“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14-15
Another calendar turn has brought us to 2023! I am sure, like many, our hearts are filled with great hopes and expectations for the next 365 days. If you remember, in our concluding times of 2022, I shared that we, as a District, will “Pray Our Way In 2023!” So, what does that mean?
I know there are those who are fervent prayer warriors; for which I am a recipient of those prayers. However, I would offer that for many, we stumble on prayer, in times of deep tragedy and distress. I think about the most recent incident on Monday Night Football. When there were many unknowns of the player’s wellness, all players, no matter the jersey they wore, took a knee, and bowed in prayer. The commentators, while it is not politically correct to say, was inciting for prayers of this young man. Additionally, social media was an array of thoughts and prayers for this player and his family. While many are anticipating an update regarding this player, our prayers for his healing and wellness continue. Again, we know that prayer is a viable resource when we do not know what to do. However, so oftentimes prayer is our last resort and not our first response.
I would implore that during this year of 2023, we begin with God always and trust God through everything. This posture of prayer does not negate our responsibility of doing the work and putting feet to our prayers, it simply means before we “lean to our own understanding…”, we will emphatically humble ourselves, seeking the Wisdom of God and the direction from God’s Spirit. This will require that we can not attend to prayer with a made-up mind, but rather a heart open to say, “Lord, what would you have us do in this moment?”
On January 1, I invited you to join me and others across the district in the 28-day Prayer Experiment from the resource Dynamic Prayer (https://www.inviteresources.com/lp/dynamite-prayer/). It has been quite interesting to place a focus on prayer, and personally, it has shifted my thoughts about some things and has me reprioritizing other matters. Additionally, I have invited leaders across the district to join me in reading, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancy over the next few months (https://www.cokesbury.com/Prayer-5). Lastly, throughout the Season of Lent, we will have a weekly Wednesday at Noon (for only one hour) exploring The Lord’s Prayer, using some of Adam Hamilton’s resources (https://www.adamhamilton.com/books/the-lords-prayer) beginning March 1, 2023. To say we will Pray Our Way in 2023 is not just a tagline, it will be the way we will do ministry together throughout this new year.
Friends, what I know to be true, is that our landscape of ministry has and is ever-evolving. The way we knew how to do ministry is not the same as practicing ministry in our current context. We have many congregations with big dreams and dwindling budgets. We have congregations facing the realities of what was once a vibrant church, who may need to make a painful decision regarding its continued vitality. We have congregations who are exploring who they are and if the denomination of their history will be the home of their future. All these matters can be resolved in our human capacities, but does that result in Kin-dom purposes and outcomes? Therefore, we need to begin with prayer, lead in prayer, and respond with prayer; ALWAYS! So, what will be your prayer challenge for 2023? How will you join me and others in the commitment of prayer? Will you set a daily reminder to pray? Will you make a conscientious effort to pray for those on the prayer lists offered in worship? Will you join me in reading more about prayer and exploring the varying prayer practices? This is beyond an invitation, as it is imperative as we navigate the unknowns of this upcoming year, that it must be bathed in prayer.
As the pastor of my youth use to say regularly…”Church It is Praying Time”…will you join me?
In Service and Witness…