Mother Theresa worked with the destitute, dying and discarded in the slums of Calcutta. I had the privilege of spending time in Calcutta and working in her home for the destitute and dying and her home for abandoned children. Her legacy and love has carried on long after her death. She was motivated by the need of those around her and a desire to share the love of Jesus with them. She once said “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things”.
A seismic shift has gone on in Mother Teresa’s thinking. She started off praying for God to do things, and that is right, and we should not stop praying and asking God to do things. But as time went on, there was clearly a realisation that there was a part she could play too, that answers to prayer weren’t just left to God for him to sort, but that she could be the answer to her own prayers and to someone else’s prayers.
It has been estimated that over 75% of the population of the UK pray at least once a week. A lot of those people who pray wouldn’t call themselves religious, but know that there is something or someone out there who is listening and who is powerful enough to answer their prayers. For a lot of people, prayer is something they turn to in times of difficult, stress and fear.
The situation our world finds itself in is just that. People are fearful and people are struggling. I know of people who are scared of self-isolating because of the financial cost it will have on their family. If I don’t go to work, I won’t get paid and if I don’t get paid, I can’t afford to feed or to look after my family. People are worried about their health or the health of a loved one. They are struggling with their mental health, with loneliness or with too much time being spent confined with other people. It is in the midst of these stresses and strains that I think more and more people are turning to prayer and saying God if you are there, would you help me? Would you heal me or my loved one? Would you provide for me? Would you give me peace?
I want to encourage us to spend some time in prayer, praying for our friends, our family, our neighbours, our work colleagues and anyone else God has placed us amongst asking God to help them and be at work in their lives. But alongside that, pause and ask God how we might be the answer to the prayers to the struggles of those around. We might be limited in what we can do, because we may be self-isolating or not feeling well, and that is absolutely fine, there is no pressure in this. But it may be that God will prompt us, inspire us to speak to us about how we can be Jesus and be the answer to the prayers of those around us.
What God prompts us to do will look differently for each one of us and the people we are amongst. It might be that we buy a gift card for a local supermarket, or draw some money out of the bank and put it in a card that says God knows you, God loves you and God is with you. And post it through their door. Or it may be that there is a great book you’ve read, and you feel prompted to pass it on to someone who is bored and isolated. It could be a Christian book or even a bible. It might be offering to go shopping, texting them, phoning them up, writing a letter, cooking them a meal, doing their garden, offering to put their bins out, washing their car, taking the dog for a walk….
Who knows what it is that God lays upon our hearts? But I know that God wants us to work with him and be the answer to the prayers of many and to be Jesus in this time of anxiety and need.
Join with me in saying the words of this prayer Let Me Serve You by St. Theresa of Avila, offering ourselves up to him to be used by him:
Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord,
So that my soul may always be serving you
In the way you will and not as I choose.
Let me die to myself so that I may serve you;
Let me live to you who are life itself.