By Lindsay Peyton
The Texas Annual Conference is encouraging members to bow their heads in the days ahead – and has created a prayer guide to lead the way on that journey. In addition, Bishop Scott J. Jones has prepared video on prayer online.
The bishop described the story of John Wesley coming to the U.S. in 1736, when a storm began churning around his boat. “He was afraid to die,” Jones said.
Wesley prayed with the English passengers. Later, he witnessed as German Moravians on the ship continued singing, even in the face of fear. After the storm, he asked why they did not seem afraid. They answered that their faith was absolute; they trusted God completely.
“God’s providence will carry us through difficulties,” Jones said. He explained that the UMC today is facing a storm as well and, like Wesley, we can find peace in faith.
“Be still. Be the calmest person in the boat knowing Christ is with us and the Holy Spirit will guide us,” he said. “I’m praying daily for every clergy and lay member of the Conference. We are heading into a difficult season, as the UMC and as the Texas Annual Conference, full of anxieties, concerns, hopes and fears.”
Prayer is the essential guiding light, Jones explained. “I believe in prayer,” he said. “I believe when I am praying that God listens. I also believe it’s important for me to listen. In prayer, God can speak to me.”
He encourages all members of the TAC to join him – and the video and prayer guide online are helpful resources. In addition, there will be an hour set aside during the Annual Conference, in the evening of Monday, May 30, for a time of prayer.
“It’s really about surrounding the Annual Conference with prayer before and during,” he said. “We need to remember that God is in charge – and we should be seeking God’s wisdom.”
The hour of prayer during the Conference will occur in the main room. Bishop Jones will open and close the session. “It really is a holy space to seek God’s guidance,” Bishop Jones said.
Rev. Kip Gilts, Assistant to the Bishop, developed the idea, including a playlist of soft instrumental music for the occasion. He believes that the importance of prayer cannot be overstated and pointed to Wesley’s writing, “The Lord’s Prayer is the most well-known prayer, certainly among Christians.”
“The 68 words in this prayer are often recited exactly as we learned them, but they also provide a model for us,” he added. “Prayer is personal.We pray to Our Father, that is both intimate and communal.”
The first two words of the prayer acknowledged siblings and embraced our heavenly parent. “Prayer is partnership,” Gilts said.
He added that by saying “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, “we are telling God that we are with Him on this journey. “Prayer is petition,” he said.
Gilts explained that we make requests through prayer. “We ask for bread for today (prayer is dynamic not static). This is a manna kind of prayer,” he said. “We are only looking for bread for today and that’s enough trusting that God will be there tomorrow.”
He continued, “We ask for forgiveness even as we commit to being partners of grace by forgiving others. We ask for protection from those things that would knock us off course or tempt us off course. Prayer has the power to reset our compass and restore our relationships. I cannot think of anything more needed for the church today than deep thoughtful real prayer.”
Bishop Jones recalled listening to his former assistant, Rev. B.T. Williamson, as he preached from a liturgy from a 1964 hymnal.
“He talked about how the church is of God and will endure until the end of time,” Jones said. “It spoke to me so strongly then, and I have been thinking of those words lately. The church really does belong to God – and God will use it to accomplish His purpose.”