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Sweet hour of prayer

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.”—2 Corinthians 6:3-4 (MSG)

The old saying goes that if you see a turtle on a fence post, it obviously did not get up there on its own. And so it goes for each of us. We are not meant to do life on our own. We need each other to lean on for encouragement, motivation, and inspiration to continue the work God has planned for us.

As we begin this season of Lent, reflecting on the struggles endured by Christ as he was tempted in the wilderness, we are reminded of our own difficulties and struggles.

Over the course of our lives, we experience moments of praise and seasons of disappointment; times of fame, yet plenty of invisibility. In this season of ongoing pandemic, civil unrest, and divisiveness, challenges are not difficult to see.

And yet, regardless of the circumstances that surround us, we are representatives of Jesus Christ here on earth. Through his letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul reminds us that God is with us through every step and every misstep, too. The world is watching, looking for glimpses of our witness to the love, grace and mercy available through God, during award acceptance speeches and also in morning commuter traffic. No matter what is going on around us, we’ve got to let God’s love shine through us.

I invite you to take time for self-examination and reflection. Lent is a time for us to focus on our relationship with God and to take stock of our own spiritual condition. Take the time during this 40-day journey to the cross to dig into who you are and whose you are so that you can live on purpose for the sake of Christ in this world.

Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world requires of us to first be transformed by God’s love ourselves. No matter what is going on around us, we’ve got to show up for God to work within us. Allowing yourself to be changed from the inside out in response to God’s gift is the ultimate sacrifice.

Remain focused on following God’s plan for your life rather than simply following your own plans. This requires discipline, dedication and a commitment to prayer. God promises to direct our steps, not to provide us a detailed map in advance. And no matter what is going on around us, we move forward in faith, finding strength and refuge in God’s grace, hope, mercy and love.

Friends, prayer is powerful. When our hearts and minds are engaged and focused, prayer is powerful. We begin to see situations from the perspective of hope rather than defeat. In the midst of it all, our perspective shifts from a spirit of despair toward a spirit of hope. While we breathe God’s promises, we find hope and relief.

When we trust in God’s promises, we finally find that relief of which the hymn sings. “In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief, and oft escaped the tempter’s snare, by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!”

May these 40 days be our testimony to a sweet hour of prayer.

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