Today, I am going to invite you into a wonderful conspiracy, a conspiracy that is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. It is something that has been seen as so dangerous by numerous dictators and despots over the centuries that they have tried to stamp it out, thankfully without much success, because it is the very bedrock on which our faith is built... but before Andrew vaults out of his seat, hurdling the pews to bound up these steps and drag me out of the pulpit, I should really clarify what I mean.
Over the last few weeks we have spent time focussing on the Gospel readings that get to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. Firstly we had the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story telling us that what matters to God is not our social standing, its not about where we come from or whether we are from a, for want of a better word, distinguished family but he cares about how we react to the people around us, especially those people that we encounter who are in genuine need. It tells us about the things that we are doing that help to build God’s kingdom.
Last week we had the story of Mary and Martha, illustrating the importance of being able to recognise just who Jesus is and seeing that he wants us to take time to get to know him. At this point you may be wondering what on earth has this got to do with conspiracies? We generally associate the word “Conspire” with it’s political meaning: to plot to overthrow some public power, person, or nation. Or perhaps it brings to mind conspiracy theories about moon landings and such like that a vocal minority of people seem desperate to buy into.
But I am talking, thankfully, about a different sort of conspiracy, something that unlike the other definitions, does have the potential to feed and nurture us. Something that has been seen by the persecutors of Christians over the centuries as a deeply rebellious act and has been punished as such. You see, the word, “conspiracy” is rooted in much deeper soil than the context in which it is now used.
This conspiracy means literally to breathe together, con-spiritus. To conspire is to join your breathe in with others, as we say in the liturgy “With the whole company of heaven”. If we pause to think what that means, that really is profound. To be of one breath means to pray as one. No matter where we are when we pray we are not alone, far from it. We are with the many millions of people who have gone before, uncountable in their vast number. We are with those others that walk alongside us in the present and of course those of us who are yet to come.
Praying has strong parallels with breathing. Breathing maintains life, it is necessary for growth to happen, when we try to hold our breath our bodies tell us in a matter of seconds just what a seriously bad idea that is. And so it is also with prayer, without it our faith fails to reach the heights that it could, our relationship with God remains shallow and superficial, it fails to grow, it lacks depth. The God-given potential that is inside all of us, that little divine spark is missed, it passes us by. Prayer is vital to growth, we need it. I think it is notable in the Gospel reading that it wasn’t Jesus who instigated the exchange, it was an unnamed disciple, seeking the tools from Jesus. He saw Jesus praying and he wanted some of that!
What Jesus told him was not complicated, there wasn’t anything esoteric or lots of doctrine, he said simply that talking to God is like a family conversation where you get to talk unselfconciously knowing that you will be heard and understood. It is a life of prayer, of communion with God that liberates us, although it isn’t a way of getting something but a way of developing a relationship with God. A healthy prayer life gives us strength, it gives us clarity, it gives us the space to discern what is the best course to try and bring God’s Kingdom to bear down here on earth. Our Father in heaven, like Jesus, wants to give us through prayer so much more than we know how to ask. To pray is to be willing to trust that, through prayer, God is giving us the riches of His life-changing grace. And it comes down to the fact, are we willing to trust God enough to pray?
So if you are willing to be a rebel and conspire, just as countless others have done before you, and no matter where you currently find yourself, whether you have been doing it for years or think that you are just no good at it, this really is the best place to start or start over.