Last Friday I had my graduation ceremony for my theology degree. Whilst part of the ceremony was about me celebrating an achievement after a number of years of hard work, it was much more than that. For me it was about looking back at a chapter of my life and noticing where God had been in all of it. Noticing his presence in the new friends I had made; noticing his presence when I had thought I couldn't do it but he gave me the strength to go on; noticing his presence when I had to face some of the dark and difficult parts of my life; noticing his presence as I wrestled with some of the big questions of life and faith. So often God's presence goes unnoticed but if we stop to look back we begin to see his presence all around us.
On Sunday we looked at the idea of noticing what is going on and how that might inform our answer to Jesus' big question: "Who do you say that I am?". When Peter answered that question he had seen heard and seen Jesus say and do so much that meant that he could no longer say anything else other than "You are the Christ, son of the Living God." At the time, Peter's confession of who Jesus is would have been shocking and potentially considered to be blasphemous but Peter had come to the point where that was the only conclusion he could come to of who Jesus is. For us, saying that Jesus is the Messiah is much less radical because many people are familiar with this belief even if they don't believe it themselves. But if we truly believe, as Peter did, that Jesus is the Christ then suddenly that makes a radical difference to our lives and particularly to our prayers. If we believe in who Jesus is then we believe that he has power and we believe that our prayers to Him matter because we believe that our prayers have the power to change things.
So what do we do with all of this? Well, for my part, I'm trying to make prayer more of a priority in my life. I'm trying to make my first response to challenges in life to be prayer rather than grumbling or moaning (which is unfortunately often my first port of call). I'm trying to convert my hopes for the world, my family and others into prayers rather than just wishes or dreams or worries and I'm trying to spend more time listening to God so that my priorities are more in step with His. I saying trying because I don't think prayer always comes naturally, sometimes it is hard work, sometimes it requires a lot of faith as it can feel like I'm just talking to myself and often I have the tendency to trust in my own resources and leap into action using prayer as a last resort. I wonder what life would look like if prayer became my first port of call and if my prayers became full of faith in who Jesus is and in His good plans and purposes for his world?
It all comes back to that deep knowledge of who Jesus is so maybe, even before we have checked our phone, brushed our teeth or had the first brew of the day the very first thing we could do on waking is to simply confess who Jesus is:
"You are the Christ, son of the Living God"
And see where we go from there.