“Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
By the Rev. Maryanne Ditter
I have often thought, “I wonder if Jesus feels that way about my prayer life at times.” I am not sure he would demand an hour, but sometimes I don’t even give him five minutes.
This year’s theme at Annual Conference was Rise Up and Pray, and I was asked to put together a prayer room for members to use. This was not my first time doing so; but I have often thought we need a prayer room at all of our annual conferences.
The first year I did it we were rather hidden (like many prayer rooms)—down a hall, then to the right and down another hall. I’m not sure anyone even knew there was a prayer room that year. Each time, we’ve come closer to the front where people can see us. This year, we had a great location near the main lobby and a large sign that people passing by couldn’t miss.
As I prayed this year about what I should incorporate into the prayer room, I came up with this theme: “Talk to God; Hear from God; Respond to God.” Did you know that each of these instructions are part of being in prayer with God?
Yes, most of us know how to petition God with our lists of needs and wants. But prayer is so much more. I wanted the prayer room to offer a place for people to experience the talking, listening and obeying parts of prayer communication.
On a list I received of people wanting to volunteer at Annual Conference, there were several who wanted to be involved in prayer. I invited them to either set up prayer room stations or be part of a prayer assistance team. My heartfelt thanks go out to all who responded and were able to help.
Together, we organized a prayer room that could accommodate the Order of St. Luke’s Communion services held early on Friday and Saturday mornings. Throughout the day, people could move among various stations to spend prayer time with God. In my periodic visits, I was pleased to see people in there, spending time with God at prayer stations or seated in chairs facing the altar.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the conference, and distant from all the proceedings and tense debates, it was my prayer that this room would be a place of peace, where people could feel God’s loving, listening presence. We also offered to pray with and for individuals. We had a prayer team in there for that purpose during the last 20 minutes of each mealtime break.
Why have I been reflecting on all this? Well, one reason is that I have been praying God would continue to touch those who spent time in the prayer room. But I also want to challenge all who attended Annual Conference, and each of you reading this reflection, to remember Upper Room Dean Tom Albin’s message to us on Friday morning. (You will be able to view his presentation on the Annual Conference webpage when the recorded video is posted there by June 29. His handout materials are available there now.)
Albin said it does not take much to pray and listen to God. He did a 90-second exercise where we first asked God to speak to us and then remained silent. We were told to clear our minds so we could receive a thought from God. If we did receive a thought from God, we were to return it back to God in the form of a prayer.
Let us all continue daily to lift up and live out our Annual Conference theme of vigilant prayer. If you have difficulty being silent and still before God, start with just 90 seconds of prayer, where you can “Talk to God; Hear from God; Respond to God.” After you have done this, increase your time. God desires to spend this time with you.
It is time for us to Rise Up and Pray daily for our churches, our communities, our leaders and our denomination—indeed, to pray for the world and its transformation in Christ. We should desire to hear from God on how to repair the breach in our midst, and then respond obediently to what God tells us to do.
Church, RISE UP AND PRAY!!!!
The Rev. Maryanne Ditter is a Deacon and Spiritual Director who serves as Minister of Spiritual Formation at Tabor UMC in Woxall, PA