We call this our Weekly Devotional and Prayers. I've asked our staff to limit this Wednesday communication to only those two things... the prayers of our members, friends and family, community, state, nation, and world... and some pastoral reflection that enables us to truly devote this time to these prayer requests.
We don't do any church announcements or invitations to serve or give in the Wednesday email anymore. We don't add a quick note about this ministry or program. This Weekly Devotional and Prayers email is set aside (devoted to) praying.
The term devotional is important. To "devote" something means to formally vow it, to promise it, to set it aside as separate and special, even sacred. To be "devoted" to someone means they are a higher priority than others.
The practice of praying with and for one another and the wider world is an essential Christian discipline. Yet, too often, Christians let prayer for others slip behind other tasks, chores, or to-dos. We might even let praying for others fall away while we continue praying for ourselves.
My hope for this weekly Devotional and Prayers is to invite us to set aside (devote) time each week in prayer for others, to establish a weekly rhythm of praying for one another and our wider community.
You might find that invitation difficult, and I get that. There's another way to hear the word "devote". To de-vote oneself to one thing means to take away your vote from something else. To de-vote is acknowledgement we cannot do it all, we cannot have it all. If we are truly willing to devote some of our time, energy, and resources to praying over the needs and sufferings of others, we must de-vote some of our time, energy, and resources from something else in lives.
Note, there's not an expectation to ignore our own needs or prayers. There is an invitation to intentionally devote some time each week to the prayers of others, as a practice of widening our perspective. Our story is important to God and worthy of being lived and shared. The temptation is to stay so deep inside our own version of life we miss the stories and lives of others around us.
I pray this week you find real connection in these prayers. I pray you find yourself pausing for a moment on each name, feeling the connection between you and them across the miles, and listening for God's invitation to actively respond to something on this list. That is the point of prayer after all. It isn't a substitute for action, but a moment to listen for God's invitation to act.
Blessings, Laughter, and Loving be yours,
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert