Week of Guided Prayer

Each year in the spring members of the congregation are invited to participate in a Week of Guided Prayer.

During this retreat – in the midst of everyday life – retreatants spend time each day praying Scripture as well as meeting with a companion who has been trained to journey with each person along their spiritual journey.  The materials for this retreat are prepared through an ecumenical initiative with the Hamilton conference of the United Church of Canada and can be found on the Week of Guided Prayer Network.

Week of Guided Prayer 2018

Living in God’s Time

April 15 – April 20, 2018

What does it mean to live in God’s time?

We often live our lives in linear time … seeing life with a beginning and an end. Stepping back to view life from God’s perspective, we open ourselves to new possibilities. Instead of moving from birth to death, we are invited to focus on God’s transformative presence in all the moments and cycles of our lives. This Week of Guided Prayer will help us discover how in God’s time …

∙       hidden in joyful endings are challenging beginnings

∙       wonderful new beginnings can be revealed through painful endings

∙       traumatic beginnings may lead to abundant possibilities

∙       despair can open into hope.

This Week of Guided Prayer will provide us the opportunity to experience God’s presence with us through the moments of endings and beginnings of our lives. Living in God’s time is trusting that God is with us through our joys and sorrows – our trials and our opportunities – we are invited to deepen our relationship with Holy Mystery-the Alpha & Omega – Holy Love.

We invite you to join us in this week so you may experience a deepening relationship with God. Each day throughout the week a new daily theme will be posted accompanied by scripture suggestions, a reflection, questions for contemplation and a prayer.  May this be meaningful for you and draw you closer into relationship with the God of love.

This link will connect you to an on-line Bible source. https://www.biblegateway.com/

(Week of Guided Prayer is an ecumenical initiative under the Direction of the Week of Guided Prayer Network of Hamilton Conference of The United Church of Canada.  All materials are used with permission.)

 

 Living in God’s Time
a time to be silent and a time to speak

Sunday/Monday

1 Kings 19:9-13 … a sound of sheer silence
Job 2:11-13 … no one spoke a word to Job
Matthew 15:22-28 … a Canaanite Woman … started shouting
John 8:1-11 … neither do I condemn you

 In the early 1990’s, I attended an ecumenical church conference in Minnesota. Over the several days in assigned table groups, we risked sharing our stories. I will never forget one young woman who was struggling with a decision that faced her and her female life partner. They had been asked by a dying mother to adopt her children after her death. This momentous decision was even more complicated because their same sex relationship had no legal or religious recognition. I consider myself an ally and supporter of people who are LGBTQ+ and yet listening to her words as a fairly new parent, I wondered if those children wouldn’t be better off with a mom and dad.

I kept those thoughts to myself and continued to listen. My mind and heart began to shift. A dying mother had made her choice. How could anyone argue with that? I began to hear a person who was facing the death of a friend, wanting desperately to honour her wishes and prayerfully discern what was best for the children. We looked at pictures and heard stories about them. Around that table, I hope we modeled for her what a loving supportive Christian community could look like for her new family. I left believing that she and her partner would become parents to those children and praying that they would find a Christian community that would surround them with love.

Can this be how change happens? Someone is brave enough to share their story. Others are open to really listening and examining their own hearts before expressing an opinion. In the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, when he paused his own agenda and took the time to listen and engage with her, she had the courage to step up and speak up in the crowd. Her words and his willingness to be open to the possibility of something new shifted his ideas of ministry. For her, there was healing.

Sitting together in silence. Listening until someone else can speak. Being willing to wrestle with our own discomfort over what we might hear. Pushing our own boundaries out a little further and learning to speak up in a new way. These are gifts we have to share with the world.                                                                                        J. Cameron

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. When did my silence allow another to speak?
  2. When did my speaking up bring healing for myself or others?

Meditative Prayer:

God give us the courage to risk sharing our stories
and to listen with love to the stories of others. Amen.

 

Living in God’s Time
a time to be silent and a time to speak

Tuesday

Genesis 18:9-15 … Sarah laughed to herself
Genesis 21:8-20 … Hagar lifted up her voice and wept
John 11:30-35 … Jesus began to weep
John 20:11-18 … Mary stood weeping outside the tomb

There have been times when I have wept.

I remember the time when I was with my family and friends at a Faith at Work camping event. While gathered around the evening campfire, I started to cry uncontrollably. At that time, I had no idea why I was crying. Time passed. Finally, my breathing steadied and my sobbing stilled. Blessed by the presence of my friends, I began to understand the reason for my weeping. As a boy and as a man, I was taught it was not proper to cry. I realized I was crying for those times that I did not cry – as a boy, … as a young man, … and as a disciple who did not respond to a particular call.

In the years since, I have been able to see God at work in my life. Sometimes it has been a gentle nudge and other times a good swift kick. Insecurity about my ability to write has held me back in some circumstances. I have joyfully responded to God’s call in many different ways; however I could not imagine writing a reflection for the Week of Guided Prayer. Writing this reflection on weeping, reminds me that God has a way of making our insecurities less and our abilities more.

Unlike me, Hagar knew why she was crying. She and her only son were banished. At that moment, she was sure that they would die of thirst in the desert. God heard her weeping and opened her eyes to see the water that they desperately needed. They drank and lived. Her son became a great leader.

I thank God for that time of weeping which gave way to the joy and happiness of recognizing God’s call in my life. I give thanks to God for helping me see again and again how I can use my abilities – to his glory.               A. Hills

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. When have I not allowed myself to cry?
  2. When has recognizing God’s presence turned my sad tears to tears of laughter?

Meditative Prayer:

Ever-present God, thank you for the assurance that you are always with me.
Help me recognize and respond with joy to your call in my life. Amen.

 

Living in God’s Time
a time to plant and a time to harvest

Wednesday

Genesis 13:1-12 … separate yourself from me
Ruth 2:1-12 … Ruth gleaned in the field
John 12:24-26 … unless a grain of wheat falls
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 … God gave the growth

As I read these scriptures and reflect on today’s theme, my mind keeps wandering in wonder at what happens between the time of planting and harvest. Thinking about growth fills me with awe, pointing me towards God and some marvelous plan that is revealed when the time is right. Growing looks like it should be such a lot of hard work but we know it happens without any conscious effort on our part – or on a seed’s for that matter. Paul reminds us that growth is not something for which we can claim credit – God is the One who makes things grow.

So, I begin by giving thanks for the ways God’s Word has transformed me. I attribute my spiritual growth to what has been planted in me. The extent of this change became clear the other day when I came upon a memento book about what some former students saw as the highlights of a trip I chaperoned. How they perceived the “cool and clever” teacher of almost 40 years ago made me blush. It’s not how I wanted to be remembered. But by the grace of God, I can also remember all that was deep within calling me to the light – stories of love, hope and perseverance.

I had always loved to read about and listen to the life stories of others – amazed by the way hope empowered people to endure. In my childhood home, I was taught the Bible was just a book of stories, yet seeds were still planted in me. From those stories, I learned that hope and God were connected and that knowing God would somehow change one’s life. I can picture the seeds of promise God planted in Abram growing to strengthen his faith, empowering him to be a blessing to others. I imagine that the stories Naomi shared about the faithfulness of her God reassured Ruth as her life turned upside down.

As I grew older, opportunities to talk about all I was observing sprouted up as well. Fast forward to 1999 and my first Week of Guided Prayer which opened me to discovering God’s Presence even more. No wonder I have changed! Close to 500 scriptures have been sown into me, along with learning how to let them penetrate my soul. I may not be able to recite them effortlessly but the essence of a story rises up exactly when I need it. Like a healing prayer, God reveals whatever needs to be turned over or harvested to feed myself and others.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             D. Kucharczyk

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. What seeds has God planted in my life?
  2. What stories have shaped my life?

Meditative Prayer:

Dear Jesus, help me recognize your seeds of love and hope in my life.
Show me when to harvest what has been planted in me
so that others may recognize your presence growing in their lives. Amen.

 

Living in God’s Time
a time to question and a time to trust

Thursday

Exodus 3:1-11 … who am I that I should go to Pharaoh
Job 16:1-6 … how much of it leaves me
John 14:1-7 … how can we know the way
Acts 9:10-15 … how much evil he has done

It’s a Thursday morning. The beginning of a four-day mini-retreat. It is a time to reflect on the current state of the business I conceived and developed over the past three years. The business has not achieved that for which I had hoped. I am at a place of decision. Do I continue to invest time, energy and money or do I “roll-up” this venture and end it? Now is a time of questioning and doubt.

The simple answer is to end it once I can get over the sense of personal failure but this situation is not that simple. This venture was conceived through prayer and intended to provide the financial resources to support ministry – or so I believed. Did I interpret the response to my prayers correctly? Was it really the will of God for me to pursue this venture? Or was this venture really my hope and not a response to prayer at all?

It is also a time of doubt. What if I wasn’t wrong and did interpret correctly? Would ending the venture now be because I do not trust that God will provide? Is it time to concede that when things don’t grow they need to be pruned? Or is it a time to trust and persevere through this adversity?

When I reflect on the faith of Job through his hardships, I see a man whose faith was rewarded: and I wonder if all I need is to be a little more tenacious. When I reflect on the doubt of Moses, I see a man who questioned his calling and his own ability to go where God has asked: and I question if I am hesitant because I am afraid. And when I reflect on the trust of Ananias, I see a man who overcame his reservation with courage: and I consider that just because this doesn’t make sense to me, God may have a wider purpose that will be fulfilled in God’s time. I have a sense that there is a time for easy answers – and that this is not that time. So, it is the questioning voice of doubting Thomas that rings in my ear at this time of discernment – Lord … how can I know the way?

It is the voice of Jesus that provides the guidance, if not the quick answer – “I am the way”, Jesus says. In these simple words is contained the direction that I must head and the truth on which I must spend time reflecting. As I continue this time of questioning, I trust with certainty that God will lead me with wisdom.                                                                         P. Gushue

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. How do I talk with God during times of questioning and doubt?
  2. How does trusting that Jesus is the Way help me to discern God’s will for my life?

Meditative Prayer:

God of wisdom and truth, grant that I may have the courage to question
and the faith to trust that through prayer you will guide me along your way. Amen.

 

Living in God’s Time
a time to keep and a time to release

Friday

Exodus 16:13-21 … gather as much of it as each of you needs
Ruth 1:6-18 … turn back, my daughters, go your way
Matthew 1:18-25 … Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him
Luke 19:1-10 … the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost

A couple of years ago I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The gist of the book was that we should get rid of all the stuff in our lives that does not bring us joy. One starts with one’s clothing and then onto papers, and then onto all the other things one accumulates. I found that letting go of a lot of things did bring me joy – and a tidier house. Throwing out or passing on items to the Salvation Army Thrift Store was actually therapeutic! I kept the things that were precious to me, that made me happy, and “recycled” the rest. Now, each time I tackle this job, it is easier.

Sometimes, we are enchained by our history. We are surrounded by things – and people – we do not love. We hold onto the past so tightly that we cannot enjoy the present. We allow people, not God, to dictate our actions. We find ourselves doing things – sometimes even good and useful things – because we always have done them or we think we should do them or because no one else will do them. Often, we do not stop and seek God’s will in how to best use our talents to serve God and others. We hold on to the familiar because we are afraid to move into the unknown.

Our scriptures today go beyond worldly accumulations. In Exodus, the Israelites learn that God provides if they take just what they need. In Ruth, a daughter-in-law chooses to let go of her past and move forward with her beloved mother-in-law into a very uncertain future. In Matthew, Joseph turns his back on the accepted customs of his time and chooses to stay with Mary. In Luke, Zacchaeus, who is suspected of being dishonest and greedy, releases the old and embraces a new life in Christ.

God loves a cheerful giver and wants us to find joy in serving. The Bible is full of stories of people who held onto their faith in times of turmoil, but who also were prepared to step into the unfamiliar, trusting that God would support them on their journeys.                                                                                                                                                                                                    D. Drapkin

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. What do I need to hold on to in my life?
  2. What do I need to release in my life?

Meditative Prayer:

Loving God, you know best what I need and what brings me joy.
Give me the courage to make changes in my life
so that I may serve you more faithfully. Amen.

 

Living in God’s Time
a time to die and a time to be born

Saturday

Psalm 23 … I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Ezekiel 37:1-10 … the breath came into them, and they lived
Luke 15:28-32 … this brother of yours was dead and has come to life
Acts 2:42-47 … they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching

Looking into the mirror, I recognize myself in the older brother. I feel the frustration of being the reliable one, always being there … taken for granted. With the sounds of music and laughter drifting across the yard, along with the aroma of roasting meat, anger wells up inside of me. How many times would I have liked to celebrate with my friends? What would I give for one day away, and now I should celebrate that my brother spent half of everything and has come back for more? And then my father’s words break in, “How can we not celebrate? Your brother was dead and has come back to life.” Ever so slowly, my hard, self-righteous heart begins to soften. True, I could hold on to my hurt and jealousy, but what if I let it go? What if I was indeed grateful my brother came home? Could our relationship have new life?

As I pondered the theme “a time to die and a time to be born”, I found myself filled with deep gratitude for my faith, for the gift of knowing God through Jesus, for the words of scripture that I have read, studied, prayed and sung throughout my life, and for my parents. Through Dad’s faith in God and trust that there is goodness in all people, I forgave my brother and now we enjoy a good relationship.

Growing up in a family where church and helping others came first, I never stopped to imagine what life would be like without faith. What would it be like never to hear, sing or say those precious words, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”? What would it be like never to know the love of our wonderful, extended church families? What would it be like to face a world full of books, movies, wise and not so wise sayings, tweets and memes, and not know what to test them against? What would it be like not to trust that the hope of the resurrection is that God loves us, Christ walks with us in the Way, and the breath of the Spirit gives us new life?

This week, we have prayed old familiar stories and possibly some passages that are new to us. We have listened deeply for God’s words for us in the particular time and place we find ourselves. The words and silences we have shared assure us that “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us; we are not alone.” Our faith is rooted in beginnings, endings and new beginnings. Whatever we face in life and when we face death, we can do so confident that we are always on the brink of God’s new possibilities for us. What a privilege it is to know Jesus and to carry everything to God in prayer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     H. Leffler

For Reflection and Journaling:

  1. When has an ending opened new possibilities for me?
  2. What gives me hope?

Meditative Prayer:

God of endings and new beginnings, accept my gratitude for the gift of knowing you through Jesus.
Show me how to live so that others may experience your love and faithfulness
through my words, prayers and actions. Amen.

 

 

Week of Guided Prayer 2017

Woven with Gods Love

April 30 – May 6

Our lives are part of a tapestry that began at the dawn of time. God, the Master Weaver, drew in rich colours to create light and dark, seas and skies, earth, plants, animals. Then God did an amazing thing. In love, God wove people into this wonderful, ever-changing picture of life. We are not just part of God’s creation but are invited to be co-creators with the One who is Holy Mystery and Wholly Love. Through prayer we are drawn closer to the One who continues to weave with love.