Prayer will Make Differences
May the grace and peace from our risen Christ be with you.
Spring has come! We are in the Easter season! The temperature has been rising, and spring winds are softly touching our faces. We see the dogwoods blooming, and the leaves of the trees are getting greener and greener. In this Easter season it is our great joy to see God’s continuing creation and the power of life. We cannot help but sing, “How great thou art, how great thou art.”
On March 5, we had the fourth Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer. The plenary speaker, Dr. Frederick Schmidt (Reuben Job Professor of Spiritual Formation, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary), did a great job by challenging us with the message that the time has come to change the way we do church. He introduced prayer for discernment as the key for a renewal of our churches. Dr. Schmidt emphasized that prayer is the essence in understanding the church as the body of Christ, and we need to have an assurance of God’s answer to our prayers.
He also said that prayers for discernment begin with God-questions like where is God working in today’s world and what does God want us to do for God’s mission. Dr. Schmidt emphasized the importance of listening more to God than talking; participation of the congregation in prayers of discernment and the importance of the fruits of prayer being tested by Scripture, tradition and our minds being transformed by the Spirit and experience. He also told us that prayers for discernment are to be followed by acts of obedience.
Listening to his presentation, reaffirmed my discernment that I have been sharing with you: A renewal of our churches should be more than a reactive plan to save our institution. It should be a movement to restore a biblical and authentic church. What is an authentic church? What is the nature of a biblical church? It is the church led by the Holy Spirit. As the body of Christ it is the church where the head, our Lord, is fully honored and respected.
So, the important question we need to ask for the future of our churches is not an I-question, but a God- question: What is God’s vision for us? What does God want us to do for our new future? Prayerfully discerning God’s will is the key in planning our ministry. We need to move from Robert’s rules to prayerful discernment, although Robert’s rules have some merit in ordering our meetings. To me, our Convocation on Prayer provided me the opportunity, one more time, to think about how the church will be renewed and move toward a new future through prayer.
As I said in the March issue of the Advocate, April 10 will be a conference-wide day of prayer. This year we will use this day for a 24-hour Prayer Vigil for General Conference (GC). The upcoming GC is very important for the future of the United Methodist Church. Let us pray that only the Holy Spirit will lead the GC, and God’s will will prevail in this gathering in May. If we do not honor the will of God, we will no longer be the church.
But the issue we have today is that we are too confident that only my conviction or my discernment is in accordance with God’s will. I think we need more humility before God, humbly recognizing that I cannot own God’s truth 100% and that I might be wrong. We also need openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who is the owner and the leader of our churches. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all delegates to GC that they may wisely discern God’s will and make decisions glorifying our Lord.
For our 24-hour Prayer Vigil, each district will develop its plans. I invite all of you to respond to this call and to join in this prayer movement. Prayer will change not only ourselves but also the church. Prayer will make differences in the world. We need to believe in God who listens to and answers our prayers. We need to believe in the power of prayer. As Dr. Schmidt says, if we pray, God will show up! Not always in miraculous ways. Sometimes in our routine daily lives God speaks to us and helps us to discern God’s way.
So, let us keep on praying for our upcoming GC: Thy will be done in us and in our General Conference as it is in heaven! Lord, have mercy on us.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho