When our router shows red.
Updated: May 28
Should I lay hands on my internet router? That’s the spiritual battle for today. It’s there on my desk, just alongside my keyboard –its irritatingly bright red light telling me what I already know. I am offline, still – with all the inconvenience that entails. I will spare you the wretched story of how we failed to go fibre. In a word, Jacqui – quite rightly, I now concede – refused to allow the BT engineers to disfigure our house. Which means three days later, we are still disconnected while the admin catches up. You know the story – waiting in a long queue to speak to someone from customer services - and again the next day, when what was promised didn’t happen. It doesn’t help that two different providers are involved, which adds another level of complexity. Meantime I have to work out how to get this blog out into cyberspace. Probably through Android File Transfer by cable to my mobile, still functioning on 4G. Should you ever read this, it means it worked. Welcome to life in the early years of the 21st century. It’s just like when your car doesn’t start, a familiar experience when I started driving all those years ago. The temptation is simply to lay hands on the bonnet and ask God to sort out the problem, just like that. I guess one of the problems of being a child of God is to expect our heavenly Father to keep fixing our problems as they happen: to show me where my car keys are hiding, to turn each traffic light to green so as to keep me from being late. We could so easily become the spiritual equivalent of spoilt brats – even though in the short-run, it would make life so much easier. So often in ministry I would go from one home bereft through bereavement to another gripped by angst through some insignificant inconvenience. Like being asked to pray that the right lampshade would be in stock: true! In other words, we need a sense of proportion as we follow Jesus, to make sure we give priority to what is truly important and refuse to allow everyday hassle to distract us from our key tasks. And that can be a battle for our self-centred souls. This morning I have been reading the famous chapter in the letter to the Hebrews on the heroes of faith. This concludes with the terrible sufferings of those believers, not named, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions.” (Hebrews 11: 13) Basically, the writer seeks to encourage this struggling church while reminding them that suffering for the Gospel is part and parcel of being a disciple of Jesus, “the pioneer of their salvation (made) perfect through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 2:10) We need to remember that next time our washing machine leaks. Today, in fact, is the 18th birthday of Leah Sharibu. However, it is unlikely that Leah will be blowing out any candles for the simple reason that she is being held captive by ISWAP, a faction of Boko Haram a jihadist terrorist group in north east Nigeria. Kidnapped with her school friends in February 2018, Leah was promised release if she would renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam. She refused. There’s very little information as to Leah’s whereabouts but Nigeria’s President Buhari has pledged to do his best to secure her release. But there’s not much we can do to help her, except pray for her. And yet, as Jesus promised, prayer moves mountains, it makes the impossible happen. So praying for Leah and her release is the most effective weapon in our armoury. As Jesus provocatively promises “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) We tend to see that verse through the consumerist lens of our individualistic society – praying for what I want. And yet Jesus has a so much greater vision than praying for a parking place. He summons us to join with him in breath-taking intercession. I suppose it is not wrong to offer a parking prayer but we do need to do so with humility and an awareness of context – and I guess only just the once before driving off. The danger is that we would trivialise a wonderful promise while seeking to make our heavenly Father into our personal assistant. So we need the discipline of praying for others especially when they have no direct influence over our lives. We pray out simply out of love and obedience. We simply decide to take Jesus at his word and pray in his name. As Charles Spurgeon would remind us: “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that - it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” And our prayer is that much more effective and less of a father Christmas list when we arrange to pray with a fellow disciple. “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18: 19) We can all see problems with this promise of Jesus but even so he calls us to persevere, even as Leah marks her third birthday in captivity. So the fact that my router is still showing a red light pales into sheer insignificance. In Jesus’ name we simply pray: “Thy Kingdom come.”