Much energy in our denomination has centered on the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. As we approach this significant moment in the history of the United Methodist Church, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston invites us to pray together in a particular way as we remain focused on our mission.
During 40 days of shared prayer – Monday, Jan. 14, through Friday, Feb. 22 – we will use the same words each day to pray for a future with hope and a unifying Way Forward for our church.
“To remain focused on following God’s plan for our lives – rather than simply our own plans – requires discipline, dedication and a commitment to prayer,” Bishop Holston said. “This shift in focus requires a deep well of faith.
“When we join together in prayer each day, we remember who we are and whose we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. Each day we have the opportunity to be for someone the Gospel that they may never otherwise hear.
“As United Methodist sisters and brothers, we will continue our kingdom work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, sustained by hope and our faith in God’s promises.”
Bishop Holston’s plea is inspired by the letter the prophet Jeremiah wrote to those in exile in Babylon:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
“We move forward in faith – believing God’s promises of grace, hope, mercy and love – amid the excitement and anticipation of starting a new year,” Bishop Holston says, “Goals are set and plans are made for what is yet to come. And in the midst of all that we plan, God is at work among us in marvelous and magnificent ways.
“I invite you to join me in a season of focused prayer between now and the called General Conference. Together each day, let us join one another in prayer, believing that God hears every word.”
Gracious and loving God, we give thanks for your presence in our lives and the promise that you have plans for us to prosper and not be harmed. Continue your good work in our families and our lives. Help us to understand how we can make a difference – in our church, in our community, and in our world – as your instrument of hope. Amen.
Merciful God, help us to see the many opportunities before us to serve you by serving our neighbors. Open our hearts and our hands to both receive your grace and to offer it to everyone we meet. Amen.
Almighty God, we confess to you that we have not loved you with our whole hearts. We have often failed to be an obedient church when we have not heard the cry of the needy. Free us for joyful obedience that, where there are corridors of shame, despair and want, we might create corridors of faith, hope and love that glorify you. Amen.
Gracious God, I know that you are the potter and I am the clay. Mold me and make me into a disciple of Jesus Christ. Show me how to offer your grace and mercy in ways that transform the world. Amen.
Lord, we know that when we make space in our hearts for you, Jesus redeems the broken pieces of our lives. We ask, O God, that you will be at work in us and through us to make a difference in the lives of the hurting and the hungry in our midst. Amen.
God, we thank you for the gift of faith that carries us through those times when we cannot yet see what you are doing in our midst. Help us to walk in your light and to be a light for others. Amen.
God of Heaven and Earth, as your humble servants, we know that the needs around the world and around the corner are great. Open our eyes so that we can see how to use the gifts you have given us to serve our neighbors and be in mission in the community and beyond. And give us the strength and perseverance to get started in this holy work. Amen.
“Friends, prayer is powerful,” Bishop Holston says. “When our hearts and minds are engaged in a prayerful focus, we begin to see situations from the perspective of hope.
“There is not magic that erases our trials or suffering, but in the midst of it all, a life of prayer shifts our perspective from a spirit of despair toward a spirit of hope. We truly trust in God’s promises.
“My prayer for you is that this season of focused prayer will instill in your hearts a spirit of hope.”