The biggest prayer meeting at Pentecost this year was neither in a church or a cathedral..

Not surprisingly #PrayersForLondon has been trending recently on Twitter. But you may be asking yourself what’s the point - how can our prayers really make a difference?

Certainly that’s how I felt recently, as I gathered with a few dozen neighbours to pray in my church in West London. But later, switching on the TV and seeing the 50,000 people who gathered together at Old Trafford for the One Love Manchester concert – I felt more encouraged. For this vast crowd of people and all the millions watching on TV were gathered together effectively to pray. To cry out a huge lament for our wounded city, our broken world, and to seek the spirit to go on saying No to violence and refusing to hate.

How very wonderful that this concert took place on Pentecost Sunday – the day Christians remember how the disciples were emboldened to go out and preach a message of love for all - at a time when their leader, Jesus, had been brutally executed and their own lives were in danger.

We too have all witnessed terrible violence in our world. Some of those present at the concert would have experienced fear for their lives, first hand at the Manchester Arena. But they were given the courage to come together, to pray that things do not have to be this way. That the world can change. And the way that it will change – is through love.

This is what Jesus wanted us to know. He didn’t say, ‘Worship me;’ he said, ‘Follow me.’ Learn from me. He wasn’t saying, ‘I’m cool. Make statues of me; turn my birthday into a huge commercial holiday.’ He was saying, ‘Here, look what is possible. Look what we humans are capable of – when we come together and unite around love.’

When Benjamin Franklin sent a kite up into an electric storm, he wanted to demonstrate the existence of electricity. Which he did. But he didn’t invent electricity. Similarly, when – according to legend – an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head, Newton recognised the existence of gravity. But he didn’t invent it.

In the same way, Jesus doesn’t invent the power of prayer. But he did recognise it and demonstrate it. He healed and restored and empowered people through prayer and taught his disciples that they could do the same. And they, in turn, went about showing thousands and thousands of others that they could too.

Our prayers do matter. And they do have power.

If you are not so sure of that, then take some time to see the faces of many people in the crowds at the One Love Manchester concert and be encouraged. The enormity and generosity of the love expressed in the tears and defiant singing are overwhelming - especially when set aside the smallness and meanness of the hate expressed in the recent attacks.

The truth is that love will always ultimately triumph over evil. This we believe and we trust.

And prayer is a way of opening the channel for that love to get to work in our hearts and minds and in the hearts and minds of others. When the floodgates of love are fully unleashed – as we saw in Manchester – evil just can’t avoid being swept away.

So, pray.

Pray in churches and cathedrals. Pray in any gathering where we are doing what Jesus showed his disciples. Saying yes to love and no to hate.

With the same confidence we have when we plug in the toaster that it will produce warm bread or when we drop a ball it will fall to the ground – let’s have confidence in love. That love is at the core of who we are and plugging into that love, allowing that love to do its work, makes all the difference.

This is what prayer is.

Posted by Martine Oborne

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