‘First and foremost there is prayer’

Do we think of prayer as an ‘extra’ – perhaps even a burden! – or is spending time with God the ‘one thing needful’ for  everything we do? Martyn Payne, author and BRF prayer advocate, inspires us to ‘enter the heartbeat of God’s love’ as we pray – for ourselves, for others and for BRF’s ministry.

4 September 2022

The foundation for all we do

‘First and foremost there is prayer’: these words, written by Revd Leslie Mannering, on the eve of the launch of what became BRF, are a rallying call for all Christian mission and ministry.

The congregation in the parish of St Matthew’s Brixton responded to this call; and so it was that prayer became the foundation to the work of producing weekly Bible reading notes, which has grown over the past 100 years into today’s exciting range of publications and ministries under the BRF banner. For BRF, as for all of us, prayer must remain the foundation for everything we do.

The ‘one thing needful’

Much has been written on prayer down the years, drawn from the many and varied experiences of Christian disciples who have taken the call to prayer seriously. Prayer is widely acknowledged as vital for any ministry and mission undertaken by the church, and yet, strangely, it too often becomes an extra to our work – even sometimes an uncomfortable and unwelcome burden – rather than being the work itself. It is ‘the one thing needful’ that Jesus recommended to the over-busy Martha, who had lost her sense of priorities, having allowed catering responsibilities to take over from paying attention to her guest.

What is prayer?

In my own experience prayer has become gradually simpler and more silent over the years. Scripture reminds us that it is being heard by God that is at the heart of prayer, rather than receiving the particular answers that we long for, or which are humbly but urgently suggested in the list of petitions we find in our prayer diaries.

In fact, the best answer to prayer we, or any for whom we pray, can receive is God’s very self. Needs, of course, do drive us to prayer, but the thing we all really need is God. When we have this, we have everything.

‘When we have God, we have everything.’

God is more ambitious

So does that mean we don’t need to ask for specific, concrete answers to our prayers? Maybe. But for most of us, particular requests for this or that are vital stepping stones towards coming close to God – and to discovering that God’s ‘answers’ are much greater than the most ambitious thing we could ever ask for.

To love as God loves

To pray is to enter into the heartbeat of God’s love for the world and everything in it. In that respect, it has recently struck me that perhaps my best prayer for others is to ask that I might love each of them just as much as God loves them. Once that becomes true, then my prayers for them will be at one with God’s desire to bless.

Jesus tells us in John 15 that, if we do not abide in him, we cannot bear fruit. Abiding in God through Christ is surely an apt description of what prayer is. The goal and heart of prayer is to be in the presence of God. After all, God already knows what we need, but wants us to ask him anyway, simply because, amazingly, God loves being alongside us and longs that we too should enjoy this intimacy.

‘The goal and heart of prayer is to be in the presence of God.’

A call to prayer

Bible reading and prayer is the lifeblood of BRF, and it is for this reason that in recent years, we have renewed the call to prayer. BRF has a range of publications that explore prayer and offer advice and encouragement about how to make it part of our everyday discipleship. In our BRF prayer diary, which is published three times a year, there are quotes from these books to help us pray. In addition, many new prayers are published daily on social media and also appear in the prayer diary. Some of these prayers are now collected in The BRF Book of 100 Prayers, a companion volume to The BRF Book of 365 Bible Reflections. Alongside all these prayer resources, you can also sign up for our weekly prayer email from Richard Fisher, our chief executive.

These many BRF prayer initiatives serve a double purpose. While keeping us all informed about particular needs, they are at the same time calling us back to the heart of prayer: being heard, receiving more of God, loving others with God’s love and abiding in Christ. Only when in that place can we pray according to his will and be in tune with God’s kingdom purposes – for BRF, our own discipleship and God’s wider mission today.

All this reminds us afresh that ‘first and foremost there is prayer’. In this centenary year we are so grateful for the army of pray-ers who have responded to this call. Because of this, BRF has indeed been fruitful, and will remain so in the years.

Please continue to pray with us for BRF.

If you enjoyed this, why not read Dr Gemma Simmonds on prayer and personality.

Martyn Payne

Before retiring in 2017, Martyn Payne was one of BRF’s Messy Church team. He has a background in Bible storytelling and leading all-age worship and is passionate about the blessing that comes when generations explore faith together. Martyn Payne is BRF’s volunteer prayer advocate and author of the BRF Prayer Diary.

The BRF Book of 100 Prayers

Published in August 2022, this beautiful hardback collection of prayers by Martyn Payne is a companion volume to The BRF Book of 365 Bible Reflections.

Looking for more inspiration?

BRF’s insightful authors are here to help support your prayer practice. Our range of books on prayer explores different approaches, from traditional approaches to creative new ways of praying, and for personal and corporate prayer.