Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Remembering Harold Irwin, Recently Called Home – & His Lovely Old Cottage Prayer Meeting

February 10, 2020

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Nestling in the lovely emerald countryside of the Northern Irish countryside, near Richhill in County Armagh, lies a little old cottage beside the former home of the Irwin family. For some reason, I often feel nostalgic about old times and memories on a windy night and this weekend past was no exception. I have lovely memories of sitting in this little cosy cottage which Harold and his wife Evelyn provided for use as a mid-week prayer meeting. Harold piled the logs on the fire and before long everyone would feel the warmth of the little room in more ways than one! There would be a short devotional and then rousing singing of the old hymns, followed by sincere prayer. Those who attended loved this time together, where they felt the true fellowship of fellow believers.
Sadly, Harold and his wife have been suffering from ill health for a number of years and just recently, in his 98th year, Harold fell into a peaceful sleep one night, only to waken the next morning, as his daughter put it, “at home in heaven.” “At Home in Heaven” where my mum and dad (Jack and Ella Hutchinson) and others from those days are rejoicing in the glory of the Lord’s Presence. What a wonderful way to waken up!
We travelled to Harold’s funeral in Richhill last week, where the little church hall was packed to capacity. Meeting old acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in a while was emotionally daunting and I felt moved by the hymns, which touched on some of the experiences in my own life of late. Even before the service started, many of Harold’s favourite old hymns were sung and I felt myself shedding tears as I remembered loved ones who had once attended the little prayer meeting.
Strangely, the old hymn “At Home in Heaven,” had been going through my mind for some time prior to Harold’s death. I discovered the hymn, written as a poem in an antiquarian book “Christian Lyrics Illustrated,” published well over 100 years ago. What I like about this old book, is that it shows many of the hymns printed in full, in their original wording. I think it is terrible when old hymns (no longer under copyright) have been “mutilated,” both in regard to their lyrics and the original music which was set to them. Worse still, is the fact that some modern musicians will claim that they have written those hymns and this is believed by many in today’s generation. Perhaps it would be a good idea for people to research the words and music of these hymns and “songs,” before assuming anything.
“At Home in Heaven,” was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) who was born in Scotland but spent some years in Ballymena, Northern Ireland and in England. At best, most hymn books show 8 verses of the hymn but there are in fact 22 verses in its original form, as a poem!
Harold loved poetry, particularly of a spiritual nature. The above old photograph of the cottage prayer meeting setting was taken back in 2008, one night just before the prayer meeting, when I was visiting from my former home. As Christians may we never neglect the place of prayer, whatever the setting, until that day when we too are “Forever with the Lord.”
“At Home in Heaven.”
“For ever with the Lord!
Amen; so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
‘Tis immortality.”
Link to this hymn: https://youtu.be/FBRge7RC95M

 

Some Trust in Chariots, and Some in Horses…

July 11, 2018

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On a recent visit to the historical site at Oldbridge of the Battle of the Boyne (July 1690), I was thinking very much about the spiritual analogy of a distressing situation we find ourselves in at the present time. When the Christian or one of his loved ones is faced with a serious health diagnosis, they will naturally get in touch with as many people as possible to pray about this situation. Very often, however, we find that in reality the people we feel that we can trust to pray for us are relatively few in number.

I am a slow learner but the Lord is teaching me much about human nature as I go through the deeply disturbing traumas that life can bring. Here are a couple of the reactions I’ve encountered as I’ve asked people to pray for a number of situations (not just the current one) over the years…

“Oh well, you’ve got to die sometime, haven’t you?”

“Oh dear… imagine that now. I wonder why God gave this person this disease…” (There must have been sin in his life).

“I’ll pray… but if it’s God’s will for them to go, you’ll just have to accept that.” (This person proceeded to make it clear that they were in a big hurry and had to go right at that moment. I smiled about this later and I understood that they were under pressure but really felt that their words could have been a little more sensitive…)

Indeed I am fully prepared to accept God’s will in any matter, for I know that He will carry me through all sorts of situations before someday I go to be with Him. However, if anyone approaches us with a request for prayer on something that is troubling them deeply, first of all we should leave this person in no doubt that we love them and really care about them and will pray sincerely about every aspect of whatever has been troubling them.

Unfortunately, even amongst professing Christians there are the “Job’s comforters.” I have found that those who have the greatest compassion of all are very often souls who have suffered much in their own lives. They listen, they are quiet, they are kind – and they care. And you know that they will pray fervently for you because they have matured in the Lord and they walk closely with Him.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2Corinthians 1v3&4)

Ultimately it is to Him, that His followers must turn in their distress. We pray for surgeons to have skill and for doctors and oncologists to have the knowledge and expertise to use the best and most appropriate treatments but we do not put our trust in them – or indeed in medicine. We follow along with prescribed treatments as the Lord leads but we can never, never put our trust in men. Yes, we can ask understanding souls who walk closely with the Lord for prayer but above all He must be our primary source of comfort and counsel in all our tribulation, in the knowledge that all good things come from Him.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, Lord: let the King hear us when we call.” (Psalm 20v7-9)

The Agnostic and the Oranges – a True Story

May 31, 2015

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In recent days my daughter has been planting many different types of fruit: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tayberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants… the list is quite long – and she hopes to plant apples in the autumn. Of course, for the most part, it will be next year before we see these fruit emerge – Lord willing! Many types of other fruit, though, would have a difficult (if not impossible) time growing in our Irish climate… oranges for example. I was thinking of all these different types of lovely fruit (and oranges in particular) when I remembered a true story I had read just recently in one of William A. Weir’s booklets: “Peace Perfect Peace.” (Dr. F.B. Meyer was a famous preacher at the time.) The following true story relates an elderly lady’s faith, an answer to prayer – and an astonished agnostic…

Dr. F. B. Meyer was once crossing the Atlantic. The captain asked him to preach in the saloon on Sunday morning. He spoke on “answered prayer” and gave a number of illustrations. An agnostic was present and someone said to him, “What do you think of Meyer’s sermon?”

“Oh,” he said, “I don’t believe a word of it.”

Dr. Meyer was speaking that afternoon to the passengers in the steerage (second-class) end of the ship. The agnostic picked up two oranges, put them in his pocket and walked over to the meeting.

As he threaded his way in and out amongst the steerage folk, he came across an old lady with silvery hair, her eyes closed in sleep, her head back and her hands open on her lap. He took the two oranges out of his pocket and placed them in her hands, and went on to the meeting. When he came back the old lady was eating one of the oranges. He said to her: “You seem to be enjoying your orange!”

“Yes,” she said, “my Father is very good.”

“Your what? Your father cannot be living.”

“Oh,” she said, “He is very much alive.” He asked what she meant.

“Well,” she replied, “I have been seasick for five days. This morning I longed for an orange. I knew there were some in the saloon, but I wondered how we could get them in the steerage. As I sat here I asked the Lord to send me an orange. I suppose I must have fallen off to sleep, and would you believe it, sir, when I opened my eyes, He had not only sent me one, but He sent me two!”

“Why,” he said, “is that true?”

“Absolutely true,” she said.

The bottom fell out of his agnosticism on the spot. The whole circumstances passed human explanation. God does answer prayer, and He sometimes uses infidels to carry the answer…

 

 

Easter Book Launch of Novel: “Ricky the Runaway”

March 19, 2015

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Lord willing I hope to launch my fourth book “Ricky the Runaway,” which centres on the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy who runs away from home because of a well-known problem in our society: bullying at school.  The introduction to the novel reads…

“Set in the early twenty-first century, this is a story of how fervent prayer can create the winds of change in lives, blowing them safely to rest in that harbour which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Each short chapter leaves the reader in suspense as the story moves from one situation to another, exposing many problems which are well known in our world: bullying, the exploitation of migrant workers, parents who are not listening to their children and children who have become a danger to society because of neglect and lack of love, guidance and discipline.

Ricky runs from one danger to another, revealing how ‘running away’ from situations at home, work or school is rarely the answer to our pressing problems. Meanwhile, not one person in his family is left untouched by the power of prayer in the lives of ageing distant grandparents who have become estranged from the family. Even anonymous souls, like a nurse in a hospital corridor, are affected by what is happening in the lives of the family. Written against an Easter background, “Ricky the Runaway” is about finding “that which was lost” and discovering love, forgiveness and lives made new by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The venue for the launch, which will take place between 3.15pm and around 5.15pm on Monday 30th March, will be Richhill Recreation Centre, in the large committee room. (Disabled access) Parents, children and all interested parties are welcome to drop in anytime (and for as long as they wish) between those hours. Simultaneously I hope to have an Easter bookmark-making craft for anyone interested. (All materials free) Light refreshments are available for all – as well as small Easter eggs for the children while stocks last!

Normally retailing at £6.99, the book will be on special offer of £5 at the launch.

The dedication reads:

“This novel is dedicated to the memory of my beloved parents, Jack Hutchinson (1926-2011) and Ella Hutchinson (1929-2014) of Woodview, near Armagh in Northern Ireland. As parents and grandparents in a million, their gifts of love and encouragement to me are still so real, reaching even beyond the bounds of this life. I feel in my heart that they would have been overjoyed with the knowledge that young people, for whom they had a special affinity, would have been reached in this special way with the love of their Master.”

Acknowledgment: I wish to thank my daughter, Sarah, for her wonderful artwork on the covers of “Ricky the Runaway.”

May the Lord bless the proceedings on Monday 30th March next. I look forward very much, to meeting old friends – and greeting new ones!

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Scotland and Montreal – A Miracle of Prayer – from a booklet by W.A. Weir

July 28, 2014

 

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I recently said farewell, once more, to one of my daughters who is travelling very much these days. Mothers and fathers the world over watch sadly at the last sight of their children waving goodbye to them at airports and indeed some may even wonder if they will ever see them again…

Thankfully, we have many more means of communication in this era but still the parting can take its toll on us. Not long after my daughter’s departure, I found a copy of an old booklet entitled: “Landing Safely” by the late William A. Weir from Northern Ireland who was once a preacher who produced other similar booklets. One true story in this booklet spoke especially to me last week and I feel led to share it at this time. What a miraculous answer to prayer – and the same Lord who answered this mother’s prayer, lives to answer ours today!

“The letters from her son in America ceased entirely, and when his mother wrote anxiously begging for a reply, no answer came. His home in Scotland had been happy, with every advantage that could give contentment. It was a Christian home, but religion was not forced on the children. The mother was a woman of great faith, and saw many remarkable answers to prayer. However her son, whom we will call John, wanted to see the world, and not long after his father’s death he left home and Scotland. He found a good job; all seemed to go well with him, and he wrote by every mail. Then he decided to give up his job, and to travel for a time, and therefore could give no address. No reason was given, and it was at this point the correspondence stopped. The only mention he had made of any place was that he might call at Montreal.

The days of silence lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the mother became intensely anxious, feeling that she had lost her son for good. She had prayed often for him, but now she cried with intense earnestness for some contact with her son, and above all that his soul might be saved for Eternity. Then early one morning while she was thinking and praying, someone seemed to stand by her side, and a voice said to her: “Write to the Young Men’s Christian Association at Montreal, Canada.” She was quite bewildered. The vision was all so clear, yet so strange. The words sounded in her ears, and she felt it was a voice from Heaven. Resolving to write at once she knelt down and asked God what to say in her letter. With a deep sense of inspiration she wrote to the Montreal Y.M.C.A., giving her son’s full name and description, with all the circumstances of the case. She asked them to call a special meeting for prayer, on a certain day and at a set hour, both of which she named, adding that she would unite with them in prayer at that appointed hour. The letter went off, and she waited, counting the days until an answer would come, as she was convinced the call to write was the voice of God.

At last the answer came with the assurance that her desire would be carried out. The fixed day and hour arrived and a number of people met in the Montreal Y.M.C.A., and a time of earnest prayer followed for this unknown young man. The hour passed and the closing hymn was being sung, when a young man entered the hall, and took a seat next to the leader, as though directed to do so. As the hymn ended the Secretary explained to him that the meeting was over, and he was sorry he had been late. The stranger answered: “I do not know why I am here at all. I had not the slightest intention of coming here when I left the hotel this morning, but something compelled me to come in. I could not pass the door. I tried to pass it, but I could not; and I do not know why I am here.” The secretary asked his name, and he answered at once with the name of the missing son. The miraculous had taken place before their eyes, something which no human being could have planned or brought about. That John should have been urged against his will to come into that room of the Y.M.C.A. at the moment when prayer was made on both sides of the Atlantic, was nothing only the work of an Almighty and loving God, Who hears and answers prayer.

When the amazing facts finally dawned upon him, John’s proud and restless heart melted, and he burst into tears with trembling emotion as he said: “I can’t turn away from love like this.” He knelt down and confessed his sin and his lost condition, crying: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He realised that all the time he had been running away from God, and that God had been seeking him. It was a time of thanksgiving in that extraordinary meeting, and there was joy in the presence of the angels of God over another sinner repenting.

John wired his mother saying he was coming home with the best news. He returned to Scotland by the next boat and words would fail to tell the depths of joy and thanksgiving in his mother’s heart as they met, and she recognised the great change in him. Her prayers had been answered in a supernatural intervention of the power of God, guiding and controlling and reaching out beyond the seas to bring a wanderer to the Cross of Christ. This true story may be read by someone far from home and God, and may indeed be a voice calling to return again. Many have heard the clear and inescapable voice, and it is urgent and important to respond without delay. “Come NOW, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1v18) Remember it is NOW.”

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He is waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me;

Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon,

Pardon for you and for me.”

 

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Please Pray for Youcef Nadarkhani who has been sentenced to Death in Iran

July 8, 2011

How shocked I was to hear that Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34 year-old pastor from Rasht in Iran who has been jailed since 2009, could be executed at any time. Youcef left Islam to be a Christian when he was still a teenager and later became pastor to a small evangelical church known as the Church of Iran. Married to Fatemah Pasindedih, he has two young sons aged six and eight. Because Youcef’s sons were being forced to learn the ways of Islam at school, he decided to protest about the matter and as a result of this the secret police called him before a political tribunal where the original charge was for protesting. Later those charges were changed to apostasy and the evangelising of Muslims.

The latest news is that Youcef could face execution by hanging within hours or days. Previously many relatives of victims of this regime have discovered that their loved ones were murdered without their knowledge and they were never even allowed access to their bodies after death.

Please pray also for Youcef’s family and others who may be in a similar position right now. Rumours that the death sentence has been annulled are unlikely to be true, according to those who have known about such cases in the past. It is more likely that Youcef has been given an ultimatum: “renounce your faith or face execution.”

If we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we too could quite possibly be asked to renounce our faith some day – but praise God for the strength that He gives His children under such horrific circumstances.

In John 16v2 we read these words: “…yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God a service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (John 16v2&3)

We live in days when the forces of evil are slowly creeping into societies where freedom of choice in matters of faith have previously been taken for granted. Oh, that we would be vigilant and pray for the societies we live in, as this subtle erosion of civil and religious liberties spreads like a cancer across a complacent world.

The days are closing in, the signs of our times are evident and we must “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (1Peter 3v15)

Let us never forget all those across the world who suffer for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the knowledge that it is quite possible that we too may suffer such things in time to come. We must act as we feel led by the Lord… write to authorities, embassies, political representatives, create awareness… but above all we must pray (and encourage others to pray) at all times for all our suffering brothers and sisters in the Lord, including Youcef Nadarkhani, his wife Fatemah and their little sons in Iran at this terrible time in their lives.

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” (Hebrews 13v3)

“There is a Way which seemeth right unto a Man, but the End thereof are the Ways of Death”

January 19, 2011

In recent weeks I have spent much of my time wandering through certain hospital corridors – hardly an enjoyable experience; yet the Lord has assisted me to use the occasion to reach others with the gospel at this testing time in my life. In a sense all of life passes through this hospital. I have seen joyful faces carrying flowers towards the maternity unit where new life has just begun; worried and distraught faces sitting in ‘accident and emergency;’ boredom on the faces of visitors who regard visiting their relatives as something of a chore to be endured. And then there are the pale grief-stricken faces…

One night I also saw a young man whom I suspected had a drug problem, being flanked by two young policewomen.

On another day I took a walk into the “Quiet Room” for the first time. “A Place for Everyone” was the caption at the entrance, but on entering I felt immediately at odds with the atmosphere. I wanted to pray but somehow felt that this was not the place. In fact I felt more like praying in my car in the car park or in a quiet corner of the canteen than in that place on that particular day.

At the entrance to this “place for everyone” are signs for many religious beliefs: Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i… I’m not entirely sure what all the signs meant but as I looked at them I reflected on what people refer to as ‘our increasingly pluralist society.’

God’s Word tells me that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a Man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14v12)

And Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14v6)

Yes, there is only one way. In the midst of all the meandering beliefs and the vast twisting maze of men’s philosophies, there is only one shining path that leads to the city which has “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21v23-27)

Above all, it is God’s will that every man, woman, boy and girl presently alive in this world of many contrasting beliefs would hear His knock at the door of their hearts and open them to let Him in.

As for those of us who name His Name, let us seek to reach others, even in the troublesome times in our own lives. If the last few weeks have taught me anything, they have taught me that life is incredibly short; too short to waste on anything other than serving my Lord and Saviour.

Oh that we would possess His great love for the unloved, the troubled, the sick, the weary, the bereaved, the lost…. Then prayerfully, we can point them to that Highway, the “way of holiness” (Isaiah 35v8) “without which no man shall know the Lord.” (Hebrews 12v14)

And then one glorious day we can put the dark scenes of this life behind us for the Prophet Isaiah promises that “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35v10) Praise God!

The Cremation…A True Story from my Life

July 11, 2010

I wrote this account shortly after the cremation ceremony of a loved one. For my part, I do not like, or agree with cremation, as it has traditionally been viewed as a heathen practice. However, regardless of all of this, the scriptures assure us that one day all bodies will rise again, whether they have been buried, drowned at sea or burned to ashes and scattered in the mountains. I found it to be a distressing day, but I thank God for His sustaining Presence, for the comfort found in the precious Name of His Son, Jesus and that the His Spirit assisted me to express my feelings about the experience…

Life rushed on around the cemetery, traffic piled up on the grey streets; all roads seemed to converge on the inevitable. Wrought iron railings surrounded the grey façade; no kindness was forthcoming in the dark interior; no presence of God, or warmth, or hope… The coffin was carried to the front of the church; the ceremony begun. Looking around, I saw a tear-stained face, pale and full of sorrow. The priest cleared his throat and began to speak. His words droned on; they were words without meaning; hollow emptiness dropping in the shadows of silent grief.

Outside the grey rain pelted against the windows, while the wind whined and blew a flurry of pink petals to the sodden earth. Beauty denied life in its prime, a victim of the winds of life… The priest continued to drone, his disinterested face a mask of sanctimonious solemnity. Duties were performed as a matter of course; payment for praying for the dead, whose eternity had already been sealed – like that gleaming coffin which sat on a marble altar.

The priest turned towards the coffin, in his hand a golden sceptre filled with holy water. He shook it frantically at the shining wood with its gleaming handles, his voice quivering with set prayers. A million tears coursed down the stained glass windows and I bowed my head in prayer. I prayed for those around me and for those who were not here – but never for the dead, for they have lived their lives and God is their Judge. There is but One Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.

When I opened my eyes, there was eerie music playing and great curtains were slowly closing on the gleaming coffin with its beautiful handles. Soon it disappeared from our view – forever. The curtains were closed without a chink and the coffin left to be burned on another day. The polished beauty of the wood and possibly the metal handles would not survive the furnace. Nothing would survive that furnace…

I looked up again to see that the priest had been replaced with someone who had offered to speak about the life of the deceased. A faint gleam of sunlight now beckoned from the rainbow window and I felt a shaft of warmth. His gentle words of love and prayer had not been learned. They came spontaneously from someone who had found the Greatest Love. He spoke of the positive aspects of the life of a loved one; then with tears he told of how he had spoken to him in his final hours… “I said to him: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. If there is nothing else you do on this earth, do this… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

A silence reigned as tears trickled down my face and the priest looked on in bewilderment, not understanding this marvellous simplicity. The speaker left the platform, the murmuring congregation arose and the wide doors opened swiftly for us to leave. Just outside the door I looked with compassion at another group of mourners waiting for another rushed ceremony, for another body whose soul had already gone into eternity…