Lent is the season of the church calendar when Christians focus on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. It is intended to be a time of repentance, thankfulness and prayer. People often choose to honor Jesus and the sacrifice of His life for us by sacrificing something from their own life. Through their sacrifices they seek to identify with Christ’s sacrifice. Someone may fast one day a week or abstain from meat, sweets or alcohol. The approach of our 40 Days of Prayer during Lent is not to give up something but rather add focused prayer. We will be joining together as communities of faith in prayer for our community and world for whom Christ died.
The foundation of our 40 Days of Prayer during Lent can be found in Jeremiah 29:7, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to
the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” The context of this passage is that Jerusalem has been conquered by the Babylonians. The best and brightest of Jerusalem have been taken into exile to Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles informing them that they will remain in exile for seventy years and instructs them to build homes, plant gardens, increase flocks, raise families and have their children marry. Here the prophet tells them to seek the welfare of the city and pray for the city and thereby prosper as the city prospers. They understood that they were to pray for the shalom of their new city. shalom is the Hebrew word for welfare; it is often translated as peace. But it is so much more than the absence of violence or war. Shalom speaks of peace with justice. It speaks to the well-being and wholeness of a community, of people together and of each person individually, wholeness both spiritually and physically. God was commanding his own people to seek shalom and pray for the well-being and the success of their conquerors, who just forced them to move from their own home, to be exiled to this city. God revealed that their well-being would be intertwined with their ‘neighbors’ in this new place.
Too many churches are shut off from their communities. We tend to seek our own welfare and not identify a connection of our welfare with the welfare of our community. During this 40 Days of Prayer through Lent we will be praying for the shalom of our community. As we focus our prayers on various aspects of our community and for our neighbors may we better appreciate and bless our community, seek its welfare, recognize that our welfare is interwoven with our community and to build a stronger connection and identity with our community.
Each week our prayers will focus on a particular theme of our community. Each Sunday will begin this new theme for the coming week. It will include a Bible passage with a two or three sentence explanation. Each day’s prayer will deal with a particular aspect of that theme. Again there will be a Bible passage followed by a sentence or two explaining the prayer. You are encouraged to spend time meditating on the Bible passage for each week and day, especially how it relates to the topic of the day. The prayers are not written out for you. Since prayer is simply talking with God, you are encouraged to use your own words and thoughts as you pray. Don’t rush through the prayer, allow time to be reflective and invite God to lead you in your prayers. Another part of prayer is listening for God’s voice. So take time to be silent, to ponder how God might speak to you and lead you to seek shalom in our community. There is space on each page for you to write your thoughts and prayers. Think of this as a prayer journal during this season of lent.
One hope for these 40 Days of Prayer is that we might each think of a way to more actively seek shalom and be more involved in our community. Each one of us has gifts, as well as restrictions on what we can do. God’s word reveals again and again how imperfect people are used to accomplish godly plans. So consider how God might use you, just as you are. Possibilities are endless! You might consider: writing thank you letters to those who serve the community, informing groups that you and others are including them in your prayers, bringing food or desserts to an agency or possibly volunteering with a local ministry. Additionally, congregations can consider how they might reach out into the community and do something bigger than what individuals might do. People can then share what they have done and what it meant to them and to those they served. Perhaps this will lead to continued involvement even after the 40 Days of Prayer is over.
We would also welcome people to share with us the ways 40 Days of Prayer has ministered to you and as well as ways that you have reached out into the community. We anticipate some wonderful and incredible comments and stories.
Our prayer is that we will each be led by God’s Holy Spirit. Our hope is that each individual and congregation will have a greater appreciation for our community and the people within it. Our dream is that, together as a community of faith, we will have a greater impact within our community and usher forth more faith and shalom in this place at this time. For God’s glory and purposes, let us begin in prayer.
Rev. Duke Dixon Presbyterian Church of Easton firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Julie Hart Grace Lutheran Church email@example.com
Rev. Paul Winters St. Paul Lutheran Church firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the entire 40 Days of Prayer Booklet, return to our home page and click on the “40 Days of Prayer” purple box.