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Prayer prompt July/August 2021

Courtesy Christian Churches Network of London (CCNL)

Usually in Ontario in the summertime, we all become a little more chill, laid-back & relaxed. We generally try to step away from the busyness of daily routines, get in some feel-good family or friends time, maybe read a good book or two, or even travel! But this year - hmmm - maybe, or maybe not quite yet? It doesn't appear that simple when for now, the mere thought of getting a haircut seems like an exciting adventure ahead!

The past seventeen+ months have felt unrelenting, like being on a roller-coaster that we can't seem to get off. People admit to being wearied physically, emotionally, and spiritually - even a little guarded of being "too hopeful". Our perceptions of normal have altered. We wonder what the trending phrase, 'the new normal', may look like. Our lives are still changing, and not just because of the pandemic's impacts. We had to come to grips with the fresh reality that we actually do not know what to expect next - and that we are not in control of each new day! The word "usually" has been replaced by "unprecedented", a more dignified way of saying "wow, didn't see that one coming!"

In fact, life has always been this uncertain. In James 4:15 (MSG) it says You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, 'If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that'. In the past months, we have been reminded constantly of the tentative nature of our plans and the fragility of life.

We all react differently to periods of change. Some may embrace, thrive and be energized by new opportunities. Some prefer measured change, with time to adjust and adapt. Some favour keeping things just as they used to be two years ago or even the years before that. God knows each so well and faithfully enters into present and future journeys of transformation in us, and with us, and through us.

In recent months, our personal awareness of others has hopefully significantly broadened with news of tragedies past and present, of heart-breaking hurts great and small, of suffering around the world, across our nation of Canada, in our own city of London, and maybe within our families. We lament that harm has been inflicted by fear, colonialism, injustice, disease, religion, power, addictions, racism, death, loss, anger, abuse...the list seems so very long and the impact very sad. We may feel somewhat helpless to know how to respond or even how to feel.

Thankfully, ever so thankfully, many of us have also been privileged to see God at work in history and in our own lives, even in difficult circumstances. We have witnessed goodness, compassion, perseverance, courage, kindness, generosity, creativity, resilience and so much more alive in people.

Let's pray together these things throughout these two summer months:

Almighty God, we begin by affirming out loud who you are. In uncertain times, and in good times, we need to pause and root ourselves deeply in your presence: your character, your grace, your holiness, your extravagant love, your power, your great faithfulness. We remember your constant desire to be in relationship with us. Thank you that you created us, you gave yourself for us, you listen to the cries of our hearts, spoken and unspoken. "How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings." Psalms 36:7 NLT

We pray for Christian leaders - pastors, boards, staff, leaders of ministries, business and community leaders. Leaders face many pressures moving forward in these disorienting, confusing times - it is definitely not one of the easier times to lead. Over the past months, the learning curve was steep. Leaders have navigated through virtual conferences, multiple webinars, podcasts and summits and way too many Zoom calls, while at the same time dealing with the stresses of ever-changing technology, constantly shifting expectations, and meeting diverse needs - teaching, nurturing and encouraging in new ways. As we begin to return to some regularity of in-person events, services and programs, all leaders are trying to plan tentatively for the future. They are seeking to create and maintain and build momentum. Summer is generally not the ideal time to do this! They desire to stay on mission or figure out what mission looks like now. To re-engage with past participants, build community, reach out to new people who are seeking answers to life's questions, or counseling, or assistance with needs. They have to juggle finances, volunteers, staffing, protocols and home/office work life. Many will seek to integrate both effective on-line presence and meaningful in-person contact. They also schedule the many missed weddings and funerals. May we encourage them, pray for them, be patient with them God in this " betwixt and between" season.

What most leaders seem to agree on these days is that the church may not be in the future as it has been. Leaders ask us to pray with and for them for imagination, inspiration and energy to discover what the church could and will become - with God's help. Exciting days ahead. Let's pray personally also for all our leaders.... for their character, energy, passion, faith, wisdom, integrity, both physical and mental health. May they have strong, supportive, accountable relationships in their marriages, friendships and in healthy community.

To quote Eugene Peterson in "As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God"..... “The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence—congruence between ends and means, congruence between what we do and the way we do it, congruence between what is written in Scripture and our living out what is written, congruence between preaching and living, congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation, the congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in our flesh.” Amen!

We will also welcome a number of new leaders in churches and ministries in coming months as much change is happening. Fresh ideas. New directions. Many transitions. May we be a welcoming, supportive community in London.

We pray for summer activities that are planned and unplanned....for kids day camps and activities, picnics, celebrations, and for gatherings outdoors safely whether in neighbourhoods, churches, families, or community - we ask that connections be rebuilt with one another. It may take a while for both children and adults to regain good social interaction skills again. Help us God to be attentive to our own possible reticence, but also respectful of the caution or anxiety of others.. if we are getting too close, or talking too much or not listening well, or are too self-focused.

Philippians 2:1-4 comes to mind: "If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

May our conversations be rich and full of stories of your goodness God, overflowing with encouragement, gratefulness and laughter. Give us listening ears and watchful eyes. Spur in us a renewed desire for spiritual growth, and for more of you, Jesus, in our lives, especially if we have grown careless or lethargic in our faith. As we enjoy summer days, may we also find greater delight in the beauty of your creation and breathe in your presence all around us - and then pause to give thanks and praise to you. Heal our tattered souls.

We pray for those who are vulnerable...God, let us not become so busy and eager to pursue our own pleasure and wants this summer that we are tempted to forget those in need still on our streets, still without housing, still looking for employment. Summer is not any easier than the winter months - when hot weather is unrelenting, when safe indoor gathering spaces are not open, when one does not have the luxury of air conditioning, or a fan, or even a bed, much less getting away to lakes or pools. Injustice does not take a vacation. We pray for ongoing movement on affordable housing initiatives, we pray for consistent connections with workers, meal programs, assistance with daily needs, supports friendship and provision of basics like food and water. May London become more and more a city who cares for all, not just in words, but in sustainable action and planning year round. May we discover significant ways to volunteer, to support, to make a difference to valuable members of our community. Give us eyes and hearts to see the needs. As David has written, “I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor.” (Psalm 140:12)

We pray for our fellow citizens of London...the last month revealed disturbing undercurrents of hate that shocked many of us. Four lives and futures lost suddenly one evening because of hate. So often in the aftermath, we heard these words spoken "But this is not who we are in London...we're better than this". It is sadly evidently part of who we are. It pervades our city in both obvious and hidden ways. But it is indeed not who we as Londoners want to be as a community! So how can we make a difference? As we pray together, let's really talk with God about these things:

a) First, help us God to acknowledge and address that hate, racism, prejudices exists - in our schools, in our workplaces, in our families, in all our churches....and in us. Muslim neighbours recount hateful comments made to them often, and the fears many encounter daily. Black neighbours speak of cautions they regularly take to be safer, of systemic racism or pre-judgements made about them, of hard conversations with especially with their sons about safety when out at night. Immigrants quietly share that they who do not feel accepted as Canadians who truly do and want to offer more to our community. Indigenous friends acknowledge that they bear the hurts of residential schools in their family histories, and that racial slurs and stereotypical expectations are still made to them. Women weary of sexist comments that they are expected to laugh off, or still face barriers of less opportunity or lower wages because of their gender. People living with physical, mental, or intellectual challenges share how they become accustomed to looks of disapproval, or even invisibility from many. We are undeniably a broken people in a broken world - all in need of healing.

b) Daily, may we examine our hearts honestly with you God and see what lurking hateful or discriminatory thoughts may exist in us. They often are embedded over time and we can so easily become numb or indifferent to the habits of prejudice, not just toward other races but towards those who are just different from us. What needs to change in us?

c) Guard our words, God - may your Spirit in us provoke and convict us deeply when we make a cutting remark or critical jab, retell a biased story, or even silently make a casual judgement that does not honor you in all of humanity. We are each your creation. Give us both a greater awareness and the courage to apologize when we use dismissive language, when we are insensitive, callous or hurtful. Make each word we speak a gift to those around us. May we also wisely address these hurtful words when we hear them spoken by others in our families, in our workplaces, with friends or with strangers. We need to stop the cycle and stand up and stand with.

d) Prod us God to desire to get to know and love others who are different from us. Those from different cultural backgrounds, differing faith or denominational backgrounds, different socio-economic and educational backgrounds, different ages, food and musical preferences, interests. One of the precious privileges of being Canadian is the rich tapestry of people that live here - a little taste of what your future Kingdom looks like. In London, we have the added benefit of wonderful urban and rural mixes. Help us break down barriers of misunderstanding. Teach us to be more curious and more open to understanding others.

Use these prayers of our hearts to shape us God this summer. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) says this: "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." The word masterpiece and/or workmanship comes from the Greek word "poema", where we get our word poem and artwork. Sometimes in the process of writing, painting or creating anything, there are many messy, seemingly hopeless moments that require more layers of paint or ruthless editing or some difficult chiseling away... and that is true in our own lives.

May God continue to create in each one of us a great work of art that so that we can joyfully and beautifully do the good things He has planned for us to do.

Summary for July and August 2021, please be praying for :

...the ability to be ready for and accepting of change in coming months

...greater awareness of who God is, who we are in relationship to Him and His constant presence with us.

...Christian leaders -pastors, boards, staff, leaders of ministries, business and community leaders.

...summertime connections, that they will be safe and meaningful and life-giving.

...those who are vulnerable and in need - keep us aware of these needs.

...the citizens of London - that God will bring healing to our souls and repair to our collective brokenness. participation in God's work as His masterpiece