Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

Prayer is Pivotal (Part 1): Lessons from #LC13

on May 16, 2013

I’m not usually one to spend hours on end staring at a computer screen, but this week I made an exception. Holy Trinity Brompton, the large central London church which is (amongst other things) home of the Alpha Course, held their annual Leadership Conference. Last year my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend in person; that not being possible this year I opted for the next best thing- watching the event from home as it was streamed live over the internet. I joined thousands of others from across the world who watched the event online, adding to the audience of 5,500 people from 86 nations and representing numerous Christian denominations who were actually there in the Royal Albert Hall.

Over the course of two days I watched talks and seminars given by an extremely varied, and illustrious, group of Christian leaders. Justin Welby, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Chris Hyman, CEO of Serco, one of Britain’s largest companies. Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in the USA with 20,000 attending one of its 6 campuses every Sunday. Pete Grieg, founder of the 24-7 prayer movement. Patrick Lencioni, management consultant and author, described by the Wall Street Journal as ‘one of the most in-demand business speakers’. Ellie Mumford, National Director of Vineyard Churches (who also happens to have a very famous son!) Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria.

Having access to all these amazing talks, in real-time, for free, was an amazing blessing. HTB is leading the way in harnessing and using social media and technology to further the Kingdom of God, and I for one am very thankful to them for that. #LC13 was trending on twitter worldwide for much of the 48 hours that the conference was running. Even in my little study at home I still experienced that buzz of knowing that I was joining with thousands of other Christians from all sorts of traditions, cultures, countries and backgrounds, in the words of Nicky Gumbel ‘united around Jesus’. True, a lot of chores didn’t get done, but I still remembered to pick the children up from school, feed them, bathe them and get them into bed and everything else could wait…

What impacted me most wasn’t the leadership and team management lessons (inspiring though they were), or the practical tips in the seminars (useful though they were), or the amazing worship (awesome though it was), or the slick production (impressive though it was). No, as last year, what really impacted me were the speakers themselves. These are men and women who are in the process of changing the world around them. They are all at the top of their respective fields, be that church leadership, or in the world of business. By anyone’s standards these are all highly successful people. But these leaders are different. They are godly. They are not basking in their success, not self-satisfied, don’t think they’ve got it all right. To a man (and woman) they were humble, and prepared to be vulnerable, to share their mistakes so that others could learn from them. And they are all people of prayer. Prayer, for me, was a theme that weaved through all the talks and seminars I listened to. Prayer underpinned the lives and ministries of all the speakers that I heard. In the words of Bill Hybels ”Your job as leader is not to preside, to pontificate or protect your job, but to spend time on your knees…Seeking God.”

Justin Welby told the conference about the 5 days of prayer that had been held at 5 cathedrals prior to his installation as Archbishop of Canterbury, organised by Pete Grieg and the 24-7 prayer team. They were expecting a few hundred at each location; in total 12,500 men, women and children turned out to pray with him and for him during those 5 days. The church- and the nation- still believes in the power of prayer.

Ellie Mumford shared with the conference the fact that when she became a Christian she discovered that a friend had been praying for her to meet with Jesus every day for 5 years. What a motivation to persist in prayer for those we love.

Pete Grieg, founder of the 24-7 prayer movement, gave a brilliant seminar entitled ‘PG Tips: Growing Your Prayer Life.’ He described prayer as ‘the ultimate empowerment of the people of God’. He told the audience how he had interviewed Archbishop Desmond Tutu and asked him how he had kept his passion alive. The Archbishop had answered

I’ve kept the fire in my belly through prayer. Without prayer there is no substance. Continual prayer undergirds everything I do.

Pete talked of the 4 keys to a good prayer life:

desire– the invitation of prayer is to prioritise time in the presence of the Father over all other activities. ‘Renew in me a desire for you, God’ is the most dangerous prayer we can pray. God always answers it!

discipline- ‘making an effort to create a space in which God can act’ (Henri Nouwen).

dialogue- developing prayer as a conversation with God. Conversations are 2-way; this involves listening to God and learning how to recognise His voice, not just going through a list of requests.

distinctiveness- praying the way God made you. We don’t all have to pray in the same way, or use the same words, or the same tone of voice. We can be ourselves before our Creator.

When I am busy and rushing about, and find it difficult to be still and rest in the presence of God, and talk to my Daddy in heaven, I will think of Justin Welby- just possibly even busier than me. He systematically prays every day for family, friends, colleagues, and previous places he’s worked; he meditates on the Scriptures daily; he comes before God every day in repentance and seeking forgiveness; and he makes time for 30 minutes of silence in the chapel once or twice a week. This is the amazing paradox: if we prioritise spending time with God, especially when we are busy and have a lot going on, everything else will assume its rightful place. Time with God can never, ever be wasted time- there’s no better way to spend it.


4 responses to “Prayer is Pivotal (Part 1): Lessons from #LC13

  1. Thanks Emma for an interesting and informative account with sound conclusions. Perhaps you’d be interested in Bro Lawrence’s classic Practising the Presence of God? Yesterday, our lady minister spoke about how we can be in two places simultaneously and brought photo evidence! After all, we’re, seated with Christ in heavenly places as well as at home on earth.

    (Found your blog via your comment on God & Politics in UK, and have again added to that thread).


    • Emma Tanner says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Richard. I have actually just downloaded Brother Lawrence on someone else’s recommendation to read on holiday- obviously meant to be 🙂


      • Thank you Emma, and for the confirmation as I was ‘nudged’ to mention it. In doing so I sensed it may be to confirm where the Lord is pointing your attention. Synchronicity, of better still ‘God-incidents’ are a fascinating way of living and walking in Holy Spirit. I’ve covered quite a number in my own blog (under that tag, if you’re interested). After an exceptional serial run of over a dozen (re Queen’s Jubilee Bells) I heard New Zealander Ian Clayton describe them by using my own private metaphor! He’s of the opinion ‘God-incidents’ are a function of the Spirit of Wisdom (as in Isaiah 11).

        Have a mightily blessed holiday with Him.


  2. […] Prayer is Pivotal (Part 1): Lessons from #LC13 (princessemmablog.wordpress.com) […]


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