Prayer Covenant Congregation
May the grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
It is already December, the last month of this year! Our daily life is becoming busier as the end of the year approaches. But according to the church calendar, December is the beginning of a new year as we celebrate the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to us as a baby about 2,000 years ago. He lived among us and died on the cross. But that is not the end of his story. He was raised from the dead and is alive. He comes to us through the Spirit now and will come again in the end for the consummation of history. So this month is full of gratitude, expectation and hope. I pray that in this joyful season Christ will be born anew within us, among us and in our churches and the world.
This month I would like to talk about “Prayer Covenant Congregation.” This will conclude my series of articles on prayer which started last October under the title “Why Prayer?”
When I was elected Bishop and assigned to the Virginia Conference, I started challenging the clergy and laity to dedicate at least one hour daily for their spiritual disciplines. As I said in my final speech at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, my hope and prayer is to spread the culture of prayer to the churches in our conference because I believe that it will be impossible for the churches to be turned around without rediscovering spiritual vitality. This is what Scripture and the Methodist movement were saying about the vital church.
In 2013 we gathered in Hampton for our Annual Conference with the theme “Lord, teach us to pray.” After Annual Conference was over, I began thinking about how to follow up on our theme and spread the prayer movement. With the help of the Prayer Convocation Planning Team and the Cabinet, we developed the Covenant for Spiritual Discipline and invited the churches during the Charge Conference time to become a Prayer Covenant Congregation.
The content of the covenant is as follows: (1) Having at least one weekly prayer group that will include weekly prayers for the renewal and revival of their congregation, the Virginia Conference, and the United Methodist Church; (2) Offering at least one class on prayer annually; (3) Participating in conference and district prayer equipping (training) events; (4) Moving toward at least 10% of the laity practicing a “one hour daily” spiritual discipline; and (5) Indicating commitment to this covenant through approval by the Church Council.
Since we began inviting churches to this covenant in 2013, more than 30% of the congregations in the Virginia Conference have become a “Prayer Covenant Congregation.” I thank God and the clergy and laity for their commitment to spiritual discipline. I reset the goal this year for at least 50% of clergy to engage in one hour daily spiritual discipline and for 50% of the congregations to become a Prayer Covenant Congregation.
I know becoming a Prayer Covenant Congregation is a great step for the churches to pay more attention to the spiritual foundation of their mission and ministries, but it is not easy to continue to grow as a Prayer Covenant Congregation. Especially, moving toward at least 10% of the laity practicing “one hour daily” spiritual discipline is not an easy task (though some churches have already reached that goal). And it is another challenge to help and equip the congregation to go deeper in their spiritual life.
This is the reason I am planning to visit each district and meet the clergy and laity of the Prayer Covenant Congregations. This will be one of my important plans for my final year as Bishop. I want to meet the leaders of the Prayer Covenant Congregations and listen to their stories. I want the leaders to share their experiences of joys and challenges and to encourage one another. I want these meetings to be times to pray and grow in Christ together. My prayer is that becoming a Prayer Covenant Congregation will help the churches to be more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and more obedient to our Lord.
I believe that prayer is the essence of our faith and ministry. I believe that God still listens and answers our prayers. I believe that if we humbly kneel down before God and seek God’s will first, we can have a different future. So, why not become a Prayer Covenant Congregation?
Have a very blessed Advent and Christmas!!
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho