My illness added to a deep sense of inadequacy. However, I was going to discover how genuine inadequacy opens the door to God working in ways that I had never experienced before. It's true that in our weakness he can work his strength. Because when we really are at a loss we are more likely to pray as people who really need God's help! And may need to pray like the man in Jesus' parable (Luke 11: 5-13) who was so desperate that he kept on asking, seeking and knocking until he got his answer. Such persistent nagging prayer, commended by Jesus, becomes the dominant practice when you genuinely do not know what to do in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
(Incidentally, the obverse is sadly true. That when we imagine we know what to do and are confident we can manage to work things out then prayer becomes irrelevant. We may top and tail meetings with devotional words but it's pious window-dressing. We already know we can make it work without God's help!)
My father had been influenced by Hugh Redwood (a Bristol journalist) who believed that prayer needed to be taken so seriously that a record was required of the agenda of serious issues with an account of responses that God would give. And so, in total inadequacy the church began a decade of 'agenda praying', modeled by Luke 11: 5-13. Instead of bread we prayed about which four or five issues we would persist in prayer about. And, yes, we kept a record book. This battered hard-backed book remains my most precious possession from my Cambridge God Adventure. (Eventually it will go into the church archives). It traces corporate agenda praying from 1980 to 1989. It is extraordinarily specific and traces every significant step we took....because we did not know what God wanted us to do.
The first five issues included: a new church organist, the upcoming baptismal service, the Cambridge Christian Festival with David Watson, Martin Staple a missionary in Zaire. And item 3 read: The Church Conference on Saturday 26th April that the whole church may see clearly what God wants us to do next. And the book shows we expected answers! We needed specific answers!
(I realize that the idea of 'agenda praying' deserves more attention than I am giving, but in this rapid-fire set of reflections it stands out as the critical centre-ground to everything that happened next).