By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“‘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)
Excitement and anticipation abound as we start a new year. 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. However, 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. This shift in focus requires a deep well of faith.
Laura Story, a Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter and South Carolina native, shares how her perspective about prayer has been shaped as she has learned to truly trust God’s plan: “We pray for wisdom, your voice to hear; we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near. We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love; as if every promise from Your Word is not enough. All the while, You hear each desperate plea, and long that we’d have faith to believe.”
And so we move forward in faith, believing God’s promises of grace, hope, mercy and love.
Next month, delegates and church leaders from around the world will convene in St. Louis for the special called session of General Conference. Much has gone into the preparations for this global gathering, and significant work is before this body when they meet Feb. 23-26. As we begin this new year in prayer, let us remember those who serve in leadership throughout The United Methodist Church.
I invite you to join me in a season of focused prayer between now and the called General Conference. 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.
Together each day, let us join one another in prayer, believing that God hears every word:
- Monday: 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.
- Tuesday: 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.
- Wednesday: 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.
- Thursday: 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.
- Friday: God, we thank you for the gift of faith that carries us through those times where 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.
- Saturday: 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.
- Sunday: 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.
Friends, prayer is powerful. 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. Laura Story names this shift when she asks God, “What if the trials of this life are your blessings in disguise?”
My prayer for you is that this season of focused prayer will instill in your hearts a spirit of hope.