“Prayer is where the action is” – John Wesley
My 16-year-old daughter Kate and I visited southern India in January, at the invitation of the Diocese of Madhya Kerala. It was so encouraging to see the incredible vibrancy of the Church there and to be reminded of the power of the gospel to change and transform lives all around the globe. But what particularly struck Kate and me was how committed our Indian sisters and brothers were to prayer. Over the course of our 10-day visit, we frequently found ourselves praying with young and old alike for the continued spiritual and numerical growth of the churches of their diocese.
In his engaging book Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace crafts – by examining God’s renewing action within traditions as diverse as Roman Catholicism to Pietism and Anabaptism – a theology of renewal in churches. If you don’t want to read the whole book, here is a spoiler alert: at the heart of spiritual, and then numerical, renewal in all Christian traditions down the ages has been – you guessed it – prayer. Renewal and new life within Christian communities of any size or theological and liturgical stripe, has always begun with a few people gathering together, in a living room or a field, and turning to our Heavenly Father in prayer. In prayer we draw closer to the heart of God, open ourselves up to being shaped by the dreams and hopes of God, and are strengthened to follow the costly path of being followers of Jesus.
There are many good and worthwhile resources that the Diocese of Toronto and other organizations offer, to help parishes grow in their love for God and neighbour. (Growing Healthy Stewards, Natural Church Development, Revive, Alpha, and mission action plans are but a few examples, and I would urge you to investigate them.) But the longer I am in ministry, the more I am convinced that prayer is as close to a magic bullet as we have got, as Christians. Prayer is not a program; it can be part of your life whether you are a new disciple or a veteran, and it doesn’t cost a penny.
If prayer is at the heart of all church renewal, then I would encourage you to think about joining in with the global wave of prayer called Thy Kingdom Come. TKC is an international ecumenical initiative calling on all Christians to join together for 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost (May 30 to June 9) to pray that their friends would come to know the love of Jesus. It’s that simple. Lots of creative resources can be found at www.thykingdomcome.global to help you participate as a family, individual, youth group, church or deanery. Pick three friends or work colleagues whom you would love to come to know Jesus, and then pray for them every day for 10 days. Pray for 10 days that God would draw new people into the life of your parish. Pray for 10 days that you would be given opportunities to share the gospel with children and teenagers in your neighborhood.
Prayer is where the action is. We have just journeyed through Holy Week together, from the desolation of Good Friday to the triumph of Easter Day. We have tasted death and are feasting on the renewal of resurrection. Let’s join in prayer together, that God would continue to renew our hearts for service, and pray that our local churches would be renewed to be beacons of God’s transforming mercy.