Bible Christian Living Jesus Christ Prayer

Shouting, Slanging or Supplication?

Shouting, Sneering or Supplication?

It seems as though on every issue the world quickly divides.  It doesn’t matter what the subject it takes almost no time for ‘discussion’ to descend into shouting and a slanging match.  The world of social media is the wind that fans into flame the already burning and sin-dried fuel of our hearts! Whatever the subject – the result is always the same – more heat than light – and the resultant destruction.

I was reflecting on this and getting increasingly depressed about the level of public discourse on serious issues such as the bushfires, the EU, President Trump, Israel, Iran and the Scottish government.  But it is not just these ‘serious’ political subjects – discussions about sport, religion, church and culture can just as easily descend into this pit.  The offering of simplistic solutions is usually accompanied by sneering, smug superiority and the situation worsens.

I would expect the more serious media to help – but whilst there are exceptions (the Spectator being for me the best current example) it is depressing to see such as the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the New York Times and The Times being as partisan and simplistic as any tabloid – they just do it with bigger words and the pretence of intelligent analysis.

Is the Church any better?  I would like to hope so  but I think we swim in the same swamp and we too have become tainted by its stench.  I woke up this morning and felt a heaviness on my spirit because of this.  Not just because it is true – but because the problem is not only ‘out there’ with other people, but also ‘in here’ – in my heart, in my life and amongst my people.

The darkness without, feeds the darkness within – and the darkness within feeds the darkness without.  All of which would lead to the perfect devilish self feeding storm which results in discouragement, depression and destruction.  It’s no wonder that we cry with Paul “who will deliver me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24).

The answer he gives is wonderfully simple and yet profoundly deep.  It is the opposite of the sneering, shouting, sin of the world.

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord”. 

How does he do this?

783855511523427312528519In hospital in 2011 Annabel brought me an old, small , battered copy of The Book Of Common Prayer.  It is something I have used almost every day since.  Although not without its faults it is a remarkable book which has been such an aid to my weak and faltering prayers – and, I like to think, has been a blessing to the people of St Peters, as we introduced some of its prayers and confessions to the collective worship of the congregation.

I remain forever thankful for the combination of the psalms and the BCP…

I am currently reading Diarmaid Maculloch’s ‘Thomas Cromwell’ which portrays in great detail the turbulent times in which the BCP was written by Cranmer. As turbulent and tumultous as our own times.   Cranmer’s solution to the troubles of his day should be ours.

One of the great prayers in this book (and one we used in St Peters in a slightly modified form) is that entitled ‘Morning Prayer – A general confession”.  It is “to be said of the whole congregation after the Minister, all kneeling.”

“ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.

But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.


The minister is then to stand and with the people still kneeling give this absolution or pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins.

ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live; and hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins : He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.

Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m not a big fan of set prayers – but that is more for emotional and cultural reasons, rather than any deep theological conviction.  When I read the above I find this confession my own. Forgiveness, godliness, the glory of God,  the Holy Spirit, purity, holiness and eternal joy are what I need and desire.

Supplication is an old fashioned word.  It comes from the Latin ‘supplicare’ which means to ‘ask humbly’, hence the dictionary definition: “Supplication (also known as petitioning) is a form of prayer, wherein one party humbly or earnestly asks another party to provide something, either for the party who is doing the supplicating (e.g., “Please spare my life.”) or on behalf of someone else.”

6f6dbd2c00bd280b5e991b660d9dfad9--psalm--a-prayerThe next time we are infuriated by what someone has said, or discouraged by the evil we see in the world, or overwhelmed by circumstances; instead of standing up and shouting, maybe we need to supplicate the only One who can do something about it?

Instead of retreating into ourselves and finding that even (especially?) there we are not safe, why not look to the One who is our refuge and our strength?

Instead of becoming mighty keyboard warriors and joining in with the maddening crowd, why don’t we get on our knees?

How Do You Achieve Forgiveness? – A.S.K 17

How Prayer Impacts Lives

PS. I am leading the prayers in St Thomas’s this morning and was wondering what to say…I think I now know!  I’m sure if the Presbyterians of Dundee could cope with the BCP, the Anglicans of Sydney might manage!


  1. David, I read with interest your blogs from ‘down under’ and have not felt as strong an urge to comment as I do now.
    Like you, it baffles me how quickly some folk with different points of view even some educated ones, descend into language from the gutter! I assume they have different points of view as often their views are lost in translation!
    Some years ago I sat on the Dunfermline Court bench as a JP and wondered, if there’s one thing missing that causes folk to be abusive to one another, property, environment, what is it? As you’ve rightly pointed out there’s the sin question which has tainted us all but even so what’s happened to good old fashioned RESPECT?

  2. Well said David! The BCP is very beautiful. I too wish that Presbyterians would make use of the lovely prayers and Psalms.

  3. Good ‘old fashioned respect’, sadly, is not a mark of much of the media where it seems that no opportunity is missed to strike out at those they may disagree with or ‘don’t like’, even during the reporting of a national emergency! Thank you for going to the heart of the matter, David, and for your sentence ‘The world of social media is the wind that fans into flame the already burning and sin-dried fuel of our hearts!’

    In an article entitled ‘The Church of England on its knees – but not for prayer’, Alex Illingworth makes some interesting and valid points. He writes:
    ‘It’s true, Jesus Christ preached love and acceptance of those whom society rejected, but he did not tolerate the defacement of holy places, nor did he question the validity of traditional marriage. It seems to me that whilst respect is deserved by all, the use of Christian love to justify socially liberal, “progressive” political manoeuvres is a forced affectation, a reductio ad absurdum which makes the Church seem either desperate or theologically corrupt.’ See:
    In Australia, Christians have much to be thankful for in the leadership and example of the Anglican Church of the Diocese of Sydney. And to recognise that there is a link, between ‘calling upon the name of the Lord’ in the genuine heart-felt prayers of the ‘blessed company of all faithful people’, and a healthier society – as Jeremy Jennings observes in his short book: ‘The Church on its Knees’.

  4. Einstein famously said “God does not play dice.” I cannot remember whether it was Bohr or Heisenberg who , addressing Einstein , said ” Stop telling God what to do.”

  5. Thanks for these sign posts to light and life. Up until about six weeks ago, I would add my supportive comments to views and feelings I agreed with, in particular to dismiss those I disagreed with. Then I realised that none of it was helping. We were all just going round in our own circles and nothing was progressing. No one with any wisdom or sense was leading us to a better place. These blogs are encouraging and helpful.

  6. this is a really helpful post, David, thank you for this. the basic problem is, as you say, our fallen nature aided and abetted by the anonymity, personal distance but technical immediacy of social media.

    you remind us very well that praying about any issue is far far better than jumping on to social media. it’s much too easy to fire off an intemperate quick response on anything we feel strongly (often justifiably) about, and some Christians fall into this trap too. perhaps we all need to be thoughtful not only about what we post but also the tone of it and whether this post at this time is really going to be helpful or necessary to represent the Kingdom. a wise Christian once advised me that we need to T H I N K before opening our mouths (same applies to social media) – is what we are saying True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind. since then I’ve found myself saying less and praying more, although never enough.

    also agree with you on set prayers – but these can be really helpful in circumstances where we don’t know how or what to pray, times of stress and pressure, and set prayers such as the BCP are the distillation of the spiritual lives of those who have gone before us.

  7. I very rarely go near social media now for a number of reasons. Firstly, does anybody really need to hear my opinions; as I see most issues from a very different perspective than the majority, do I want to continue to draw abusive responses from strangers; will my response to their abuse be any less abusive, even if I couch it in more temperate language? I agree that the very immediacy of social media is too tempting for somebody like me to speak out against the increasingly insane nonsense which the thought police dare us to challenge? As Steve C puts it so well: “it’s much too easy to fire off an intemperate quick response on anything we feel strongly (often justifiably) about, and some Christians fall into this trap too.” And the best reason of all for avoiding this trap? I’m not in charge, God is, so I’ll pray more about things that really matter and leave it in his hands. Thanks for a very positive blog David.

    1. Hello Margaret. I sympathise with your concerns, but hesitate to accept your reasoning.
      Jesus warned us that we would suffer (e.g. be abused). We should expect that. The solution to not being abusive in return is not to say nothing, but to say it nicely (1 Peter 3:15). The solution to firing off a quick response is to think carefully before you write.
      But to not respond at all means that the nasty ones posting the “insane nonsense” are the only ones who are heard. Proverbs 18:17 says “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” But if nobody comes to examine what he said, his view will come to be accepted. And arguably one of the main reasons the insanity has spread is that the church has not spoken enough against it.
      God has appointed us to be His witnesses. Leaving it all to Him is not the way He wants us to handle such attacks.

      1. Thank you Philip for your thoughtful comments which I appreciate. I certainly am not silent when it comes to speaking out about issues which should concern any Christian. The ‘insane nonsense’ I refer to is not the comments of others but rather the legislation that has come into force recently and other proposed legislation that will come into force this year. As you rightly say, the church has failed to speak out against these things and we have a duty to do so. I will continue to post requests from organisations such as Christian Concern and Barnabas Trust to sign petitions or highlight the plight of persecuted Christians around the world which the mainstream media seems largely to ignore. A recent request I posted from Christian Concern regarding Netflix showing a film depicting Christ as homosexual led to my account being hacked and a malicious message and video being sent to all of my contacts. I do not believe this was just a coincidence. Ironically I was temporarily locked out of my account because somebody had reported me as having shared an offensive post! I do write to my MP asking how he voted or intends to vote on contentious issues such as abortion and euthanasia and I have come to the conclusion that it’s more fruitful to engage directly with people when it comes to defending Christ’s word and have a meaningful discussion rather than sharing my beliefs on social media with complete strangers. I totally agree that we are to be witnesses for Christ and that he warns us that the world will hate us because it first hated him. It’s just a matter of what form that witness takes. I know that anything I do has to be undergirded with prayer for without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5-6). so far from leaving it all to God, I pray for His guidance as to when and how He would have me speak out.

  8. Not coming from your tradition, I don’t have your instinctive discomfort with set prayers. However, since childhood, it’s struck me that as a summary of where we might each individually have a deep inner need for improvement, this can hardly be bettered,
    “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;”

  9. Thomas Howard, an American has written a book (Evangelical is Not Enough) on how he came from a background of Evangelical forms of worship to appreciate more ‘liturgical’ styles of worship. He found these in an evangelical church of the Church of England.
    The form of public confession said by the congregation attending a Catholic Mass goes as follows:
    I confess to almighty God
    and to you, my brothers and sisters,
    that I have greatly sinned,
    in my thoughts and in my words,
    in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
    through my fault, through my fault,
    through my most grievous fault.
    Perhaps it might be claimed that Cranmer’s version is more elegant but both versions have the same meaning.

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