Maybe all you imagine is the honking of horns, and bumper to bumper traffic. Maybe you picture the buildings, suburban neighbourhoods, and the roads to travel on.
But what if it was more than that?
Let’s flip this over to the Church for a moment. What is the ‘church’?
If you’ve been in Christian circles for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve heard that the “church isn’t the building, but the people”.
What if we took the same concept with the city - the city isn’t the infrastructure, but the people.
Think of your family that has made countless memories at the park. Think of your co-workers who you enjoy lunch with every day. Think of the teachers who spend countless hours influencing the kid's lives. Think of the friends you made during post-secondary education. Think of the little restaurant down the street where the owner calls you by your first name. Think of the city councillors who commit their energy to make the city a safe, and enjoyable place to live life. Think of the people you pass on the street every day who you haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet.
When we think of the people, the city feels much for active and alive than just concrete and stone. We, the people, make the city what it is, and have the choice to see it as a beautiful place or criticize it at every corner.
London is home to over 400,000 people. That’s a lot of laughter; a lot of pain; a lot of opinions; a lot of life stories - including our own.
If we make London what it is, we each bring our story to the table - and our stories can make a beautiful work of art, or a perfect storm. It all depends on our attitude and perception of ‘city’.
On May 16, 2019, 800+ life stories were present at London’s Convention Centre. Each voice was committed to making the definition of ‘city’ for London, Ontario a masterpiece! Each heart was linked in prayer to bring, not the infrastructure, but the people of London to God.
Prior to the day, I had the privilege of journeying around the city to film many individuals, asking them to pray for a certain area of our city, for example, health care workers, educators, business leaders, and the marginalized, just to name a few. Their prayers beautifully brought Londoners into their own personal prayers, as well as giving us insight as to the specific ways in which we can be praying for people involved in that area. What was not necessarily heard on camera were their stories, their passions, and for some of them, tears of desperation for the people they know in our city.
These videoed prayers were heard weeks before and during The Day of Prayer Breakfast to bring others into the story. The breakfast was a moment of gathering in unity as the local church; a moment to not be silent, but join hands with the same vision - to be inspired to engage in prayer for our city.
In the planning meetings for the event, Eric Stolte, the chair of the committee, would consistently start off our time together with a devotional. It was a reminder of why we pray, and how powerful it is to lift all things up to God. We could have easily jumped right in to the nitty gritty details, but he was intentional with carving out time for us to pray. He inspired us to engage in prayer for our city, not just plan an event.
Joan Hutchinson, another committee member, put out weekly prayer emails to many churches and individuals so that they could be praying for the day. So really, it wasn’t just one day of praying - nor should it be.
I will be the first to admit that knowing how to pray for our city feels vast and mountainous. There are too many needs, too many moments of praise, and too many stories to consider. There are many corners of the city I have never visited, so how would I know how to pray? Yet maybe prayer isn’t limited to our own understanding.
With a big enough imagination, we can join God in prayer. He knows. He sees. He’s working diligently to bring glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. We can partner with Him in a variety of ways, prayer being one of them.
As the Church gathered on May 16th, we weren’t together to simply be present in each other’s lives - we’re partnering together as we each partner with God.
Our hope is that you have also been inspired to engage in prayer and partnership for the city we call home.