Happy National Day of Prayer! There are a lot of books on prayer. Most ministry leadership books include at least one chapter dedicated to the importance of prayer in ministry in a variety of prayer styles and processes. Its one of the topics that I’m sometimes tempted to skip; thinking, “I know all about prayer. I pray all the time. What more could I possibly need to learn?” But then, I don’t skip that chapter, because there’s something almost blasphemous about the idea even. Prayer is really that essential to life and ministry.
In chapter 5 of God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church, author Brad Roth writes, “Prayer is the special grace of the rural church.” He relates this truth to the gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration having taken his disciples up on a mountain, away from the crowds, to pray. Could that encounter with God have happened in the same powerful way in front of everyone?
Roth continues, “As Jesus prays, his face is changed, and the disciples peer into the depths of the kingdom. It’s a clouded, confused moment. They don’t know exactly what to do. The Father speaks His will over Jesus: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! (Luke 9:35). And then the disciples are alone with their teacher, their ears ringing with startling holy silence.” (p. 98)
Roth says this is what the rural church offers to the world: space to encounter startling holy silence and be present with the Lord. Sometimes he encounters that space among the chickens and finds himself praying with them. They don’t interrupt or gossip. They leave you to yourself and the Lord.
If you’ve ever spent time in an urban or suburban area and then returned to rural, you know the majesty of seeing all the stars. The silence, the pace of life, and the beauty of creation come together in rural places to usher you into the presence of the Lord.
So what is the current prayer life of your rural ministry like? Many of your congregation members have their own private prayer lives. Hopefully they are praying for their pastor and their church. They may keep the church prayer list in their Bible or devotional journal and pray for one another daily. Is there collective prayer happening? Is there a specific prayer you are all praying for your ministry?
There is power in all these prayers- individual and collective- and there is something significant about joining our voices in shared prayer. We have a National Day of Prayer not because it is the only day we pray for our nation, but because there is something different about this collective prayer.
Presidents have called for national days of fasting, thanksgiving, and prayer since George Washington. There have been a few, however, who abandoned the practice. In 1952, during the Korean War, Rev. Billy Graham said, “What a thrilling, glorious thing it would be to see the leaders of our country today kneeling before Almighty God in prayer. What a thrill would sweep this country. What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril.” President Truman accepted that challenge and signed a bill requiring every subsequent president to call for a national day of prayer. (Thirty years later a committee was formed to plan the annual even, of course. Ha!) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Prayer)
When we join our voices in prayer, whether in person or scattered across town or the nation, it is thrilling and glorious! The Spirit moves in us, restores our hope, and gives us courage to step into the future together. So, how are you creating such opportunities for prayer in your ministry? Are you praying with chickens? (Are you tapping into the unique beauty and space for prayer provided by your rural setting?) How are you inviting others to encounter God in prayer through your rural ministry?
I’d love to pray with you and for your ministry! Leave a comment or get in touch with me to let me know how I can join my voice with yours.