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Praying Our Way Forward

July 5, 2017

The designated week of prayer for the Baltimore-Washington Conference starts July 23.

Since Jan. 1, United Methodists around the world have been joining together in prayer for the Commission on the Way Forward. The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. 

The “Praying Our Way Forward” initiative involves every Annual Conference being in prayer for the Commission for one week. The week of July 23 – 29 is the week set aside for the Baltimore-Washington Conference to be in prayer.

"The aim of 'Praying Our Way Forward' is to ask and listen for God’s leadership at this critical time in the life of our church,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, who co-chairs the initiative. Co-chair Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett added, “In addition to participating in a designated week of prayer, individuals are invited to join the initiative by praying daily and fasting weekly for our church, mission, and future.” 

We invite and encourage every church in the Baltimore-Washington Conference to set aside time during the week of July 23-29 for intentional prayer for the Commission on the Way Forward. Resources are available at UMCPrays.org, or you may use the prayer, below, offered by the Rev. John Nupp.

 

The Rev. John W. Nupps offers a prayer for the Way Forward.A Prayer for the Way Forward

Offered by the Rev. John W. Nupp before the 2017 Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference Session.

Eternal God, who was and is and is to come, perfect in holiness, perfect in love, who sends rain on the righteous and sunshine on the unrighteous: hear our prayer.

We need a Savior who will lead us in the way forward, a Shepherd who will save us from the temptation to go back. Because sometimes, Lord, we confess, I confess, that I just want to go back to the Garden — to walk with you in the cool of the day, all by myself in that first creation.  But you call us into a New Creation, where people of every tongue, every tribe and nation gather in worship around you. Lead us from the allure of a lonely Eden, that we might follow you together into a New Creation.

We need your help, Lord, to step forward into new waters, when we confess we would rather stay on the shore. Even though you opened a path for freedom for your children, and made a way for them through walls of water standing on the right and the left, we hesitate. Even though you brought them out to praise you on the far shore and set them free to worship without fear, even still we struggle to take one step into the unknown. Send us a Shepherd to turn our hearts to boldness, to set us free in courage and faith. Save us from our longing for Egypt, from that hollow hunger for the fleshpots of slavery. Call us to follow you into a new land, feeding us with bread from heaven all along the way. Make a way for us, a New Covenant, a new way to be in relationship with one another and with you.

You are the Way, the Way Forward, for us and for your people called United Methodists. You have sent us a Savior Shepherd in the person of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, save us, Lord, from the temptation to make our own way back to Eden, to try to turn back to Egypt. We all want to go back to simpler days, dear Lord, but we must not forget, we cannot forget the price you have paid to bring us this far. So, save us from that false simplicity of following Jesus without the cross. How tempting it is to turn to that Sunday School Jesus, who touches the sick and welcomes the children, who raises his hands to calm the storm, and forget that those same hands broke the bread. No stranger to political tensions and divisions, from the moment he entered this world until he took his final breath, your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ was crucified.  Betrayed by religious leaders and politicians, betrayed by those on his left side and his right — both of his hands were nailed to the cross for us. Have mercy on us, Lord.

And so, when you call us to follow from a solitary paradise to a city of praise, let us not turn back. When you bring us out from the bondage of familiar sins into the boundless freedom of your children, let us not turn back. May Christ never have cause to say to us, “This is my body, broken by you.[i]” From the hopelessness of the cross, you raised the Lord of Life, not to shame us, but to grant us your precious Spirit. Breathe this New Life into your people again.

Commission us with the message of forgiveness, for us and for this world. Lead the members of this Commission on the Way Forward to be First Followers of Jesus, our Savior, our Shepherd, who leads us from the cross into newness of life. By the Spirit who raised him from the dead, soften our hard and cynical hearts. Give us ears to attend to your voice today, for the sake of your purpose in the world: that others might find a place with us at the open table of your grace, where this broken bread makes us one body and this cup of salvation grants us unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Mindful of the cost of love, we come; hopeful in you and in the future you have in store for us, we pray together. Amen.

[i] See United Methodist Hymnal, #564

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