When Michael Faraday, the great scientist, lay dying, a friend asked him, “What are your speculations?” Gently Faraday replied: “Speculations? I have none. I rest my soul on certainties”. Goethe, the great German playwright, once said: “Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own”. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God which points us to the Rock on which we can build our faith. It is a book full of great affirmations. It is this conviction which led me to write a series of studies under the title of Affirmations of the Bible. First published by the Bible Reading Fellowship in 1980, I radically revised the studies for use this autumn by fellowship groups connected with Chelmsford Cathedral.
The sixteen-page booklet contains studies on six great affirmations of the Bible:
- I am who I am (Exodus 3.1-15)
- Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6.1-8)
- I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14.1-7)
- Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2.5-11)
- God is love (1 John 4.7-16)
- See I am making all things new (Revelation 21.1-8)
Because these studies take place within the context of ‘fellowship’ groups, each session starts with a time of ‘shared reflection’, and then an opportunity for prayer for one another. The fact is that in our journey of faith we need the help and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ – so I am encouraging each group to be open with one another. Each session begins with different questions to encourage sharing:
- How has God blessed you in the week that is past? How has he challenged you?
- In what ways did you meet with God last Sunday? Or was worship more a duty than a joy?
- What opportunities have you had in the past week to talk to others about your faith? What challenges have you encountered
- What has been the best thing that has happened to you in the past week? What has been the worst thing?
- What opportunities this week have you had to ‘do good’ to others? Or how would you have liked to have done good?
- Where have you seen God at work this week? Where did you want to see God at work?
Various styles of prayer are suggested. For instance, after encouraging the groups to pray for one another and for others, I have written for each week a prayer for ‘illumination’ based on a different Scripture. At the end of each study there is a different prayer each week to be said together – and ideally to be learnt and used later for private devotion:
- “Eternal God, the light of the minds that know you, and the joy of the wills that serve you; grant us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, who to serve is perfect freedom, In Jesus Christ our Lord” (St Augustine).
- “Lord, you are the love of my life, the light of my way, the peace of my mind, the power for my task, the Presence. Help me, Strong One, to be a strength to the weak; help me, Caring One, to be a support to the sad. Help me, Saving One, to be a helper of the lost. Help me, Present One, to be a comfort to the lonely; Help me, Holy One to worship you now and forever” (David Adam)
- “Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for all the benefits you have won for us, for all the pains and insults you have borne for us. Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day” (Richard of Chichester)
- “Lord increase my zest for living, my vision of glory, my hearing of your call, my grasp on reality, my response to your love, my sensitivity to others, my gentleness to creation, my taste for wonder, my love for you” (David Adam)
- “O God of love, we ask you to give us love; love in our thinking, love in our speaking, love in our doing, and love in the hidden places of our souls; love of those with whom we find it hard to bear, and love of those who find it hard to bear with us; love of those with whom we work, and love of those with whom we take our ease; that so at length we may be worthy to dwell with you, who are eternal love” (William Temple).
- “O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (John Henry Newman).
Have I whetted your appetite to get a copy Affirmations of the Bible? Unfortunately the studies have been privately printed for the use of members of Chelmsford Cathedral. However, an electronic copy is available on my website – readers of this blog are welcome to download it and use the studies in their own churches.