Friendship - sharing prayers of concern for a world of need

Friendship - sharing prayers of concern for a world of need

Sharing Friendship                                                                                          30 minutes

As people arrive light refreshments are served.  This week’s ‘table ornament’ for reflection is a jug of water.  It needs to be placed on the table or near where the refreshments are being served.  At the moment it is empty there are also glasses or paper cups for everyone to share later.  The jug of water will later become a focus for reflection and for prayer.  It will be helpful to have a low table in the middle of the room, or at some appropriate focal point, where the jug can later be placed.

Once the group is settled and everyone has arrived the leader can begin the process of helping the group to get to know each other

·       go round the circle and invite each person in turn to say who they are and where they are from and to mention a couple of their favourite things.
·       go round the circle a second time and invite each person to say why they have joined this course and what they are hoping to get from it.  The leader leaves his or her own contribution until last, taking the opportunity to describe the course and its aims:

The Course and its Aims

Lent has traditionally been a time for prayer.  Prayer is the most natural thing in the world ... and yet at times it can be the most difficult.  There are not many people who are starting out on the journey of faith or who are a long way on the road who have not at some point or other wanted to know how to pray.

One of the best ways of learning is by sharing.  And that is exactly what we are going to do in this course.

Our hope is that our course will help us take the next steps in the on-going journey of faith and prayer.

Each session will be divided into three parts.  The time we spend sharing friendship over refreshments and sharing reflections on the Bible will help to shape the time we spend sharing prayer.

We shall be making use of the five prayer meditations, Jesus forever the same  which make up the final part of the Video Jesus: today, tomorrow, forever?  We shall finish by showing the whole of the first part of the Video, Jesus for Today during Holy Week.

Through the course we shall explore five different ways of sharing prayer:

1) Friendship - sharing prayers of concern for a world in need
2) Conflict - sharing prayers of longing for a church too often divided
3) Betrayal - sharing prayers of confession for our own betrayal of Jesus
4) Death - sharing prayers of love  for those who are bereaved
5) Resurrection - sharing prayers of praise in celebration of life

Sharing Reflections on the Bible                                                                     30 minutes

Jesus came to break down barriers and to build up friendships between people and between people and God.  He called people from unexpected backgrounds to be his disciples, he taught the way of love in the sermon on the mount, he met the needs of hungry people in the feeding of the 5000 and of hurting people in the many he healed; he touched the untouchable leprosy sufferers, and accepted the touch of the woman dismissed by others as unclean; he reached out to the woman at the well and broke down barriers of race, religion and gender.  No wonder he was seen to be the prophet ... and much more, the very one the people had been waiting for, the Messiah.

Take the empty jug of water and hold it

There are many barriers in our world that call for our concern, our action and our prayer.  It is easy to take so much for granted.  We can fill this jug with fresh water so easily from the tap: but many cannot do that.  They have no clean water on tap; often no clean water at all.

Ask someone to go and fill the jug with fresh waterYou may like to share pictures, or leaflets from Christian Aid or CAFOD that highlight the needs of the two thirds world, not least the need for clean water.  When the jug of water is brought back put it on the low table in the middle of the circle or at some other prominent point.

Today our theme is Friendship - sharing prayers of concern  for a world in need.  What do you think are the barriers which most divide our world ... and which call for our prayer?

Spend some moments sharing ideas

Read John 4:1-42 - this lends itself to a dramatised reading - you may decide to omit verses 31-38.

What do you make of this story?  What is this story saying that can feed into our time of prayer for a world full of barriers that need to come down?

Allow the group simply to share their responses to these questions - as leader you might look out for some of these points ...

Points to look out for in John 4:1-42

·       the location at a well in a dry land prompts us to think of the needs so many have of clean water [5-6]
·       the location at Jacob’s well near the Samaritan city of Sychar prompts us to think of the barriers there are in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East at the moment and the conflicts that result [5-6]
·       the barrier between Jesus the Jew and the Samaritan prompts us to think of barriers between different religions and between different races and ethnic groups [9]
·       the barrier between Jesus the man and the Samaritan woman prompts us to think of barriers between men and women [9]
·       the conversation about the woman’s experience of marriage remind us of the way people’s experiences of family life and marriage can result in all sorts of barriers [16-19]
·       notice the rival territorial claims of Samaria and Jerusalem and the consequent political tensions [20]
·       the observations about the right place to worship and the right way to worship remind us of barriers between different religions [20-24]
·       the reaction of the disciples to Jesus in conversation with the woman raises issues about the place of women and men and especially of male attitudes to the place of women [27]
·       the woman is the one who takes the message back to her own town, though to begin with she is not absolutely sure about Jesus [28-29]
·       Jesus prepares the disciples to accept the role the woman unexpectedly plays in sharing news about him with her own Samaritan people [31-38]
·       the faith response of those she had shared the good news with confirms the woman in her initial steps of faith [39-42]

Allow a good period of time sharing reflections on this passage.

In the light of the experiences we have shared together from our own lives, and in the light of the reflections we have shared on John 4, where should the focus be for our prayers for the world?

Finish this part of the evening by inviting people to share thoughts that can feed into the last part of the evening, sharing prayer.

Sharing Prayer                                                                                                            30 minutes

Play some quiet reflective music.  Make sure that the jug of water is on the table in the centre of the circle or in some appropriate place.  As the music is being played arrange glasses or paper cups for each member of the group around the jug of water, or on a tray beside the jug of water.  On the table place a card with the words I want to reach out and share the water of life with ...

In a dry, barren world, Jesus shared the water of life.

His was a world of broken relationships, violence and abuse,
where the fear of rejection was all too real.
Ours is too.

His was a world of barriers and divisions,
of faith and religion, of culture and gender, of politics and race.
Ours is too.

His was a world of hunger, a world of need, crying out for
a healing touch, a look of friendship, forgiveness and love.
Ours is too.

In our dry, barren world, Jesus shares the water of life.

Pause for a moment of quiet and reflection

Think for a moment of a barrier, a division, a hurt in our world which cries out for that healing touch, for the water of life.