One of the practices I have incorporated into my renewal leave is to use Bishop Job’s, A Guide to Prayer, each morning.
I have taken to setting up office on our back porch in the cool mornings where I can look out on the garden, feel the cool breeze, and breathe in the air.
I have gone through the devotions like normal, but when I get to the section where I pray for the church, for others, and for myself, I pull out a stack of postcards and labels and stamps, and I pray for the people of Immanuel UMC.
Each day, I pray for between 10 and 20 families in our church.
I pray for them by name.
I pray for their health and struggles, their joys and the people they love.
To be honest, I don’t know every name on the list. Some are people who remain members but have been disconnected from our community. Some are people who live far away but have maintained their membership. Most are faces I see in worship every Sunday.
No matter who they are or how well I know them, I know God knows their lives and I lift them each up in God’s hands.
In part, the idea came from receiving a notecard from two different people at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. Their pastor, Adam Hamilton, came to our annual conference as a guest speaker and his congregation lifted up the churches and pastors of Iowa in preparation for his arrival.
It was moving to get that card in the mail. To know that someone out there was praying for me and my ministry that day. I began to wonder how I might incorporate that personal prayer outreach within my own ministry and this is one way I am beginning this practice.
When I return, I am thinking about how to do this on a weekly basis – to connect via calls or postcards with the folks in my church and let them know that whatever is going on in their lives, I’m praying for them.