When delegates to General Conference 2012 meet in Tampa next April, United Methodists around the world will be able to join them in an unprecedented concert of prayer, seeking God’s will for their decisions.
The Upper Room, a division of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), will once again provide a Prayer Guide for delegates, participants and guests of the General Conference.
Unlike at previous General Conferences, however, the guide for GC2012 also will be available free of charge on The Upper Room website for all 12.3 million United Methodists worldwide. The use of technology will help the entire church surround the elected delegates, Council of Bishops and general church staff with prayer.
“I'm personally convinced that the one thing that every United Methodist can do to influence the outcome of this General Conference is to lift it to the Lord in prayer,” said Tom Albin, Dean of The Upper Room Ministries and Ecumenical Relations and co-chair of the Prayer Support Team for GC2012. “When we pray, we can be confident that God will hear and answer our prayer.”
Traditionally, The Upper Room’s Prayer Guide has covered the 40 days prior to the General Conference. In 2012, however, the guide will include the additional 10 days that the General Conference will be in session.
The guide will be translated into all of the official languages of the conference—English, French and Portuguese—and, it will be included in the official program book for GC2012. The text will be made available to the bishops for translation into other languages as well.
“This is an intentional step forward in being a global Christian community and calling on every church, in every country all around the world to pray together for 40 days before we gather at Tampa, Fla., at the convention center on April 24,” Albin said. “Then for the entire time the Conference is in session, we'll be praying with the delegates and the community there as they use these meditations.”
In addition to overseeing the Prayer Support effort, The Upper Room will for the first time provide guidance and training to engage every local church around the world in prayer for the General Conference through online learning.
“Our desire is to engage the entire United Methodist Church in prayer with and for the 2012 General Conference. We want to pray for God’s will, to be done God’s way, and in God’s time,” he said.
Each member of the United Methodist Church worldwide is being asked to:
• Begin praying now for the elected delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference as they do their work in preparation of the 2012 events
• Pray for God’s will to be clearly discerned by everyone involved in the decisions that will be made at General Conference
A Prayer Website maintained by GBOD (www.gbod.org/prayer_initiative) contains information, guidance and suggestions to help United Methodists pray together in new and meaningful ways.
Beginning in 2000, an official place for prayer was set aside at the General Conference site, and it has become an established tradition since. In 2004, an actual prayer room was carefully designed with prayer stations, and in 2008 a labyrinth was added to the prayer room and prayer stations, Albin said.
In Tampa, there will be a labyrinth, a prayer room and prayer stations at different places in the convention center so people can be reminded of the spiritual importance of this event and the community of prayer that will be surrounding them as they do their work.
The Florida Host Committee is deeply committed to the importance of holy conferencing and is the first host committee to ask The Upper Room to guide the Prayer Support Ministry for the General Conference.
Frances Jennings of Jacksonville, Fla., who serves as chair of the Florida Annual Conference Spiritual Formation Task Team, is co-chair of the Prayer Support Team for the General Conference.
“My vision is that prayer will really be a foundation for General Conference,” Jennings said. “I pray that the prayers of God’s people will undergird the entire General Conference, and regardless of which side of the issues we are on, we will pray and seek God's will for each thing that we do.”
As a part of the Prayer Ministry Team, trained spiritual guides will be present at GC2012 if the delegates, staff members or participants need someone to provide spiritual guidance and direction or to help them in their discernment process.
“These spiritual guides are lay and clergy skilled and trained to help others discern God's will,” Albin said. “We all want God's will, but we are not always ready to listen. The volunteers will come at their own expense to help an individual or a delegation discern God’s will for our church.”
The Upper Room sponsored a six-hour training session in August at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando to begin equipping prayer leaders to organize and lead prayer events in their Annual Conferences, Districts and local churches. This content is being transferred to an online resource that will be available in mid-November.
Additional resources will be added to the GBOD website during the months leading up to the General Conference, including the Prayer Guide, suggestions for prayer and information about how to mobilize entire congregations to support GC2012 in prayer.
Around the world during the 50 days, United Methodists will be looking at the same scripture, the same reflection, the same prayer, and then adding the prayers God will inspire them to pray.
“Through the GBOD Prayer Initiative website and the Upper Room 50-day prayer guide, the whole world can join in the prayer support ministry,” Albin said. “We want the whole UM Church to seek the whole will of God. Through the use of technology, every United Methodist in the world can participate—so that, God’s kingdom will come and God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”