By Gary E. Mueller
Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference
I am writing these words from Bupyeong Methodist Church in Incheon, South Korea as part of my role as chair of the Path 1 Strategy Committee that seeks to enable the creation of new faith communities in the United Methodist Church. It is 6:15 am, and I have just returned to my room in the church’s guest house from an hour-long 5:00 am daily prayer service attended by almost 600 people.
The Methodist Church in Korea is vital and vibrant. While it faces its own set of unique challenges like the church everywhere, it is transforming lives, communities and the world. Perhaps most importantly, however, it is built on prayer. Frequent prayer. Powerful prayer. And in particular, a unique style of early morning prayer called Tongkung Kido, which means “cry out together loudly.”
While prayer has always been important to me, I confess I recently have been re-formed in my prayer life because of three distinct experiences. First, I engaged in a deep conversation with someone on the conference staff about my vague sense that in these troubled times we need a major reboot that can only be achieved through prayer. Second, an individual in a conversation I convened about how we might find a way forward in Arkansas passionately articulated how the most important thing we can do right now is to gather together to pray, confess our sins and repent. And, third, my experience of praying out loud for 30 minutes every morning with others has stirred my soul greatly.
Prayer is not something that a bishop can mandate. It’s not a checklist to be completed. Nor is it another program to be implemented. Prayer happens because you take the time to do it and discover how the Holy Spirit enables you to pray more deeply, honestly and authentically than you ever imagined possible.
So here is my dream. Every pastor and every lay person will start out by praying 10 minutes a day. Small groups of people will gather – including groups of non-like minded people – to pray, confess and listen to God. And more and more people will join together to engage in transformational prayer as we open our hearts to God, intercede on behalf of others, the church and the world, and are deeply touched by God’s speaking to us.
If you are willing to do this, I would like to hear from you. If you are willing to share your experiences, I would love to hear about them. If you want me to pray for you as the Holy Spirit moves me, I want to know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not sure where all of this will lead us. But I know this. It is the most hope-full thing we can do in a world that has gone amuck, a church that is struggling and lives that are filled with brokenness. God will give us exactly what we need. And we will be amazed by what happens.