Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Prayer. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

A book on punctuation is climbing the best selling lists. The title is based on a joke. An panda walks into a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, draws a gun and fires two shots into the air. When he’s gone the waiter finds a badly punctuated wild life manual open at a page which described what happened: Panda. Large black-and-white mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Too much punctuation can create completely the wrong meaning. Not enough can make a sentence sound meaningless. Punctuation indicates how big should be the gap, the silence, between the words and the right amount of silence is required to give the intended meaning.

Many people consider God to be too silent. They would prefer more guidance and more words of comfort for themselves; and more instruction and, perhaps, more condemnation for others. Part of the process of trusting God is accepting that God discloses to human beings exactly what is appropriate. It may not always feel like it to us but the amount of silence in God’s communication is the amount required to enable us most accurately to discern what God wants to say and to find meaning for our lives.

Such discernment grows with experience of trying to listen to God. The ability to know when to speak and when to be silent in our relationships with other people is also a skill it takes time and attentiveness to develop. Perhaps we might continue that learning process today and be particularly aware of those moments when silence is more appropriate than speaking.

*Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.
The idea for this thought came from a book of sermons by Colin Morris: Starting from Scratch

Tomorrow is the deadline for applications to next year’s London marathon. As if to encourage those who will soon start their training in earnest, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been planning a marathon of his own. Beginning on Monday by running 26.2 miles on King George Island at the north end of the Antarctic peninsula, he and a colleague plan to run seven marathons in seven days, in Santiago, Sydney, Singapore, London, Cairo and New York, one on each continent.

The British Heart Foundation will be benefiting, partly because Sir Ranulph can identify with those who have heart problems. A major heart attack four months (yes, months) ago left him unconscious for four days and nights. But now, in the course of 168 hours, Sir Ranulph’s wounded heart will enfold the world.

Perhaps today, in less physically energetic ways, we might allow our hearts to take in the struggles and pain of people in other continents. Our hearts are wounded too, by our self-centredness and lack of vision, but in this One World Week, let us too, in our imaginations and thoughts, embrace the globe.

So David Blaine, on his fourteenth day suspended in a glass box high above the Thames, won’t be eating anything until he renews his contact with the rest of the human race about a month from now. Some considerable time before then, according to nutrition experts, he will have passed out for lack of salt. But he is by profession an illusionist so we assume he has up his sleeve some way of ensuring his own safety and health.

Just up the road, outside the UN offices in Millbank tower, a group of people are drawing attention to the worsening human rights situation in the Sudan with a three-day hunger strike. Negotiations, partly brokered by the UN, between the government and the Liberation Armies are hopefully nearing a positive conclusion, but the protesters will not be eating because they fear a peace agreement would not bring an end to oppression. Though their attempt to get publicity is being held not far away from David Blaine’s, there is a world of difference between them. There is no magic wand to ensure a satisfactory ending to the suffering of the Sudanese people.

31,000 people responded when a newspaper offered to relay text messages to Mr Blaine via a large screen and anyone who wishes can watch what he is doing on Sky TV any time of day or night. We assume such interest is an encouragement to him. Perhaps today our attention in spare moments might be focussed on thinking about the struggle of the Sudanese and many other African peoples for peace, health and food. Such thoughts, such time spent willing good to those in need, is not a magic wand but the idea that it makes a difference is no illusion.

It is rumoured that Prince Charles will choose to be called by one of his other names, George, when he becomes King. He does not want to have associated with him the kind of things which happened to the first two King Charles.

It is true that certain names bring to mind certain events and qualities. The name Messiah, the one described as the coming king in the Hebrew scriptures, has associations with world-wide peace, with justice, with the setting right of wrongs. These qualities too are associated with the name of Jesus whose birth in Bethlehem is seen by Christians as the fulfilment of those prophecies.

Other names have more personal associations. In the task of writing cards and addressing envelopes, memories connected with those names, both pleasant and sad, will come to mind. If we are involved in that task at the moment, let’s be grateful for what our families and friends mean to us and hope that they are experiencing some of the peace and hope associated with the name of Jesus.