United in Prayer Cont.
Resources for Enriching Prayer Life
To find unity in prayer assumes that each of us has a regular and active prayer life personally and in our Christian worship and fellowship. Resources to enrich our prayer lives as Methodists and Christians are numerous. I use multiple guides, including the annual Prayer Calendar that Global Ministries produces with United Methodist Women, The Upper Room, and for daily scripture texts, inspiring meditation from the Moravian Daily Watchwords. The latter became a part of my spiritual devotions in my youth and has continued to sustain me over the years; significantly, John and Charles Wesley were uplifted by Moravian piety.
Carrying emergency shelter materials and food, Rohingya refugees cross a rickety foot bridge in the sprawling Kutupalong Refugee Camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled government-sanctioned violence in Myanmar for safety in this and other camps in Bangladesh. PHOTO: PAUL JEFFREY
For special observances, such as Advent and Lent, I look for resources that challenge my mind and my cultural presuppositions. One excellent Lenten prayer guide is 40 Days with the Holy Spirit (Paraclete Press, 2015) by Jack Levison, a professor at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. I also find deep meaning in South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s An African Prayer Book (Doubleday, 1995).
I am intrigued by a global prayer resource that only recently came to my attention. Operation World, which calls itself “the definitive prayer guide for every nation,” is from British evangelical sources and probably not totally compatible with our theological orientation. But I like the way is provides political, economic, and demographic information on the hundreds of nations and locales for which it proposes prayer.
Occasions for Pan-Christian Prayer
A sense of Christian unity in prayer can be deepened by observing annual ecumenical worship occasions, have global implications, and join Christians in common prayer. Three come immediately to mind:
• The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed the third week of January, is under the joint sponsorship of Roman Catholic and Protestant/Eastern Orthodox organizations—the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. The 2018 theme is from Exodus 15:6, “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power.” The devotional resources each year come from a particular area of the world, the Caribbean for 2018. The regional planning committee included Bishop Glenna Spencer of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas.
• World Day of Prayer, held annually on the first Friday of March, is an international ecumenical initiative by Christian laywomen under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action” celebrated in more than 170 countries. The 2018 theme is “All God’s Creation Is Very Good!” from Genesis chapter 1. This celebration also depends on resources from a designated location—next year, the country of Suriname on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. Suriname, a former Dutch colony, has a Caribbean culture.
• World Communion Sunday, observed on the first Sunday of October, does not focus on prayer as such but on the shared sacrament of Holy Communion, the liturgy built around historic eucharistic prayers. Begun in the United States in the 1930s, World Communion Sunday is now observed by many churches around the world and is an official “Special Sunday” of The United Methodist Church. Belief in and prayer for unity among disciples of Jesus Christ prevails in World Communion services—for the healing of all divisions. The opening litany for the 2017 service begins with the line: “Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation in the midst of our brokenness.”
Korean presentation for the opening plenary, World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea. PHOTO: PETER WILLIAMS/WCC
Our unity in prayer is symbolic of the unity we share as beloved daughters and sons of God, rescued from sin in the cross and resurrection and set on the right pathway in abundant life. Therefore, in Holy Communion, we pray:
To you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and
worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From “A Service of Word and Table I,” The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 6.)
Thomas G. Kemper serves the United Methodist Church as the General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Winter 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.