Tonight at 7:00 a group from our church will be meeting together for our weekly prayer meeting. I have the privilege of leading it for the next few months with a study called Praying with the Church, for the City. The contents of the class will roughly cover the content and prayers of the book Prayers for My City: A Fixed Hour Prayer Guide for Wyoming, a book I worked on last year with colleague Jeremy Bouma, as part of a larger West Michigan series.
The books bring together a couple of concepts which I think work quite nicely together (and I can say that, because bringing together these concepts wasn’t my idea). These prayer guides combine the historical prayers of the Book of Common Prayer along with prayers written specifically for the particular city, in this case, Wyoming.
Why historical (common) prayers?
As a low-church evangelical I was wary of using historical prayers in my devotional prayer life but I’ve become convinced (obviously) of their value. I don’t recommend only using pre-written prayers, but incorporating many of these prayers has added value to my prayer life. Here are three reasons why:
1) We can learn a lot about prayer from historical prayers. They are deep, balanced (including praise, confession, supplication, etc.), and biblical – literally, most of them are passages from the Bible.
2) Praying common prayers gives us continuity with the Church across history. When praying the psalms, we participate with Israel’s prayer life. When praying the Lord’s prayer, we participate with the early Church.
3) Praying common prayers gives us continuity with Church all around the world, and with believers of other denominations. It reminds us that the Body of believers, the Church Universal, though separated by space and denominational distinctive, find unity in, at least, our prayer life under the Lordship of Christ.
Why pray for the city?
It was easier for me to offer initial intellectual assent to having a prayer guide for a city. I like to think I care about my city. But, actually consistently praying for it is another story. My repeated failures in this shows that I still have a hole in practical theology. Here are two good reasons to pray for your city.
1) You care about your city. In the case of our church, we believe we have a specific mission to our neighborhood, especially to the youth. We want to see God work. We want to see change.
2) The only way change – real, lasting, God-honoring change – is if God Himself does it. Hence, prayer.
I don’t think these two concepts are unrelated. One is universal (in the sense that common prayers are shared by the universal Church across time, space, and denomination), the other is local. Our little group of Baptist believers is going to spend about 30 minutes a week praying for a city of about 70,000 people.
But that’s the beauty of how God works. He is Lord of the Universe and yet he works on the individual. The local matters and it matters in the context of the universal. The life of our local church, insignificant on its own, is significant in the context of God’s work in history. The common prayers remind us that God works across time and space. The local prayers remind us that God works in our time and in our space.
Please join us, in person or in spirit, in praying for your city.
Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.