Monday, February 5, 2018

A Way to Pray: 40 Days Towards Love

A year ago, I was preaching at Collins Street Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia, just after the US Presidential Inauguration.  Before I got up to speak, I looked out into a congregation of faces filled with empathy, and was asked this earnest question: 

"America is facing a time of great uncertainty with a change of leadership. There are many rejoicing and may grieving at the change. How can we best pray for you and people like you seeking to live the gospel in these times?"
And then these people on the other side of the globe committed to praying for my congregation throughout the year.  I was so moved by their care and their prayer that I was inspired to begin a weekly service of Prayer for the Nation.

These services took shape around a practice with 80+ Prayer Hearts, all bearing names of different people, groups or realities in our country. Every Friday morning, I sit with one or two others, and we hold a few of these hearts in our hands and feel our own hearts open toward God, our neighbors, and those we feel divided from.
This practice has become a significant spiritual discipline for me.  At the end of the week, sometimes the news, arguing, rallying, blaming, finger-pointing and fear-mongering feels like it has built up on my skin in dirty layers. My spirit is knotted tight in my gut and I feel weary and drained.  

But when I sit in this place for a half hour, my heart open up. 
I see all these names of people and places before me, and I feel my spirit soften. 
I choose 4 or 5. Sometimes they are ones that make me ache with sadness and longing, sometimes they are names that make me bristle with defensive anger. Often, it's a mix of both.  When I hold them in my hand and pray, I can feel the layers begin to melt away.  I release anxiety, fear, worry and frustration. I most often leave feeling peace.  It makes me ready to begin again in vulnerability and openness, to practice the belonging to God and to all others that changes the world.

Lent is just around the corner. And suddenly last week my friend Lilly, (who is an amazing Worship Curator), had an Epiphany - we should create a Lenten Prayer experience with these Prayer Hearts.

So we did!
And my congregation is going to use it through Lent.
It is not time-consuming to do, but it is challenging, because it gets underneath our defenses and labels to our own hearts, and seeks to let God move us towards love.

Our 40 Days Towards Love Lenten Prayer Tool is a downloadable resource that comes with a Leader's Guide and the 80+ prayer hearts, and is available in versions for individuals/families or communities/congregations, and in US or International formats.  It includes lots of bonus materials, like optional weekly action steps, prayer stations, Good Friday and Easter ideas, and ideas for using them beyond Lent. 

This kit is designed to use the Prayer Hearts for Lent, but these Prayer Hearts can be used ANY time, in LOTS of ways, (they could even be used in non-religious settings).

I loved creating this with Lilly, and I am thrilled to be sharing it with you. I hope it can be as meaningful for you, your family or congregation, as it has been for me.

See the 40 Days Towards Love Congregation Version
See the 40 Days Towards Love Individual/Family Version

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