Pray For London
"we invite you to set aside one day a month to pray specifically for the city of London, on your own, with your family, together with a small group, in your church or at your workplace. There is a new topic every month. These prayer prompts have been an experiment for CCNL this year and we are so very grateful for your responses.
Below are monthly prompts for you to use to pray for the City of London. Need more? Visit 24-7 prayer for more prayer ideas. If you would like these prompts delivered to your inbox, please email us, If you would like these prompts delivered to your inbox, please email us at email@example.com
CCNL prayer prompt April 2021
....around the table
Reading in Luke 24, on the first Easter Sunday, there is an encounter that draws us in between two disciples and the risen Jesus. The two were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about the distance from London to Ilderton. They were perplexed, hopes dashed, deep in conversation about everything that had happened. In the middle of this, Jesus came up and started to walk with them. They didn't recognize him and we don't know why not. We might naturally think it might have been easier for Jesus to say "Hey guys, it's me Jesus, I'm alive!". But they had witnessed his painful death on the cross, and had just heard that the women had discovered an empty tomb that morning. Instead, Jesus asked what they were talking about so passionately. They just stood there, saddened, like they had lost their best friend.... because they had. Along the way, they shared their grief, their anger, their confusion, and their questions as he listened to it all. When they finished, Jesus then began a rather surprising response by saying “You are so thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he continued with the Books of Moses, then through all the Prophets, pointing out everything that referred to him - basically a mini Old Testament survey course! Arriving at the edge of town, Jesus appeared to be planning to walk on farther. But they urged him to stay, have supper with them as it was late in the day. He accepted their invitation. Then, a quite remarkable thing happened. As they sat down to share a meal at the table with him, he took the bread, blessed it and gave it to them. At that moment, suddenly they recognized him. Then he disappeared. Amazed, they quickly returned to Jerusalem to tell the others.
Recently, as we recalled the Easter story once again, we considered the impact of Jesus' death and resurrection on us, and maybe wondered how we would have felt if we had been there. Imagine if you were the "fly on the wall" in this encounter on the road to Emmaus with Jesus. What would you be talking about as you were walking? Would you be full of anger, questions, crushed hopes? Would you recognize Jesus? And do you think you would be willing to invite this person who you still view as a stranger, to eat a meal with you? It is only one very small part of this whole glorious story, a small tasty tidbit in the "feast of resurrection hope', but one that we invite all of you to ponder more this month in prayer together.
The blessing of hospitality - the sharing of both presence and food - not only a blessing to others, but also to ourselves. It has been lost in the chaos and social distancing of this past year where we could not safely invite others in or even meet them outside easily - even though some found quite unique, creative ways to share with others. Of the many things we miss during this pandemic, it is the opportunity to be together around the table - the deep desire to meet "face to face" without a screen, and maybe even someday, without a mask. Our need for "social bubbles" have turned us more inward. Few have made new friends this past year, and our interchanges with acquaintances, workmates, and strangers have been limited. Did you notice how the disciples' natural offer of a shared meal around the table with a stranger led to their eyes and hearts being opened to greater understanding of the need for Jesus' sacrifice and to deeper conversations of God's purposes. So glad they asked - it would have been easy to let the stranger go on his way! Many of us speak of missed family celebrations or parties with friends, church potlucks or coffee dates. Biblical hospitality goes deeper than only entertaining. It can lead to connections, relationships, shared experiences, and greater understanding of "the other" and of God. Luke's gospel is particularly packed with accounts of Jesus either going to a meal...coming from a meal...or sharing in a meal... with all kinds of people. That should compel us to devote some spiritual attention to this topic and explore the many facets in prayer before our God. May our hearts and minds be opened more to the challenges and opportunities in being "around the table" - simply a shared act of welcome that opens the door to invite our God to enter in.
We pray these things in the weeks and months ahead:
O God, many of us yearn to be back to the table with those closest to us. We have missed those precious moments. To share stories face to face, to laugh and pray and tease each other once again. Maybe time to grieve any shared losses this past year or begin to mend old wounds together. There may be brokenness that needs healing. Let us welcome one another as you welcome us to your table, God. The poignant words of Josh Garrell's worship song rings in our ears: "Come on home, home to me, And I will hold you in my arms and joyful be...there will always, always be a place for you at my table. Return to me." In the same way that you welcome us to your arms, may that "welcome home" be accomplished by your grace, especially within our families.
But there is so much more beyond our immediate families God - as we expand our contacts and open our lives up more and more, help us to learn from Jesus' example. May we understand better the power of good questions. Jesus was an excellent example of this. Even in the Emmaus road story, he started with a question "What are you talking about?" May we likewise be increasingly curious about one another. And then God, please give us the grace to actually listen intently and thoughtfully to the answers. Oh, the temptation to interrupt, correct, insert our own interpretation or story is probably difficult for some of us. We will all have to learn our social interaction skills again. Teach us God to be both courageous and wise, gentle and bold when we enter into difficult conversations, led by your Spirit. Like the ones Jesus had with a teacher of the law, or with the Samaritan woman, or with his disciples in a fishing boat. While silly chatter and the back-and-forth banter of good friends can be such fun (and we all feel like we may need a bit of that right now) make us sensitive to your leading that we may choose to go deeper, ask the probing questions, and allow holy space for you to enter into the words spoken. May we offer not just tasty physical food to others, but also rich spiritual nourishment for the soul as well.
God, help us to become better hosts. To freely invite others into connections, conversation, and even relationship. It is no surprise that one of the last acts of Jesus before the crucifixion was sharing a last supper with the disciples. Keep our pride from fussing, impressing or performing, but rather keep our focus on serving simply. May we even consider what so many did for Jesus - to co-host people with friends who may need physical spaces to invite others into. Open our minds, our homes, our hearts to provide safe welcoming environments outside, inside, along the road. And may we always be cognizant that we are indeed co-hosting with you God, present in our midst.
God we ask that you help us to also become really good guests like Jesus was. He got invited to weddings, dinner parties, neighbourhood BBQ's or their equivalent in those days. Scripture tells us that you Jesus were criticized often for hanging out with unsavory people - the “unclean” and "sinners". You embraced brokenness. Oh God, may we likewise become known for that. Teach us to graciously and joyfully accept invitations into unfamiliar situations or uncomfortable company...to be willing to enter others' surroundings, instead of always asking that they come into our settings. Sometimes, we quietly express that it just feels easier to be with people more like us. Others often comment that we, their Christian friends, neighbours, or co-workers only invite them to something at a church - our comfortable space, maybe often not theirs. In Luke 5: 26-30, it says "After this, he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did—walked away from everything and went with him. Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner." We know that Jesus also went as gladly to dear friends' houses like Mary and Martha's as he went to antagonistic Pharisees' houses on many occasions. He graciously, lovingly invited all people into greater relationship and connection with him.
Right now God, one of the subtle challenges we face in 2021 is a pervasive hesitancy or caution about large crowds. The mere thought of attending something like "the feeding of the 5,000" event in Luke sounds to many like a 'super spreader' moment! Mental health professionals tell us that this caution of "people filled" spaces will possibly linger for awhile, for pretty logical reasons. For some, the thought of returning to church, or going on buses, trains or planes, or visiting someone else's home could be anxiety producing. Spirit of God within us, please inspire us with such sensitive hearts to not only recognize this, but also seek safe, creative ways to engage with a variety of people that respects these concerns.
God, you encourage us to gladly extend our hospitality to those in need. In Matthew's gospel, it says that whenever we offer cup of cold a water in Jesus' name it is as if we have offered it to you Jesus. What a challenging thought! Luke 14:12-14 Jesus also said this; "Then he turned to the host. ‘The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.’” In love, let us engage in seeking ways to do this, not just in theory or theology, but in practical ways.
God in all this talk of hospitality, we need to pray for those who work in the hospitality industry.... the restaurants, diners, coffee shops - the owners, the wait staff, cooks, cleaners, suppliers. They often provide the neutral spaces and great food where we connect with others. Many are struggling to survive right now - hit hard by COVID restrictions - unsure of the future. May we be generous in support, kindness and patience with them as they face uncertain futures.
Finally God, extend the reach of our attitudes and conversations in hospitality beyond just those with who we immediately connect, as we never know who is watching or listening. Help us understand that In our homes, our children learn precious life lessons by what they may see and learn of your Kingdom in the ministry of hospitality, by who they see welcomed around our tables. And we do not know who is overhearing the conversations of some Swiss Chalet Sunday lunch meals! May we represent your Kingdom well when we are talking around a table, sharing a coffee in a Tim Horton's or Starbucks, or in a staff break room, recognizing that it may also be noticed by those watching and listening at the next table, or by waiters or waitresses. There is an interesting reminder of this in a classic painting of "Road to Emmaus" by Diego Velázquez, a 17th century artist, Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus, Christ and the two disciples are at a table talking in the background. The focus is on a young Moorish girl, a servant, standing at the kitchen table. She is tentatively holding a pitcher, but her attention appears to be on what is going on the next room. She seems to be listening carefully, head titled, maybe aware that something extraordinary was happening. What did she hear as they sat down at the table together? Had she heard of this Jesus who was crucified? Think of that this image as we engage with others, that you God are alive and at work in all those around us, in ways we may not see or yet comprehend. Please use the impact of our hospitality, our words, your love alive in us to draw people to know you.
We look forward to the days ahead around the table with you God...building uncommon community in your Kingdom both now and in your Kingdom to come.
April 2021 Summary: This month please be praying for…
- our personal growth in knowing Christ as we spend time in the Scriptures (Luke 24: 13-35).
- meaningful in-person family time that builds intimacy, strengthens communication and heals any wounds.
- the grace to be people who are marked by hospitality by hosting others.
- the ability to listen well, either as hosts or guests, showing genuine interest in others and the desire to make connections with others that aren’t necessarily like us by expressing Christ’s love.
- understanding others who may be cautious or hesitant to enter public spaces or large groups of people.
- our growth in connecting through our acts of hospitality, generosity and solidarity with those who have been marginalized, are in need, left homeless or impoverished.
- those especially in the hospitality industry, both the people and the businesses who have been hit so hard by the pandemic.
- the grace to, in every action and conversation, express the love and character of Christ to everyone, including those who may simply observe or overhear us.
CCNL Prayer March 2021
for those growing older
First of all, our deep thanks to each of you for taking the time in prayer together monthly with us. Oswald Chambers said: "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work." Hebrews 4:16 tells us: "Come boldly to the throne of grace." How very encouraging to hear of many in our city responding to and sharing these promptings to pray - to confess, to praise, to ponder the needs of others, and to be open to the Spirit spurring us into action. One of our core values as the CCNL network, is to be "a spark of the Spirit", a catalyst for all those who follow Jesus in London and area, through the work of leaders in churches, ministries, community and business.
Our March focus is on the older generations in London. Much light has been shed on our seniors during this pandemic. Daily, our hearts have been broken by the vulnerabilities COVID has revealed particularly in long-term care, and saddened by the tragic losses of many lives particularly in this demographic. We know that not all older people are alike. Just like toddlers, millennials, or baby-boomers are not all similar, seniors come from a variety of backgrounds, skills, experiences, physical capacities, support networks, faith journeys, health situations, or living arrangements. Recent demographic projections indicate that the median age in London is 38-39 years old. The percentage of London's population 65+ is just over 17% of the population. Let's dig deeper into the needs of that older age bracket and boldly bring these valued neighbours and loved ones to our gracious God. As you pray, we encourage you to picture in your mind seniors you know in your family, your neighbourhood, your church - or maybe picture yourself!
God, this month we come to you for these things:
... we thank You God for every single day of life You give us - a gift. In spite of aging bodies, may each of us desire "to flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age, we will still produce fruit; we will remain vital and green" Psalm 92:14. We ask for this quality of life in order to offer purposeful good to those around us, to seek richness of relationship with You and with others, and to find joy in the dailies, no matter how long we live, as long as we can, wherever and whenever we can. For those who are thriving in their advancing years, bless them with continued vitality and dogged determination. Thank you, God for their giving spirits, their laughter and great stories, and their faithful service to others. What great role models for us all.
We also acknowledge God, that we may not automatically grow wiser or more gracious just because we age. Guard our tongues from being overly critical, and our hearts from being too self-focused. Sweet old ladies don't just happen evidently! Dwight L. Moody once said “Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.” (N.B. except of course, but by the gracious work of God - permit using editorial privilege to state that there can always be amazing exceptions - like having a grandfather-in-law who submitted his life to Jesus when he was nearly 60, whose life was positively, suddenly transformed!!)
Whatever age you or I are right now, remind us that as we pray for those older, that we too need to work daily at becoming who You created us to be throughout our whole life - spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually.
... we pray for hearts full of gratitude for our aged. Help us God to remember the generations before us - for their desire to maybe make the world a better place for the future - veterans who have served our country; immigrant families who left their homes for hope of safety, opportunity, a better life; for those who stayed behind and sent us off into the world; for visionaries who made bold, risky decisions that we take for granted; for parents, laborers, leaders, farmers, teachers.... Thank You for all their hard work, for their determination to survive in hard times and in good times, for their sacrifices made for us, for the countless hours of volunteering still. Help us to honor their lives with much dignity and deeply value what they offered to our community and our personal lives. Especially as vaccinations roll out, may we advocate well on behalf of all seniors to ensure that they receive their vaccines as soon as possible.
...we pray for the most vulnerable in our senior population as aging takes a toll on both body and spirit. God, we pray for those in long-term care, we pray for much protection, loving care, safe practices, and diligent attention given. May families and/or designated caregivers find ways to communicate and connect with their loved ones even in the challenges of lockdowns. May each individual be respectfully cared for. We pray for their healthcare-givers - give them strength, attentiveness, patience, compassion, protection, skill, and courage enough for each day. We know it is not an easy job - they are weary. May there be sufficient staff to do the hard work required. May careful policies, practices, finances and accountabilities be put in place with the same passion and commitment that we equally desire for our children. Our seniors deserve this.
...remind us, God, that not all seniors are in long-term care residences. Some are living in residential homes, as they choose to no longer live alone for a variety of reasons and are cared for as needed. A number are also living at home still, requiring help with meals, daily living, or health care, dependent on this critical assistance, who are either being cared for by family, or by support workers who come in, or a network of friends or neighbours. We also pray for those who are caregivers of elderly relatives, for that selfless commitment and constant responsibility, that is often not seen or acknowledged. And we pray for those seniors who are truly alone at home, some living quite independently. Others who are isolated at home may not have a strong support network or may themselves be caring for a spouse or friend who needs them. Give us eyes to see these needs and respond, God. Teach us about sacrifice.
...we pray for the profound loneliness that the elderly often express. Many of their friends have passed away. Families may not be nearby, and/or have busy lives. Mobility sometimes prevents participation in former activities. And right now, they cannot socialize in person with others or attend programs. COVID-19 has made that loneliness much, much worse. Use every thoughtful gesture, phone call, note, visit - virtual or in-person to make a difference. Help them continue to learn new technology as they seek to connect and fill in long days, difficult in winter months at the best of times. The poignant images of "window visits" over the last year linger in our memories. Recently, the touching news story of children from Huron Heights community in northeast London making valentine cards for their "love thy senior neighbour" project inspire us also to do the very simple things a caring community can do. Provoke us to generously give back to them gifts of our time and patience. We pray on their behalf that each will sense and know Your presence God, as near as Your breath.....and that will bring much comfort in the isolation. Let them not become discouraged, even if their outer bodies may be failing them, please renew their inward spirits daily.
...for those 240,000 people in Ontario currently suffering with Alzheimer's or have a loved one experiencing this disease in various stages, we pray for them God. This form of dementia is a disease that eventually affects all aspects of a person’s life – how they think, feel and act. Each person is affected differently. While it's difficult to predict symptoms, the order in which they will appear, or the speed of their progression, it does not get better. God, it must feel so overwhelming, frightening, and frustrating, both for the person and for those around them. We pray for those affected - for generous patience, for comfort, for good care. Many express how helpless they feel facing this disease that steals the person they once knew. This thought provoking quote from a person in the beginning stage of this disease reminds us of an important spiritual aspect "Do you know what my worst fear is? That I am going to forget Jesus. I have finally realized that I may not remember Him, but He will always remember me." Thank You God that you do not forget us, that there is nowhere where can go where we are not precious in Your sight, even if we may forget our experience of You.
... We pray for our federal government as they consider finalizing the new C7 Bill on Medical Assistance in Dying, known as MAID. God, we know you value all people regardless of a person’s ability or disability, be they young or elderly. We pray for doctors providing care to the dying and the severely ill: that they promote treatments which respect human dignity and are an expression of hope and love. We pray for those who perceive assisted euthanasia as an act of compassion, allowing them to see Your value of all lives from our very beginnings to our last breaths, even in difficult circumstances. Father, help our elected leaders and generous donors to invest in effective, supportive and robust palliative care rather than seeing such people as a burden to us personally or as a society, even in their suffering. Give us greater understanding of your mercy and grace to pursue the sacredness of life for all people. And Lord, we ask that you hold our hands tightly when we run the last leg of life's race on earth.
...for the spiritual lives of our seniors, we pray. For those have been faithful followers of Jesus, as they age, may they remain diligent to learning, loving, and serving You even in these difficult days, as "Your steadfast love is new every morning". For those who have grown lukewarm about a relationship with You, who take Your love for granted, or have forgotten their 'first love', light a fresh fire in them - give them the faithfulness of Simeon or of Anna in Luke 2 - devoted to waiting for the Messiah in their older years. And for those seniors who have seen You as a cold and distant God for years, or who have decided that a relationship with God, if You even exist, is not for them... may something spark a conversation, a curiosity, a search for eternal answers to life's hard questions. There is still time - thank You that You wait patiently on us all to come to You with loving arms wide open.
...we also pray that those who are older will share freely their faith journeys with those younger or all those around them - in order to inspire and convict: “Since my youth you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” – Psalm 71:17-18. May those who are older seek to model hope and faith, to be wise in our words and actions, following the example Paul shared about Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: "your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you!" What an amazing privilege seniors have to build into lives of others.
Life is not easy for any of us right now, God. None of us expected that this is what life would look like - for this long - almost everywhere in the world - but especially for the older generation. Some of us have been busy stressing on how to "age successfully" in the second half of our lives that does not look at all how we imagined. Some of us are frequently busy juggling, raising, or supporting often multiple generations of families, working from home, and/or concerned for job security. Some may be struggling to complete their education or looking for employment. In the midst of this chaos that can easily drive us inward and self-focused, we ask God that we would turn towards you and that You will not let us become selfish or entitled. We are indeed in this together. For each generation, we claim this truth:
"So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 The Message
March 2021 Summary:
1) Thankfulness for each day of life we have and pray that we may flourish spiritually as we grow older “Even in old age, we will still produce fruit; we will remain vital and green.” Psalm 92:14
2) Pray for God’s continuing grace in forming us into the image of Christ in our senior years (Col. 3:12-14)
3) Pray for ways to express our gratitude for those who have preceded us.
4) Pray for protection for those living and working in long-term care who are among the most vulnerable and for the speedy delivery of vaccines
5) Pray for those caring for aged relatives in their homes – for loving patience and resilience.
6) Pray for those seniors who are living by themselves and/or may be caring for an aging or infirm partner – for the grace of fortitude and courage.
7) Pray for those who are experiencing profound loneliness – for people who will take initiative to connect and encourage.
8) Pray for the seniors struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their families – for loving-kindness and persevering patience.
9) Pray for decision making at gov't levels regarding MAID legislation - may the sacredness of life be honored.
10) Pray for those seniors who are struggling in their faith or who have yet to embrace faith in Christ – that someone would express the love of Christ and His Good News.
11) Pray for seniors to fulfill their role as elders and sages by investing in those who are younger and can benefit from their lived experience.
CCNL Prayer Prompt
What we say matters ...
Human beings alone of all God's creations have been given this unique ability to communicate with one another in words - millions of words, in various languages, in thought, spoken and written words. It is a precious gift - a treasure to be used well. The power of words is enormous - to strengthen or to hurt, to lift up or to put down, to foster peace or to sow discord.
The bible has much to say about our use of words.
Maybe we have these "pandemic windows of opportunity" to think more intentionally about our words because of our heightened awareness about brevity of life, or because of increased availability of free time. Maybe it's because we are living in constant closer proximity with others, maybe it's because of reduced social contacts, maybe it's because of recent examples of so many misused words on social media or in political dialogues.... or maybe it is because each word spoken feels like they need to be cherished and examined more than ever.
Let's pause to think together more about words we might need to hear ourselves, as well as those we may need to utilize more often. This month, Scripture will shape our prayers as we invite the Spirit within to assist us "choose our words". What a difference we could make in London all because of Jesus powerfully at work in our selection of words!
God, may we share these words generously this month:
I'm proud of you... You're doing a great job...
Proverbs 16:24 says "Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."
God, each day, help us to bless someone - or bless lots of people - with sweet, healthy words, spoken or written. Let us not be empty flatterers or posers, but rather be sincere, thoughtful lovers of others - strangers, family, friends, and even those we are not so fond of! Use our words to bring healing & reconciliation, energy & joy, hope & healing.
I was wrong...
Proverbs 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight "
God, we confess that the words of our mouths are not always acceptable in your sight, not even in our own sight if we are brutally honest. The thought of you examining our heart thoughts is more than a little scary some days. Help us to see and hear when we sound overly critical and harsh; when we are tearing down and diminishing others in the guise of 'helpful criticism'; when we sound sarcastic, or just plain mean, especially when we're feeling exhausted, helpless or defensive. Give us grace to admit when we do this - because we will. Thank you that, just as you offer us grace, we can offer grace to others when they speak hard words to us or when they are mistaken. Together, we need to try to pursue right...and somehow figure out the difference between if it is truly about right and wrong...or if it is just about dissenting opinions or personal preferences. That's a big challenge for many of us - we need to keep talking. Maybe our words weren't wrong, but our tone of voice, our motivation, or our focus were. Examine this with us God regularly.
*I'm listening ... tell me more...
Psalm 55:1-2 "Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles"
God, you gently listen to us as we pour out our hearts to you. Almost every one of the 150 Psalms identify you God as the listener to the writers' good times and bad times, their hopes and fears, their praises and criticisms. Help us to assume a similar posture of listening, to be curious about other people's thinking, slower to interrupt, tune out, roll our eyes, talk over, or offer quick fixes. We, as a society, are seeking to invite people to a much greater "let's talk" mindset, especially in order to better understand growing mental health concerns. May we foster better communication by learning to listen like you to others.
*I love you ... I really love you....
Romans 8:39 "I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us."
You God go out of your way to repeatedly tell us you love us deeply. Not because we deserve it, nor because we earned it, but because it is your character to love extravagantly. We as your followers need to copy your model - to love the lovable, which is fairly easy; to love the unlovable, which is much much harder; to love those who love us; and to love those who really don't even like us and/or we do not like. Help us to recognize how, when and to who we need to verbalize words of tenderness, acceptance and love in healthy, life-giving, appropriate ways. Love always must be sincere.
*Can I help? ....how can I best walk with you?...
James 2 says "Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless...”
Help us God to ask, observe, and ponder how we can practically be of real help, to offer not just advice or pious words, but concrete, timely assistance in wise, respectful ways that reflect you. So often, it is in those small private acts of sheer kindness, and sometimes, it requires us to stand with others in larger, more public ways - to use our words, our resources, and our influence well.
*I don't agree with you...I see it differently....
James 1:19 "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."
Realistically God, almost daily we will disagree with someone in big or small things. We are each have differing ideas, approaches, and timelines. Help us to discern when it is important to address these differences - and when it is not. May we not avoid the learning that can take place when divergent opinions are expressed - with ears to listen and respectfully consider others' words. Sometimes, we need to express our ideas out loud to hear ourselves. These crucial conversations can help us on the way to better decisions and understanding without letting anger take charge.
*I'm sorry... forgive me...
James 3:5-6 "In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire..."
Unresolved angry words can linger in relationships for years. Provoke us God to seek resolution more often...as much as it depends on us. If we need to ask forgiveness, help us to do so sincerely and quickly before bitterness and hurt can take root, not just because we are Canadian! It is hard to take words back. Help us even more to think about future words that are already on the tips of our tongue that have the potential to start a 'forest on fire'. Remind us of those stark visual images from B.C., California and Australia aflame this year of how little sparks do much damage. If we stop to think first, maybe we won't have to say "I'm sorry" as often!
*I want to tell you the truth...
Matthew 5:37 says: "In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." Proverbs 12:19 also says: "Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."
It is important God that we are consistent truth tellers - so tempting to add our 'interpretation' or 'spin' on truth. Maybe because we don't want to bear the possible consequences of truth, or we just want to look better. Young children don't have to be taught to lie - it seems part of our common sinful nature. As adults, we learn to pick and choose what we say for generally good reasons hopefully. But God, we live in a culture that condones "little white lies" with a smirk and they can still do great damage. We ask you to make us more aware of our own manipulation of truth - both intentionally and unintentionally.
*Let me tell you about my Jesus... this is what I believe about God...
Romans 10:14 "...And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 1 Peter 3:15-16 says "And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way."
God, may all of us listen to your Spirit prompting us to talk openly with others about why and what we believe, in joyful ways they can understand. Give us sensitive hearts, as well as the kind of relationships that foster these wonderful conversations. We confess that many of us easily slip into using our "churched" language to people who do not know of you. Such a sacred privilege to speak clearly of your love for us and for our love for you.
Amen....and amen - let us go use these powerful words well.
AND A SPECIAL EXTRA FEBRUARY REQUEST: We want to share the following on behalf of many pastors and leaders of ministries. This quote below was an intro to a Leadership Network blog a few weeks ago that seemed to capture well the challenges of this unprecedented (oh that word again) season of life."For most pastors and leaders, there has never been a year filled with more turmoil, tension, criticism, and anxiety than 2020. Our congregations were divided by politics, masks, in-person gatherings, and the appropriate reactions to racism in our country. Pastors struggled with preaching through cameras to invisible congregations while making impossible decisions, where any choice would disrupt half the church. 2020 was filled with leadership anxiety, and many of us were never fully equipped to manage it well."
Would you take a few extra minutes to pray specifically for leaders in London and area that you may know? Use your words to pray for them by name....and if you feel so led, maybe even take another few minutes to use your words to let them know you are standing with them and for them.
And as added trial feature, we've had a couple of requests to provide a brief summary of the monthly prayer prompt. So, here's our first attempt to do so:
What we say matters, so please pray for yourself and for all those who represent Jesus:
1) To have words of blessing for people (Proverbs 16:24).
2) To discern any critical spirit in my words (Proverbs 19:14).
3) For patience and interest to listen well (Psalms 55:1-2).
4) To verbalize words of love for others (Romans 8:39).
5) To go beyond words to true helpfulness and solidarity (James 2:15-17).
6) For the ability to disagree respectfully (James 1:19).
7) For a humble spirit, seeking and granting forgiveness where necessary (James 3:5-6).
8) For the ability to speak truth in love (Matthew 5:37; Proverbs 12:19).
9) To verbalize our hope in Christ in sensitive and welcoming ways (Romans 10:14; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
10) For our church Pastors and Ministry Leaders: resilience, grace, fortitude and courage to lead well in these challenging times.
CCNL Prayer Prompt
January 2021...... dream again
At times, we may speak of those who are "dreamers" as not being very practical or wise. A friend's Irish mother used to say somewhat disparagingly: "Aye, he's such a dreamer that he thinks all his geese are swans!" Yet we NEED to dream - God created us with such amazing creative minds and spirits to discover new ways to resolve small and big challenges, to see potential beyond what is to what could be in people, and to tackle even the most daunting of problems with courage and passion. Let's be grateful for dreamers.
This January, the scope of our dreams sometimes seem more limited to daily things that we easily took for granted last January. We dream of once again having meals or celebrations with family and friends - birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and even funerals. We dream of times ahead when we may not need to wear masks or stay two meters apart. We dream of warmly welcoming strangers, worshipping together singing at the top of our lungs, and greeting one another with hugs and handshakes. We dream of visiting without fear, our elderly parents, or newborn babies, or those in hospital. We dream of simply talking face to face and not on a screen, laughing and crying together! But not quite yet.
Inspiration to pray sometimes can quite frankly come from some pretty odd sources as the Spirit of God catches our attention! Recently on TV and radio, Lotto Max has been airing frequent ads that urge the listener to wonder what would they could do if they won $40,000,000. The sales hook is always to get people to "dream bigger" than just paying off debts, buying a new car, or getting a bigger house. And dreaming bigger evidently inspires many people to action - 57% of Ontario adults on average annually buy Lotto Max tickets according to the OLG website! Hearing a recent sermon about John the Baptist's birth, that thought of "dreaming bigger" was repeated in a much more powerful way. John was born to be a dreamer of big dreams, whose purpose in life was to "prepare the way of the Lord". He was to announce this Jesus, this "made flesh" part of the Godhead, incarnate, who was to usher in a new Kingdom here on earth. His father, Zechariah, shared these prophetic words in Luke 1, just after John was born “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Jesus' kingdom dream is an upside-down kingdom where the last shall be first; love not power will control the narrative; and all things are in process of being made right. Big dreams.
What if we - you and I - began to dream bigger about the Kingdom of God being at hand in 2021 - what would that dream possibly look like?
God, even though we may feel a little wearied and battered in this last year by so much loss, fear, conflict, and much change, we pray these Kingdom dreams for this coming year:
... For each of us personally, we dream God, that you will help us remember so many of the daily lessons we have been learning in the midst of this difficult year - adversity can be a diligent teacher. The value of family, the patience to wait, the joy of reading, the discovery of creativity, the gifts of friendships, the simple pleasures of walks and being outdoors, the practice of gratitude, the blessing of neighbours, the adventures in cooking, the respect and concern for others, the simpler life, our desperate need of you ...this list could be long. May we find ways to integrate these valuable lessons into how we live out this coming year and not waste them.
... For those living in poverty, we dream all may have sufficient daily food to eat; access to safer affordable places to live; greater community to care and support them; and opportunity for jobs to provide sustainable income. May ongoing local actions continue in the right direction in 2021. We pray for the City of London Homeless Prevention Team, together with the Covid WISH coalition, Ark Aid, Sanctuary London, Mission Services, Salvation Army and many others committed to looking for longer term solutions, seeking new ways of addressing these complex societal issues beyond temporary shelter. We are grateful for all in our community who offer financial and volunteer support in big and small ways to begin to accomplish this dream.
...For those living on First Nations reserves, we dream that they have equal access to education and quality healthcare; that continued reconciliation and healing from past abuses and present challenges will take place; that those without clean drinking water will finally get it; that past promises will be kept and trust will grow.
...For the many frontline and essential workers in healthcare and out in our community, we dream that great mental, physical, spiritual and emotional healing will take place in their lives where needed. They have sacrificed and risked so much in past months to care for others, God and continue to do so. Pour out your blessings on each of them to restore their spirits.
...For people of colour from all races, we dream that all will feel welcomed in London - that there will be greater effort to reduce both obvious and hidden racism in government systems, in business, in our churches and in our schools. We dream that there will be an end to racial slurs in our language, or subtle profiling in our thinking; that you will reveal to us any prejudices we may hold, and we will seek to treat each person as equally created and loved by you.
...For those who are addicted to drugs, we dream God that this year, the devastating, growing opioid crisis will be recognized and confronted here in London and around the country; that the thousands of needless deaths will stop; that dealers and suppliers will be found out and held accountable; that the underlying causes for addictions will begin to treated to help break the power of destruction in precious lives. May this break our hearts as it does yours.
...For those families and relationships strained to the breaking point from the stresses of this past year, we dream that families will find renewed determination to come together and seek wise counsel to help resolve conflict; that parents will find supports they need to care well for their children; that physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women, men and /or children will be revealed and necessary steps taken to stop it.
... for leaders in our city, our province, our country. They too are weary. We pray that they would seek to be ethical and trustworthy - in government, in business, in churches. Oh God, every leader is human still and will make mistakes. Most seek to make best decisions with the information and resources available at the time. Some right, some wrong. Others give in to selfish voices within them. Help us to offer grace, encouragement, prayer and healthy accountability generously to all leaders. It is not easy.
...for children growing up in this unsettled period of history, we bring them to you. Teach them God of compassionate respect for others, develop deep resiliency in them in the midst of uncertainty, and grow in them a longing for spiritual answers to life's difficult questions. May we as the adults in their lives, in various roles and relationships, model such trust in you, such integrity, such hope, that they desire to know you. Help us to demonstrate daily what it looks like to not be afraid, "to be strong and very courageous".
...for all of us as people of faith, we dream as "the church, the visible body of Christ", that we would put aside our differences, and we would love one another deeply with sincere hearts. The isolation of the pandemic has challenged us to think about who we really are as "the church". As your people, we should be a reflection of your reputation God - may we bear witness well of who you are. It must sadden you, as it does us, when according to recent studies, that the culture around us reports that when they think of Christians, the words "judgemental", "hypocritical", "self-righteous" or just "anti-everything" are the first that come to mind. You said that we should be known by our love for one another.
How winsome and awesome would that be! Shane Claiborne shared in a recent December Veritas forum at Kings College this compelling thought, that "the Gospel spreads not by force, but by fascinating people with how we love one another."
Let's fascinate London with that love of Christ in us!
This new year, let's consider this prayer together, attributed to Sir Francis Drake:
"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity. And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. Amen"
CCNL December Prayer Prompt 2020
Maybe you wonder why we call these prayer prompts. "Prompt" as a verb means "to trigger, stimulate , provoke or encourage" - a way of promoting conversations with God about relevant topics and needs in our city of London, collectively as His dearly loved children - the church. May His spirit in you use these to prompt you to pray!
As we begin this Advent season, we look ahead with all the hope that our annual celebration of Christmas brings, particularly this year which is unlike any other. Hope is not just a childhood wish for a specific toy or the hope that the Christmas lights will soon come on in Victoria Park. Spiritual hope is much deeper than that - it's about expectation and longing, anticipation and confident desire, a likelihood of happening or a source of rescue or relief, and a trust that good will actually win out. Job 11:18 (NLT) says "Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety."
Recently, in our daily lives here in London, and all around the world, we have witnessed an increase of anxiety and hopelessness as the second wave of COVID has hit hard. The recent outbreak at University Hospital is such a cause for prayer. But also in the last few weeks, there are growing glimmers of hope about potential effective vaccines coming soon. A recent CBC report called it a "growing cautious, conservative optimism", "a light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems like a very long dark tunnel still until we get there". Then there was this thought-provoking statement "A vaccine is only good if people accept it." While masking, maintaining social distancing, washing our hands, and diligent care of our health is so vitally necessary and good, it ultimately will not fully protect us.
What a powerful reminder of our spiritual lives! Centuries ago, the bible tells us that Israel experienced this despair - a very long dark tunnel of exile, of distance from God, of a dimming yearning for a messiah, or any hope of a saviour to come and rescue them. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming King who would bring reconciliation to this amazing Creator God, who loved them so much He desired to enter their world and become human, be broken for them, who would become the ultimate sacrifice for us all. Yet we all still need to accept that gift. Just like it will not be good enough to only talk about, or even annually celebrate the discovery of a vaccine - we will need to get it! And the same is true of our need for Jesus.
Admittedly quite mysterious, miraculous, and supernatural! God tells us "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. And God kept his promise and did just that - as the angel said to the shepherds about Jesus' birth in the book of Luke “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
This Christmas - may we pray for that hope to flourish in our hearts and pour out into our families, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, our city, our country and all around the world.
God, we pray for your hope to invade the lives of those who are suffering and oh so vulnerable this Christmas. We pray for housing for those in London who are living on the street, under bridges, in tent cities, couch surfing. We ask you God for protection for them from predators and dealers who would bring harm to them. We pray for those volunteers, care-workers and agencies who are giving practical, critical help, checking in on their safety and physical and mental wellbeing, offering protection. Provoke us to find ways to participate in being bringers of daily hope - through the financial support of organizations and/or thru volunteering, through giving of essential needs, through government influence, though diligent prayer. This year, while many of us may be missing going out to Christmas dinners or parties, remind us that can still give generously to protect others and pour out your love.
We pray for those who have lost loved ones this past year - there have been too many around the world. Grief can make us feel hopeless, alone, overwhelmed and isolated, especially in this unusual Christmas season. While we have prayed this every month recently, it seems more profound at Christmas as past memories flood in. Remind us, God, to think of those who have suffered loss this year and reach out with a listening ear, a phone call or video chat, a note (remember those!) or email, a token of caring left at a door or provision of a meal made with love.
Jesus, work in and through the lives of healthcare workers. They are pretty weary emotionally and physically. It seems that hospitals are moving towards capacity again. Difficult days and months ahead will take a toll on people and systems. Give them refreshment and deep rest when needed, optimistic hope when the impossible seems looming, understanding when encouragement is just empty. Long term care homes too will be remarkably different this year too. Oh God, we pray for your hope and your presence to somehow protect and support our older citizens. Remind them of truths about you that they may have learned in past years. Let them not give up - they are so important and valued.
God, many of us will celebrate alone this Christmas. It can be painful not to hug family members or reminisce with loved friends. It is often difficult to communicate well from afar. Bridge the gaps, God - sometimes they are gaping holes that are sometimes there because of broken relationships. Soften our hearts towards one another. Our natural tendency is to think about ourselves and what we are missing. Give us new vision to see those around us and notice their needs. A small gesture can mean so much. Inspire us God with your creativity to respond - we experience you in us when we do that! Give us attentive ears to hear subtle nuances of voices as we speak with others - so that we can respond with much needed words of love and care. Give us patience we pray, with not only our owned unfulfilled expectations, but also when dealing with the disappointment of others' expectations.
Many of us as people of faith admit freely to being part of entitled generations who have grown accustomed to the many glorious trappings of Canadian cultural Christmas celebrations - choirs and special music, potlucks and parties, children's pageants and gift exchanges, decorating and cookies- so many cookies! Take us back to the manger we pray. May we too kneel humbly before you, simply awed at the miracle of your love for us and worship you with open hearts. And then may we also go out like those crazy shepherds who responded outwardly and like Mary who responded inwardly: " So they (the shepherds) hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
May we too ponder the great gift of Jesus in our hearts and for our world this Christmas, and then go out praising you, sharing and spreading your good news of hope!
Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice on the earth
AMEN and Merry Christmas from CCNL .
PRAY LONDON November 2020
"Light in the darkness"
November is here, along with ever growing concerns of potentially darker times in the days and months ahead as colder weather moves us back indoors. We will continue to do battle with the ongoing COVID crisis. Pressure, unrest and division seem to be growing in our world, and we all experience more uncertainty. It feels especially unsettling or discordant with our 'normal' November habits, when we usually anticipate our traditions of family, church and community preparations for the coming Christmas season. This year, we simply do not know what to expect.
Now, isn't that a happy way to start a prayer conversation!
But wait, here is the better news. Matthew 5, the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, can reposition our thinking with these wonderful words of Jesus.
Pause and try to imagine Jesus, right here in London Ontario with us, speaking these blessings on you and me every day this month. It could be at a quiet place, like Springbank Park, or perhaps along the many Thames River trails, or in one of our beautiful conservation areas. Arriving, Jesus sits down and begins to pour out these words of hope, approval, and divine help over us - US!, as his friends, his followers, even total strangers - men, women, children. Blessed doesn't mean mere "happy- sappy" emotions or temporary fixes. It means being truly deeply satisfied in a trust relationship with our Creator. He speaks these blessings on us.... and we have the great privilege of then offering them back to Him as prayers of blessings on our families, fellow citizens, friends and neighbours.
Here is what he says to you and me (from The Message version of the bible):
"You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule."
As we pray back to you, Jesus, we boldly ask you to also bless those around us this month who are very lost, who are alone and feel like they have no hope left, and for whom despair is settling in. Remind each of these precious ones that you see them, love them, know their pain, and that you desire to fill them up with your peace. May we be compelled to find ways to demonstrate to those hurting that kind of love and peace so there is more of you.
" You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."
Jesus, many around us also have loved ones who have passed away over the last days and months - parents, grandparents, spouses, friends - and it has been even more difficult to grieve their loss without much opportunity to connect in community for funerals and collective comfort. Some too have lost close relationships in many other ways - marriages broken up, children disconnected, cherished friendships gone. Some have lost jobs, or future opportunities, or dashed dreams. For all of these who mourn, God, please embrace them in your loving arms and give them great comfort in their souls. Help us to be agents of that comfort.
" You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought."
Contentment seems really scarce these days. A number of us need your help to just get through each day right now - financially, emotionally, physically and/or socially - and the prospect for contentment seems a long way off. We should be humbled frequently by what we place our hope in, as the instability of our world grows. Help all of us not to place our own, or others' self worth or identity in the amount of possessions, titles, or successes we have, but in you alone O God. Sometimes, it seems you are all we have left. We pray especially for those without jobs, financial support, secure housing or supportive community right now - those who are struggling to just survive. Bless them enormously for yours is an upside down Kingdom where the least shall be first. May these inequalities begin to made right in this Kingdom, in this city now.
" You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat."
Honestly, God, the temptation is great to satisfy ourselves on spiritual junk food like Netflix or video games or social media, forgetting the good habits of prayer and gratitude, or neglecting filling our souls with your words or treasuring the beauty of your creation. May we all hunger for more of you each day and seek more justice in our world, especially more justice, more righteousness here in London.
" You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for"
Jesus, help us also take the initiative and effort to care for others more deeply. Pick up a phone. Send a text or a card. Make cookies or muffins as snacks for those on the street. Bless the Food banks with donations so they can in turn bless those who need food. Listen to lonely people. Attend online charitable fundraisers in the city, learn more and give to their causes where we can - they need our help desperately in times like these to care for the most vulnerable. Mercy is needed to be spread all around!.
" You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world."
As we look ahead to Christmas, we pray you will remind us, Jesus, that you came into our world in human form in a very unsettled time of Roman occupation in history. Your life was threatened. Your own family fled in exile. Even as you were cared for by others Jesus while in exile, remind us to care well for those who have fled here to London in troubled times. Give us much wisdom to look not only at own experiences - our inside world, but also to learn from history, and look around our present global world to gain greater understanding of what can and should shape our hearts and minds, our expectations and our dailies. May we seek to be more pure in heart.
"You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family."
God, help us to remember the deep responsibility to model you wherever we are. Our kids, our neighbours, our workmates watch us and listen to us. We desire to represent your great name as Christ-followers - your patience, your gentleness, your truth-telling, your forgiveness, your compassion, your grace, your kindness, and your justice. You call us to be peacemakers - may we rise that challenge in our daily lives.
"You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom."
This is indeed a tough one. Sometimes God, people do not like what we say. Sometimes, to be honest, it may be because of how we say it! Conflict can happen when there are differing opinions and opposing world views. Give us deep discernment to know how and when to speak - and to remember that as John 3:17 says 'you so loved us that you came into our world, not to condemn, hurt, or point an accusing finger at us, but to help put the world right again, to heal, to save and protect us, to reconcile us to you'. May we reflect your Kingdom's values with integrity, courage and grace in this unprecedented time.
Thank you, God, for blessing us with your words. And we pray that you will make us a blessing to others in this city. Just a few verses later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said this:
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
An apt conclusion to this prayer prompt for each of us as His church in London this November. Better than any one that we could ever write! By opening up to others, may we be light in the darkness who will indeed prompt people to open up conversations with you God. Let's shine in the darkness ever so brightly with the Spirit of the living God alive in us, regardless of the circumstances around us. AMEN
The inner question that lurks around the edges of our dailies
In 2020, all of us have asked many "How long?" questions. How long will this new wave of the pandemic last? How long will everything seem so tentative or uncertain? How long will politics in the world seem so utterly divisive? How long until greater justice prevails for all people? And on a more personal basis - how long until we can greet each other with a handshake, a hug, or meet safely face to face? How long until I see my relatives again? How long will these often overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, loss, and grief last? There are hundreds and hundreds more "how longs?" Some are simple daily frustrations, some are extraordinarily complex realities, many are both.
Let's bring those hard questions to God together in prayer this month for our citizens of London.
Canadian singer and songwriter Steve Bell beautifully captures this question in his song "How Long" - listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN314Bm2mHc. It is inspired by this poignant lament in Psalms 13. "O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me." Many of the Psalmists asked "How Long?" questions. It is comforting to know that this is not just a 2020 question, but one through all the ages and cultures.
Think for a moment about how many times in the Bible that this question must have been asked. Noah and family could have said it often on an ark with all of those animals and an uncertain future. The Israelites asked it often wandering in the desert for forty years. Job had great reasons to question how long his sufferings would last. Jonah must have cried it out while in the belly of a large fish for three days, because even five minutes there would have seemed like too long!
Jesus himself - fully human, fully God - wondered how long it would take for people to recognize who He was and what He was doing. He knew the agony of waiting, especially in the week before his crucifixion. And his followers must have asked "How long?" in the difficult days following the crucifixion, resurrection and transfiguration. We still ask you God, how long until your Kingdom comes in all its fullness?
Pause for a moment and think about how many times in your life that you have asked "How long, God"? Right now, it feels like being on a train that we cannot get off, that we did not buy a ticket for, we do not know where we are going or how long the journey will be. We confess honestly....most of us are not patient people. Forgive us God.
So we bring to you, Father God, all these cries of our hearts, our "how longs..." Lord, hear our prayers.
We pray for those who have already experienced COVID19 in London and have thankfully recovered, especially those who may be dealing with lingering symptoms. Be present with them. We pray for those who have sadly lost family members to this virus, who may not have had opportunity to grieve that loss well with loved ones. Comfort them daily. We continue to pray for all our healthcare workers who now face the potential of a second wave and wonder how long they can sustain caring, energy and focus in the days ahead. Continue to protect them God and give them peace. We pray for our young people who are recognizing that they too are vulnerable - give them extra wisdom and compassionate hearts beyond their years for those around them. Teach them of community responsibility - it is not easy. And we pray for many, many people who have other pressing health issues besides this virus. We do not forget them. May they also receive the important care and advice they need in timely ways - for appointments, medications, healing, support, surgeries and tests. Give us grateful hearts for our healthcare system.
We pray for our political leaders - civic, provincial, and federal. We know that present, urgent decisions will impact future plans and hopes - there will be many difficult consequences ahead requiring much financial and social wisdom. We do not know how long these difficult days will last. We pray for much needed collaboration, communication, and respect. We especially pray Lord for our American neighbours in the month ahead leading up to their election. Like any neighbour, their choices and challenges will not only impact them but also impact us in Canada and here in London. We need to love them too as we love ourselves. How long can their tensions and conflicts of the last days, months, and years continue? Remind us to pray for them earnestly, just as we pray for our own leaders.
We pray for local pastors and ministry leaders as they continue to figure out weekly what ministry looks like right now. It is not easy, with no 'one size fits all' answers. At a recent CCNL online event with over ninety local Christian leaders, we addressed what it means to lead in times of crisis. How long can they keep going in these new realities? How can all of us as followers of Jesus encourage and support one another? What creative new opportunities can spring up? How will this change the church in the future and how will it affect the culture? How may the gospel move forward? May we be faithful to our calling.
We continue to pray for those who are most vulnerable in our city. All of them have many daily 'How long' questions? "When will I have an affordable place to call home? How long until I can get help with deepening addictions or food security? Can I even get a job or keep a job? Where do I belong? Who cares what happens to me?" If many of us have nagging questions, their concerns are amplified many times over - without good supports or family connections, safe housing, mental health or physical health capacity, or any form of financial security. We thank you God for those who help in London - individuals, ministries, city officials, agencies, churches - all seeking to become more proactive in addressing these mounting needs in challenging times. Bless them, strengthen them as they serve. May we work together well to make a difference in precious lives.
We pray also God for justice. How long, O Lord must we, like the widow in Luke 18 “cry to You day and night” for justice to be seen? Help us and our church and civic leaders to discern how to bring an end to the systemic racism experienced in our city and society. Give us ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us as a Christian community through our brothers and sisters of colour. Help us to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer oppression so that we, both individually and as a church community can “do justice” as we also love kindness and walk humbly with You (Micah 6:8). May we share Jesus’ heart and mission who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor".
We pray for the many workplaces in London - for business owners, employers, and employees. All are anxious about how long they can keep going without customers while seeking to respect necessary restrictions. There are many hard choices ahead about sustainability and recovery in order to provide jobs, benefits, training, rent payments, and opportunities. We pray too for all the educational institutions. All of us wonder how long they will be able to safely stay open. Give leaders in these places such nimbleness and responsiveness to know how to engage in these very difficult decisions that may change daily or weekly. We pray for many who are underemployed or jobless right now. May they get financial supports and opportunities to find work.
We pray for so many who are anxious, discouraged, depressed, or overwhelmed. Sit with us God in these times. Give all of us much more patience, sensitivity and grace with one other - in our relationships, in our workplaces, out in our community. We acknowledge Lord, that at times, we are all probably a little snappier, a little tenser, and short of forgiveness. We need you to calm our Spirits, to enter into our conversations, to inhabit our reactions as we engage in these daily new realities. We ask that the evidence of your Spirit in us grow: kindness, gentleness, self -control. We pray for hope to win out in our lives. These verses in Romans 5 seem awfully challenging right now "We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Some of us might confess that we honestly don't want to "exult" or "rejoice" in these current challenges. But we will choose to turn our faces towards you God, and pray that you give us sufficient courage to submit to seeking patience and greater perseverance in these tribulations or trouble. Sometimes, we again confess that we just want it to stop! God, keep on teaching us about resiliency, and keep on building into our character. Keep us from petty whining and complaining, attacking and arguing, and undermining your good work in us.
As we do all this, please God give us not only an upward view, but also a constant outward view. Now more than ever, we need to care for those around us. Bless this community of London with extraordinary compassion, generosity, thoughtfulness, and gratitude through you, made alive and present in us. Galatians 5 says this: "Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time, we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith".
AMEN - so be it here in London Ontario, in our churches, in our marriages, in our families, and in our neighbourhoods. In our workplaces, in our schools, in our friendships and in our quiet moments. With thankful hearts, we trust in you for the journey.
PRAY LONDON "a parent's heart..." September 2020
As Londoners, "back in the good old days", September was all about the anticipation of going back to school; the influx of thousands of Western and Fanshawe students into our city; the normalcy of re-entering busy schedules & routines after summer vacations; the hectic calendar planning of church events, programs, and groups kicking into high gear; the savouring of sweet sounds, smells and tastes of annual local events like the Western or Ilderton Fair.... back in the good old days, just last year!
This year, we don't know what September will bring. That can be a pretty unsettling space. More questions without answers as we move into more uncharted territory. Politics, culture, social unrest beyond COVID seem to grow even more chaotic.
If that feels somewhat disturbing to you, we invite you to pause quietly and imagine with God, in prayer and in praise, your own personal list of what you do know, maybe some simple or profound ideas like these: "We do know apples will still ripen; leaves will beautifully turn colour; days will grow pleasantly cooler; the laughter of children will be sweet music; there are many exciting things yet to learn; resiliency, determination and hope continue to surround and surprise us; old friendships thrive and maybe new ones begin....and God still loves us as much as He ever has, and as much as He ever will, because His love and faithfulness is abundant, free and never ever changes." Give God thanks for the things on your list.
Usually in September, it seems logical to pray for children (for sure, we should be praying for them) or for teachers (again, be praying for them too). But our September 2020 focus of prayer is on parents.
All of us have or have had parents. A number of us are parents, parents of newborns, toddlers, school age-children, adolescents, young adults, middle aged 'children' and even senior 60 year old + children (will we ever stop calling our children "the kids"?). Many of us also parent, or were parented by individuals of all ages, with much love, care, support, nurturing & concern offered, not always because of kinship, but willingly and gladly by choice. Parenting, "existing in family" (both in masculine and feminine words in scripture) is indeed such an honorable and valued relationship that it is the primary image that God uses to expresses His character, His relationship to us and the nature of the Trinity. He is the father in the story of the prodigal son, welcoming back his lost child. God creates us in his own image, gives life to us, sustains and nurtures us, knows our comings and goings, sits with us in sorrow and delights with us in joy, and invites us to move in and live together with forever - like a parent would.
We pray to you God, our heavenly parent. Your tenderness, your mercy, your forgiving spirit - constant in our lives. Thank you for who and what you are. We turn to you with our daily concerns. We run into your arms for comfort when we are hurting or grieving. We talk to you with words of gratitude when joy bubbles over in our lives. We seek your wisdom, insights, and understanding when the world does not make sense to us, in small things or in big things. And we confess that sadly at times, we ignore or forget you completely - some days, some weeks, maybe for months, or even years on end. When some parents maybe comment to their children, "You never call, you never write", you too must feel like that God - patiently longing to be connected with us. As a perfect parent, you still have imperfect wayward children to whom you gave a free will. May each of us turn towards you, to your welcoming embrace, no matter how long it has been, knowing you love us enormously, just as we are. You seek us out, remind us often of your presence, whisper words of love.
We begin by praying for parents of new babies...in January, we encouraged you to pray for those babies yet to be born this year...and many of them have been.We do not know how many have already been born but In Ontario last year, there were 145 806 births. 2020 will be a memorable year to be born. Young parents have faced brand new challenges and increased isolation. They have missed many of the added supports of family, neighbours, and friends in those early days of sleepless nights, crying infants, shared joys, and so many questions. They have had to seek collective parenting wisdom to their many questions online - even for doctors appts. They have persevered without the companionship of playgroups and family gatherings, and found new ways to share treasured milestones and first words. We pray for strength and courage for them for the journey ahead. God, give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hands to help in new wise socially distanced ways. Grant these parents much joy - wrap your loving arms around them.
For parents of toddlers and preschoolers... such active, social years. It is the time of life when children usually begin to understand the concept of "the other". Many parents admit to feeling stressed and worn out, seeking to juggle work life and home life in new ways. Daycare has not been available, and older relatives as caregivers are not as accessible. God , please give these parents much energy, creativity and patience. Protect them from discouragement.
For parents of school age children... God, this group more than ever needs both our prayers and your wisdom. Fears abound - please be there in the midst of it all with them. There are so many differing ideas, concerns, questions, answers, and just unknowns. We pray for school officials and teachers who are trying to find the optimum solutions to bringing kids back to school safely for now. Parents feel much anxiety as to what is right and we know children take their cues from us as parents and adults in their lives. Most confess that they actually do not know what is best. Grow resiliency and trust in parents so they may model this to their children. Churches too are deeply challenged about how to provide activities that are safe and fun-filled. We pray that parents, teachers, and leaders can work with one another step by step, speak graciously to each other when there are concerns, and together seek the good for children. Please protect all from the spread of this virus, Lord. Allow abundant learning to take place despite the circumstances - academically, socially, emotionally, spiritually. For parents who choose to home school instead, please grant them the same added strength, support, and understanding needed. Whatever choice people make regarding schooling, for whatever reasons, please guard hearts and minds from being judgemental or critical of one another. Help all to cope with the shifting sand beneath their feet as it may all change tomorrow. The uncertainties seem exhausting. Remind parents to cry out and ask for help when feeling helpless or hopeless.
For parents of children with special needs... God, we pray for these vulnerable families in these difficult times. They can easily feel abandoned and forgotten as plans get made - these precious parents who have been and continue to be passionate advocates, care-givers, teachers, and loving parents for their special needs kids. Let their requests be heard God in places of power and decision-making. Provide the financial assistance and physical daily supports and quality of care that are required for both their children, and for themselves.
For parents of highschoolers... as parents of adolescents, it is challenging to motivate and monitor independent learning at the best of times, and these are probably not the best of times! The current virtual /in class plan allows for online learning and some social contact in classroom settings. Please help both parents and teachers to seek the delicate balance that will foster robust discourse and healthy communication of ideas with others as well as diligent completion of assignments. Much self-discipline required. Teen years are traditionally as much about social learning from peers by hanging out with friends in various settings. But they also desperately need necessary building blocks of academic content, increased understanding, and critical thinking skills for the future. We ask you God for parents and teens to find ways to work in partnership, with great sacrifices of time, effort, patience, and self- discipline required to fit in around the missing gaps in teens' lives. Remind parents often of these wise words from Gary Smalley, a well known author: “Affirming words are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s or teen's life and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities.” Help us as well to speak not only encouraging words into the lives of teenagers we know, but into their parents' lives too!
For parents of postsecondary students... those would have begun or may be beginning university or college, or those who may be returning to campus. "Not what we expected " is the most common phrase heard from both parents and young adults. Help these parents God to know how and when to respond to the disappointment of failed expectations, to assist their "children" to figure it out, when asked for help, and to know when to stand back and let them figure it out themselves when they do not ask. Guard parents from undue worry. Oh God, you must feel that same parental angst with us sometimes - when you watch us struggle, when you see us maturing or not into adults. Thank you for giving us freedom to learn and fail. We live with that same tension with children growing up into adults, making mistakes and learning along the way. This parenting business appears to become more complex, not simpler!. Keep them safe, physically and mentally, God - make them wise - grow their independence and decision-making. Teach parents at this stage of life how to step back and wait appropriately.
For parents of "children" who are now parents... Oh, the precious role of being grandparents - watching their children parent their children! Some nearby, some far away, maybe close in spirit but still distanced relationships, some with strained connections, sorting out expectations and new boundaries, fostering independence and confidence while desiring to offer wisdom and support, knowing when to keep quiet. Sometimes, children make the same mistakes parenting as their parents did and sometimes they creatively make brand new ones. No parents are perfect all the time.
Lord, especially bless abundantly those grandparents who, for whatever reasons, have stepped into the role again of parenting grandchildren for a season - or a lifetime.
And comfort those parents, and for those children also God, who have broken relationships within their family units for whatever reasons, at this point of life. Bring healing, grace, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, perseverance, patience, understanding to these relationships in time. Tough spaces.
For children who are now "parenting their parents"... for many, as people live longer, the tables gradually or suddenly turn and children begin to parent their parents, because they are elderly or because of circumstances or illness, even as they themselves grow older. A new juggling act. We pray for our senior citizens - that their medical care needs may be met and that their worth as people may be deeply valued. For those living alone at home, or in retirement homes, with family or in longterm care, please protect them from infection and harm God. Let them be treated with dignity and honor in whatever situation they are in. The isolation of recent months has been especially painful for many. We pray too for those who have lost their parents in the past days and months. As they grieve the hole left in their lives by the loss of a parent, we ask that you will fill it God with much comfort, sweet memories and much courage to face things that may be left unresolved.
Our children are watching us as we watch over them. That is a deep, profound responsibility, privilege and blessing, generation after generation.
Thankfully our God is also always watching over us. He is our very present help in times of trouble. He is for us, not against us. He is there to help us, not condemn us.
May the same be said of each of us in our parenting opportunities at every stage and season of life. Give us strength daily. AMEN.
July Prayer Prompt
CCNL PRAYER PROMPT
"GOOD NEWS" IN LONDON - July 2020
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There is a line in C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia children's series, "They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed. ....... At the name of Aslan, each one of the children felt something jump in its inside." In these books, the lion "Aslan" was an allegorical representation of God. Today, our God is on the move, advancing His Kingdom here in London in ways that we do not always notice or understand. That is not only good news, that's the best news!
The culture all around us craves some good news right now, for good reasons. In the spring, John Krasinski was a Youtube sensation with his weekly podcast of "Some Good News". He started by highlighting essential workers and it just grew. CBC's "The National" news program ends each nightly broadcast with a heart warming good news story of individual Canadians making a difference in their communities. We appreciate these reminders, in light of daily catastrophic news stories of pandemic spreads in some areas, random odd weather systems, racial inequities unresolved, uncertainties about jobs and economic outlooks, even giant Asian hornets...the list can seem endless.
We want to share some local London good news of God at work. This month, let's shape our prayers into grateful words of abundant praise to our God for glimpses of His goodness, His kindnesses, His justice, His salvation and His truth that we can discover if we go looking - a Kingdom treasure hunt! We need to seek out these precious reminders of hope. How we wish we could gather up ALL of your good news stories of God at work in our community to tell you about. Hope you too can find and share many more with one another. Or share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
God we join together to praise you for what you are doing here in our community:
- Thank you God for the remarkable generosity of people. It seems that many faithful givers are continuing to be really faithful givers, despite the present circumstances, as much as they are able. Through them, you have provided for many needs in ministries, in churches and in our community. For all charities, it has meant finding new ways to reduce expenses, or alter 'hoped for' plans. For some, your abundance has allowed them to share even more generously with others. We know you are not surprised by this, God. We loved the recent story of how INDWELL held an online gala in June and were happily shocked that they raised almost twice as much as they hoped, allowing them to move forward on more affordable housing projects. Praise to you God! Like a loving parent, we realize it brings you great joy when we, your children, share well with one another. For some churches/ministries, the pandemic has dealt some devastating blows. May we become aware of these needs. There may be new challenges in the future, but we place our trust in you for the present - our days and our resources are in your hands. Keep nudging and provoking us to give, God.
- Some have shared encouraging stories of personal opportunities during these isolated times to mentor or disciple others, helping them to grow more in love with you, Jesus, wherever they are in their spiritual journeys. We praise you God for these faithful people - what good examples! Whether it is through zoom, emails, phone calls, or socially distanced walks....vital conversations are continuing about who you are, what you do, and how great your love is for us. We asked a couple to share what it means to them: "My mentor and I meet once a week on Facetime and I come with so many questions. We laugh, we talk, we pray and we look at the bible together. Pretty thankful for this consistency in my life when I am alone. Helps me feel God's presence." "I really look forward to our "walk & talk" every couple of weeks when we can pray together and explore my thousands of faith questions. It has been wonderful as a fairly new Christian to have someone walk with me not just physically, but spiritually." May this kind of private ministry thrive.
- God, remind us that when we speak of the gospel, the "good news", that it needs to be good news for all - not just for us. It needs to be good news for those without shelter, those impoverished, those oppressed, those who are broken-hearted. How encouraging to see Christians and many others in London stepping into gaps to seek justice. Especially now, in times of isolation, economic hardship, restrictions of resources - O God, make our hearts more tender for what breaks your heart in our city.
Churches in our city of all sizes and types are full of many enthusiastic individuals eager to provide help for those in need by donating to the London Food Bank, providing mountains of homemade muffins, and cookies (pandemic baking!) for ministries like Sanctuary London, My Sisters Place, Ark Aid, Mission Services and more. Some are providing cases of sports drinks, freezies, and water bottles, especially needed in the recent heat wave.
A number of downtown churches are partnering together to prepare a variety of takeout meals to help, when regular meal programs cannot take place due to COVID.
YFC London is preparing 750 meals a week in their cafe, actually delivering them to vulnerable youth & families, together with other community agencies, chefs, and such willing volunteer drivers. This has been made possible for those at greatest risk, thanks to the great generosity of community corporate donors, businesses, and food suppliers....working together at being the heart and hands of Jesus, bringing good news in very practical ways.
Many churches are taking meals to seniors, helping pick up groceries, or enhancing their food programs to meet current challenges, showing much love all around.
Salvation Army has both a water truck around the city ensuring that people on the street are hydrated and their daily parking lot food truck, staffed by amazing volunteer teams from 21 churches and some local businesses. Listen to this observation: "It's wonderful to see their joy and just how quickly comfortable they (the volunteers) become engaged in welcoming all of our “guests” to the supper table." What a beautiful Kingdom photograph! Bless all those, please God, who demonstrate such care. And even more, pour out your blessings on those who are being cared for - all valued citizens of London.
- Your great creativity, God, is now being expressed in online worship services for all to see. Thank you for so many gifted people who are sharing their musical, visual, and technology skills to engage us in worship of you, even while we sit at our kitchen table, on our decks with a coffee, or cozied up in a chair. A number of churches are noticing that their "congregations" have grown online, not diminished. All of us are being challenged to break out of the patterns of the past to utilize new ways to express our love to you. One elderly friend delightfully confessed she actually danced to the music in her living room while listening to her church's service online - she had never done that before!! Thank you too God, for all the children and youth ministry leaders who are creating meaningful learning experiences weekly for children. It may be creating online visual stories, or delivering activity boxes during the week to families - such wonderful ideas to share the good news of Jesus. May you encourage these workers and use these expressions of your creative spirit in the lives of our kids and families.
- Many have also commented that they are rediscovering the joy of next door neighbours. Your words, Jesus, to "love our neighbour as ourselves" are taking on deeper meanings. Hear these voices: "I've learned more about my neighbours in the last three months than I have in the last five years." "God has challenged me to care more deeply for the people next door to us during this COVID lockdown - we are having great open conversations about family, faith, fear and just the dailies. I was too busy before, caught up in my own life. " "My neighbours have been a real blessing to me." God, may these actions bring joy to your heart and we ask you to help these relationships to keep growing.
- As churches are figuring out when & how to open up again, we thank you God for the careful consideration being demonstrated for "the other". Each has its own benefits and challenges, and such thoughtful discussions are taking place, figuring out how to worship and engage in community together safely and joyfully again. We confess that we may whine and complain a bit, God, that "it is not the way it used to be" - forgive us for that - and speak to us in our 'discomforting'. It can be a healthy mental wellness practice from time to time to make a list of all the things we are grateful for (the Bible is full of lists) :
- Remind us that Jesus said " where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Whether it is ten or twenty, fifty or three hundred, we invite you to be alive and in the midst of us, God, however and whenever and wherever we join together.
- We thank you for diligent leaders - pastors, elders, denominations, boards of directors - collective wisdom doing the best they can. These are difficult decisions.
- We thank you for good advisors in our communities - health units, doctors, governments - all trying to do the best they can given what they know now and anxious about what they don't know yet.
- Help us remember God, that throughout history, there have been many more difficult circumstances that these we currently face, and your church has not only survived but thrived.
- Thanks for positive ways we have been able to use technology at this point in history to stay connected with one another. Who knew social media and Youtube could be good things?
- Please add your own thanks now - fill in the blanks __________________!
To quote N.T. Wright "The good news is that the living God is indeed establishing his kingdom on earth as in heaven, through the finished work of Jesus, and is inviting people of all sorts to share not only in the benefits of this kingdom but also in the work thorough which it will come to its ultimate completion. To grasp that good news fully, or rather be grasped by it, will mean being turned inside out by it, so that our self-centred prayers ( for help, for rescue, for forgiveness and for daily bread) will turn into a God -centred prayer kingdom to come in His way, not ours. His will be done."
1 Thessalonians 1: 9-10 says "The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message!" May this be said of each of us as Christians in London.