A Passion for Prayer
By Rev. Ann Garvin
In October of last year our little church, Woodstock United Methodist, opened its doors for one hour each weekday for a time of prayer. From noon to 1 p.m.each day we invited members of our congregation and anyone in our community to come and pray.
In the 20 minutes preceding the noon hour we played our chimes, which mixed the sound of hymns into Woodstock’s wind and carried a reminder to pray to the edge of town. At noon we rang the bell to let our neighbors know that our doors were open, but more importantly to remind them, wherever they are, to pray.
Each day during the month we passed out flyers, placing some on cars parked nearby, and proclaimed on our signs along Mill St. and Towne Lake that we were “Open for Prayer.” Most of the days were warmer than normal for our part of the South, so we swung open our front doors wide. On most days a handful of people entered our historic sanctuary for a few moments, if not for a full hour of prayer.
Our purpose in opening our doors for an hour was to remind people of the importance of prayer. We wanted to offer a daily reminder, a prompt if you will, to “ring a bell” (excuse the pun), to strike a chord, to jog a memory, maybe even harken back to a time when things seemed a little slower, when we took the time to be thankful, to ask for help, to offer praise, that prayer should be an important part of our day. Our entire day.
During that month, I offered a sermon series entitled: “Teach Us To Pray” with the following five messages on prayer:
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Types of Prayer (described in Scripture)
- Abide In Me
- Praying Scripture/Praying the Psalms (including Lectio Divina)
- The Love Exchange (Prayer as Worship)
As a result of our October experience, our church chapel has now been reconfigured to provide a space for a weekly gathering time – our “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Some may think that prayer meetings are a vestige of the past, but we believe that when we pray, both individually and collectively, we are intentionally asking to be in God’s presence. 20th-century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian E. Stanley Jones said that “prayer is not an occasional exercise to which you turn now and then; it is a life attitude.”
This year we are asking God for a heart like that of the early church, where “all these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
Rev. Ann Garvin is pastor of Woodstock UMC. Contact her at email@example.com.