This article was originally published in Edition (5) of Prayer Magazine,  Jan-Mar 2006.

One thing is necessary for making use of boats for prayer – water!   Jesus knew a lot about boats – he often travelled in them.   And in them He prayed.  

Christians in Egypt hired a boat and sailed down the Nile to pray.  Some years ago Christians from Papua New Guinea did the same and sailed around their island – a considerable distance, which took a few days to complete.   They did this in order to pray for their island and to surround it with prayer.   Some other South Sea islanders have done similar things for other islands.  

But we all don’t live on islands.   Some live near rivers or canals.   And waterways are very significant in the development of this nation.   Christians in London once or twice have hired a boat to cruise down the River Thames to pray for everything that they saw along the river.   At the same time others met in a city church to pray.   They were able to connect by phone and alert one another to the spiritual insights the Holy Spirit was giving.

This most famous of waterways has many landmarks along its length.   Some parts are tidal, others are connected by locks.   The ancient town of Henley hosts the annual regatta for the rowing fraternity.   Nearby Marlow has a famous sports academy for many sports and is used by international stars.   Further down stream the Thames passes Windsor Castle, Eton College, the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the docklands area of trade, the old Woolwich Arsenal, the millennium dome, the Greenwich college and meridian – to name but a few.   All of these provide ample cause for prayer.   These represent what we call the “pillars of society” – royalty, commerce and business, politics, education, the armed forces, and the like.

Historically our rivers have many stories to tell.   The Tower of London, for example, used to be a place of execution – even from the time of ancient Britons.   The heads of victims were thrown into the river, so it was believed, to appease the water spirits.   Deptford was the place from where the first slave trade ships sailed.   So history and modern life meet in this river.   All of this provides an agenda for prayer that few churches have contemplated.  

All our ports used to be gateways to the world.   Many of them were built up at the mouths of rivers.   Some became recognised as slave trade ports – London, Bristol, Liverpool, Workington, Glasgow to name a few.   Manchester and Liverpool’s ancient rivalry has its roots in the building of the Manchester Ship canal.  

So, what about some enterprising journeys of prayer along the rivers and canals of our nation?   Nearly all our major cities are built up along waterways.   What stories do they recall from the past that have present day significance requiring prayer?   Let’s pray for the rivers of God’s blessing to flow into these cities, and for the new life that this represents to spring forth in the lives of its people and the institutions bordering these rivers.

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