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Mar6WedRefresh your soul with the 2019 territorial prayer initiative. March 6, 2019 by Major April McNeilly
Father John Vianney, a 19th-century parish priest and Catholic saint, said “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” Close your eyes and picture that phrase. Allow God’s Spirit to move your heart, even now whispering to you of our great need for this baptism of love. As we experience more of him, we will operate less out of insecurity and fear, and more out of genuine love, taking us to places we could never imagine.
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In his new year message, General Brian Peddle outlined his vision for The Salvation Army in the coming years, challenging Salvationists to be ready, be engaged and take responsibility for mission—beginning with a call to prayer.
That’s why we’re calling The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda to try something new in this season before Easter. Traditionally, Lent has been a time to give something up—to deny oneself. Let’s change things up a bit this year: while also choosing one day a week to fast, let’s add something to our everyday life.
Prayer is one of the primary ways that God gets our attention. I love Eugene Peterson’s take on Romans 12: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2 The Message).
In addition to our regular devotions during Lent, why don’t we, as a territory, structure our entire day around prayer?
Lent is the 40-day period before Easter, a time of prayer and fasting that echoes Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-2). While it has always been part of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, it is not as familiar in Protestant circles. In recent years, however, evangelicals have joined in observing this season as a time to enter into Christ’s sufferings, reflect on our own vulnerability to sin and deny ourselves as we take up our cross and follow our Lord to Calvary. The imagery is powerful.
In The Salvation Army, we have focused on self-denial during the pre-Easter season. Whether we call this season Lent, or choose another term or phrase, we are all invited to set aside 40 days with Christ-followers around the world as we enter into Jesus’ final weeks here on earth. This is a time to reflect on our inner heart condition, perhaps even deny ourselves something specific, as we call out to the Lord for a fresh touch from him.
As we pray and fast, we enter a discipline that Jews and Christians have benefitted from for thousands of years. Who are we to dismiss these ancient paths?
This brings us to the main point of this article: a call to Salvationists across Canada and Bermuda to “pray the hours” during Lent 2019. Let’s be an Army on our knees!
A friend of mine recently said: “I’m bored with my prayers—I can’t imagine how bored Jesus must be with them!” Our prayer life can be dry and uninspired. Yet prayer is as vital as the air we breathe. The Psalmist said, “Seven times a day I praise you” (Psalm 119:164). One of the most ancient methods of prayer is to pray at fixed hours each day, structuring our day around an awareness of God’s presence.
For the 2019 season of Lent, we’re inviting Salvationists to join together and structure our days around prayer. Daily devotions are wonderful, but imagine structuring our entire day around prayer! Imagine being at the office, travelling, eating a meal, watching Netflix, or hanging out with family and friends, when your cellphone alarm rings, reminding you to stop everything and talk to the God of the universe. Imagine Salvationists across Canada and Bermuda—as many of us as we can get—taking these specific times to talk to God. Incredible picture, isn’t it?
Including Holy Week and Easter Sunday, there are a total of 47 days during Lent. (You may choose to take Sundays off, as special stand-alone days). Our call to the territory is: pray specific hours for 47 days, from March 6 to April 21, plus observe every Wednesday as a territorial day of fasting.
There are two basic components to our territorial plan for praying the hours:
1. Set an alarm (cellphone alarms are the most obvious choice) at the following intervals:
12 a.m. (if you’re still awake!)
• Pray during these times, for 10 seconds, 10 minutes or as long as you wish. It’s that simple!
2. Set aside each Wednesday (March 6, 13, 20, 27 and April 3, 10, 17) as a day of fasting. Fasting ideas include: a full day without food, eating only one meal on Wednesdays, fasting from social media, coffee, pop, music or TV. On these days, each time we deny ourselves that coffee or favourite TV show, we collectively say, “God, we need you to be our all-in-all.”
Connect with our territory’s spiritual life website (saspirituallife.ca) or Facebook page for daily prayers. Share this plan on social media—talk it up! Know that somewhere across Canada and Bermuda, seven times a day, other Salvationists are praying the same prayer, calling out to God with one loud, passionate voice.
William Booth said, “God loves with a great love the man [or woman] whose heart is bursting with a passion for the impossible.” Being an Army on our knees, unified and seeking the Father’s heart, is not impossible, but some would suggest it is farfetched. Let’s increase our faith! Let’s see what God wants to say to his Army in the 21st century. Let’s continue to be part of the great move of God that is currently happening all around the world.
Major April McNeilly is the territorial secretary for spiritual life development.
Scripture suggests fixed times of prayer:
• “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3).
• “At midnight I rise to give you thanks” (Psalm 119:62).
• “Evening, morning and noon I cry out … and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).
• “Seven times a day I praise you” (Psalm 119:164).
Feature photo: © ALLEKO/iStock.com