In my previous post, “Externally Focused Prayer,” I concluded by saying that I had no preconceived notions about where this new emphasis on interceding for our community would lead. Now, after praying in a focused way for the past few weeks, I want to share some of the ways God has already been working through the power of prayer – and it truly never ceases to amaze me!
The first week’s focus was on the FUMC Playschool. During staff worship, we prayed specfically for every teacher and assistant by name:
Almighty God, our Lord and Teacher, you have entrusted to care for, nurture, and teach your precious children. Grant her insight, patience, and love, that she may serve as an inspiration and example for all who are touched by the ministry of this playschool. Amen.
and this prayer for the entire school:
Lord, we pray for parents, teachers, and children of this Playschool ministry. Bless them and make your face shine upon them in their work, their play, and their shared learning. May your Spirit of joy, love, and peace be present each day and may you bless Faye in her leadership, that together we might glorify you and serve the children of this community. Amen.
Our Playschool Director was prompted by the Spirit to send the prayer to each staff person with their name inserted, telling them about what was done on their behalf. Though we did not expect anything in return, the “thank yous” and notes of appreciation began pouring in. One reaction was “Did you really pray for us by name? My name?”
Week two’s focus was on the ARMC’s Cancer Center. Volunteers and cancer survivors were blessed – one even faxed the entire list of staff and Medical Center workers to the church office so prayers could be more specific.
Week three was on all of Graham’s City and County Officials, including the Board of Education. One of those being prayed for expressed appreciation for both the prayer and the willingness to lift up the work of people not often recognized or appreciated.
And then there was our fourth week – South Graham Elementary School. I was unaware that several FUMC members on our Prayer and Praises email list were teachers or teaching assistants with the school. Those teachers, again prompted by the Holy Spirit, were led to forward our prayer email to all the staff and administration at the school. What was even more amazing were the responses. I have been getting emails all week from social workers, teachers, teaching assistants, and administrative staff. Here are just a few examples:
- “I want to thank you for praying for our school. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. The words within your prayer ring true for us and I too will pray that everything in the prayer will come true.”
- “Thank you for keeping South Graham Elementary in your thoughts and prayers this week.”
- “Thank you and First United Methodist Church for your prayers.What a great initiative and act of service. We need it!” 🙂
- “Dear Reverend, Thank you for keeping South Graham Elementary School in your prayers. We do appreciate it.”
- “THANK YOU so MUCH for your prayers for our school , our staff, and our students!!! It is SO NEEDED and SO APPRECIATED!!! What a BLESSING to know that our community cares!!! PLEASE keep the prayers coming! – Have a wonderful day!” 🙂
- “Oh, that’s awesome. We definitely have all the needs below, plus others. I appreciate you keeping us in mind. If anyone should want to volunteer for service projects or a mentor day, just let me or someone on the student services team know and we can set you up right away. Thank you!!”
- “I wanted to take a minute to send a big “Thank You” for thinking of our school and all of those inside of it. We truly appreciate you prayer over us!!”
- “Thank you so much for including South Graham in your weekly prayers! You have no idea how much our school needs this. I have worked at this school for the last 7 years and have a soft spot for this school in my heart since both my boys went there and that’s the only school I have worked at. I will pass this along to the staff and let them know that there are others out there thinking and praying for us.”
- “Thank you is so small compared to how appreciative I am for your prayers for SGE.”
- “Thank you for praying for our school! You will never know how much this means at this time!!!”
The prayer that was sent out along with the weekly prayer emphasis was taken from a book titled Celtic Blessings:
Lord, circle this school and keep good things within: eagerness to learn, flowering of talents, a sense of wonder, enjoyment of sport, experience of beauty, warmth of friendship, the art of listening, respect for all, service of others, teamwork between children and adults, care for the planet, reverence for life, fitness of body, mind, and spirit.
Lord, circle this school and keep these bad things without: low self-esteem, confusion, prejudice, pride, bullying, drugs, cheating, stealing, fear of appraisal, malicious gossip, absenteeism, “couldn’t care less” attitudes.
Lord, circle this school for you are the source of all that is good and true. Amen.
Receiving so many emails was truly a blessing to me, and I just had to share these as a way of encouraging us all to continue interceding for our community with a renewed fervor and resolve that is unwavering and uncompromising. There is power in prayer. There is also blessing – both for those praying and those being prayed for.
This week’s responses reminded me of the wonderful movie Pay it Forward. As one synopsis describes the story line:
“Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people.” (emphasis mine)
Well, I know of another thing that can change the world as well. Will you join me in “praying it forward?”
This is one thing that has impressed me about the Episcopal church– each week we pray for our political leaders by name and for various church ministers and ministries by name, often in rotation. At one time I would have thought this was mechanical but now I call it important.
In addition, my father, who is 88 and has difficulty hearing and getting around, told me about how when he could not hear the sermon it was his practice to pray for all those present by name. He has told me that he and my mother and now my stepmother have prayed for us by name every day for our whole lives.