangers to me but they came.

How much more success would you have with those you know well? Prayer and action.

If we want to see things changed it starts with prayer.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.




Terry Winrow

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