How to keep intercessory prayer fresh, alive and meaningful? That, for me, is a question I repeatedly ask myself, for two key reasons.The first, simply, is that when we do something day after day - whether it be prayer, a hobby, a job or anything else - it's hard for it not eventually to become repetitive, performed out of a sense of duty or habit rather than with any spontaneity. The second is equally important. In a world where suffering, sorrow, evil and hatred seem as rife today as they have ever done, despite the prayers and hopes of generations across the years, we can become increasingly disillusioned, wondering whether anything will ever actually change. Yet if faith turns in on itself, it is not only of no use to anyone, but it flies in the face of everything we believe about God and his love for all.
It was with these concerns in mind that I wrote my latest book, In a World of Tears and Sorrow. The title is bleak: deliberately so, for the world, today can seem equally grim - injustice, poverty, warfare, intolerance, and oppression continuing to blight the lives of millions. Yet the conviction underlying the hundred poetic reflections that make up this book is that we must continue to hope; that love can still conquer hatred and good triumph over evil; above all, that through working together - not only praying but turning our prayers into action - we can help to make a difference.
I've chosen poetry to convey this message in order, hopefully, to get that message across more effectively; to breathe new life and relevance into intercessory prayer. Too often such prayer can be so vague that it says virtually nothing. Or, in attempting to cover all the pressing needs of the world in one go, it ends up failing properly to cover any. The idea behind this book is to encourage prayerful reflection on specific issues, whether those be of social justice, of war and peace, of poverty and human need, of our daily relationships, or of something other. The poems are designed to stimulate thought, stir the heart and invite a response - above all, to move and challenge us. My hope, as I indicate in the introduction, is to speak in a way that other prayers may sometimes fail to do, leaving the issues covered and needs prayed for fresh in the mind long after the words have first been heard.
Yes, it is hard sometimes not to feel that nothing changes; that our prayers fail to make any difference; but that should never stop us from praying, any more than we should allow ourselves to fall victim to what is often referred to as charity fatigue. There are countless people out there - real people - hurting, grieving, pleading, longing. They need us to remember them. They need us to respond.
Written by: Nick Fawcett
Brought up in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Nick Fawcett served as a Baptist minister for 13 years, and as a chaplain with TocH for 3, before deciding to focus on writing and editing, which he continues with today, despite wrestling with myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood. He lives in Wellington, Somerset, with his wife, Deborah, and - when they are at home from university - his two children, Samuel and Kate. Delighting in the beauty of the West Country, Nick and Deborah love nothing more than walking stretches of the South West coast path at weekends, and Nick - as well as finding time for online games of chess and Scrabble alongside his many editing commitments - finds constant inspiration for his numerous books in the lanes and footpaths near his house. His aim, increasingly, is to write material free of religious jargon that reaches out to people of all faiths and none.