During the first month of 2016 we launched the #allincentral challenge focusing on the vows every member takes when joining Central United Methodist Church. Phyllis Collier shared her experience of prayer and challenged each of us to join her in prayer. If you have not already seen the video of Phyllis sharing about prayer, I encourage you to watch it here.
One of the specific challenges offered was to begin keeping a prayer journal. I must admit that I am inconsistent at keeping a prayer journal. However, I find that when I take time to keep a prayer journal I am able to reflect more deeply on God’s movement in my life. As I look back and ponder the situations I’ve been praying for, I find that most times God has not changed my situations. Instead, God has changed me. He has changed my heart, my thoughts, and my perspectives causing me to lean into him and trust him more. Also, as I look back on my prayers for others I am able to see the faithfulness of God, even when I don’t always get the answers I desire.
Two prayer highlights from the month of January stand out as great experiences of God. The first comes from our all staff prayer and worship service. On the first Tuesday of every month Central’s entire staff joins together in the Genesis Church sanctuary to worship and pray together, as well as pray for one another. Lindy Keegan, Associate Director of Student Ministries, gave the devotional this month and led us in a time of prayer which began with this statement: God, what I need/want most from you right now is ______________ (you fill in the blank). This simple statement led to powerful experience of prayer and continues to be an ongoing dialogue between God and me.
A second highlight of prayer occurred at a prayer luncheon hosted by a sister church in Fayetteville which several of Central’s pastors attended. Pastors from numerous churches in the area shared a meal together and prayed for one another and for the churches we serve. I left the luncheon feeling refreshed. I wondered if that is how John Wesley felt in the early Methodist beginnings when he would join in prayer with those from other denominational backgrounds, such as Puritans, Moravians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and others. I believe it is important for us to step out of our denominational affiliations and pray with others for the sake of the kingdom of God. Praying with others reminds us of our oneness in Christ. Oftentimes, differing denominations focus on their differences of opinion instead of our oneness.
One of my favorite sermons by Wesley is The Catholic (Universal) Spirit. In this sermon, Wesley encourages us to be wise people who do not insist that others embrace our opinions. The crucial point is not whether we agree on matters of opinion but whether or not our hearts are right with God and if we love our neighbors. If so, then our hearts are true to one another. Wesley says, “If your heart is true to mine as mine is to yours, then give me your hand.” When Wesley says, “Give me your hand,” he is saying three things. First, he is saying love me for who I am. Second, he is saying pray that my faith in and love for God and others may increase. Third, he is inviting others to awaken him to love and good deeds and for them to join together in kingdom work. This is what I came away from my prayer experience with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from other denominations.
In February, our #allincentral challenge will be the second membership vow, presence. It goes without saying that we should continue to pray. In fact, the Lenten sermon series will focus on the Lord’s Prayer. We challenge you to be “present” as we go deeper into a life of prayer.
-Dr. Steve Pulliam
Senior Associate Pastor