Last week, I was fortunate enough (maybe I should say, blessed) to attend a Ruby Payne conference, attend a Passion City Church worship service, and bond with two passionate Christians seeking to learn more about how to make pathways out of poverty—more specifically how our churches can make pathways out of poverty.
Certainly that is a great deal to list in the first paragraph of a blog, but I needed to jump in and get started (that helps me when I have departed from a routine). Please allow me to continue.
The Missouri UMC Conference established an initiative for the 2019 year: to increase the church-school partnerships from 10 to 40% in an effort to create “pathways out of poverty.” This is a lofty goal, indeed; and an educational task force is operating to assist this effort.
At least that is the structure that is currently established.
Three of us attended the Ruby Payne conference, Addressing the Challenges of Poverty,in Atlanta on September 23-25. The focus was on how to work with the multiple agencies that provide resources for those in poverty, aka the under-resourced.
About 20 years ago, I attended a Ruby Payne conference that introduced me to her framework of poverty. That experience taught me so much about the hidden rules that exist not only for the socio-economic poverty class, but also for the middle class and the wealthy.
The knowledge base made me much more accepting of others who were in different life circumstances than my own. In fact, I had to reassess my own background and figure out my own hidden rules.
I firmly believe that it made a tremendous difference in my teaching and continues into my ministry. I have not one doubt that this information is a key to the conference’s initiative, too.
But, I am wondering way too far from my blog’s opening title.
Our small team was asked to use prayer as we stepped into the conference: Prayer for guidance. Prayer for understanding. Prayer for the conference. Prayer for the churches. Prayer for the people in our communities.
Growing up, prayer meant a formal set of words offered at specific times with specific purposes. Prayer had a visual appearance of head down and hands folded. I was a kid, learning.
Prayer was given at each meal in our household and even today, I yearn to hear my dad’s words. I cannot remember them all and my family has tried to rebuild it, but we can’t.
Prayer was used in church and we all had to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. The minister, aka pastor or preacher typically offered prayer. Sometimes lay people prayed, but I never really felt like prayer was used all the time, any time, or anywhere.
Then, I grew up. I begin realizing prayer was a tool, a connection with God. I participated in a small study group about prayer. I began hearing about prayer differently. And even through the discernment process and the training to become a licensed local pastor, I continued to learn about prayer.
And I used prayer—officially.
And I used prayer—personally.
Then this summer I read the book, Talking with God by Adam Weber, and I became comfortable with prayer in an even deeper manner.
Prayer is a tool but it is even more. Prayer is a conversation with God, one that never has to cease, that can change on a whim, that can be tears or laughter. Prayer is essential in our Christian lives.
Prayer is any time.
Prayer is any place.
Prayer is anything.
Throughout the days of travel, conversation, presentations, meals, walking, and more, prayer is all that you do when living as Christians.
The Missouri Conference has a dream, and that dream can involve every individual through prayer.
The work that Ruby Payne has done is prayer in action as the educators, the agencies, the legislators, and the interested citizens work to address the difficulties in life that come through the barriers created by the hidden rules of socio-economic classes.
There is no reason to believe that any church denomination has an answer to the problem, but there is a reason for each Christian—regardless of denomination—to join in prayer that we can do all that we an for all those we can in any way we can wherever we can and whenever we can (yes, John Wesley said it and we should continue to say and do as the same).
Prayer is the first and most essential task we all can participate in doing. We can pray regardless of age, gender, or race. We can pray alone or we can pray in groups.
Yes, I did mention attending a worship service while in Atlanta. I was not familiar with Grace City Church, but when I started learning about it I wanted to go.
What an experience! The church was an old Home Depot store transformed into a worship space. No stained glass windows. No pews, just padded chairs. No alter. No typical appearance associated with the traditional church in which I grew up or am accustomed attending.
But there was Jesus! There were people—everywhere. There was music. There was a sermon. There was an offering. There was PRAYER!
And I know that God was pleased.
I walked away from that setting and discovered that I had witnessed just a miniscule picture of what true Christianity can be. The congregation was not what I have witnessed before.
The people were all one: No race mattered. No age mattered. No gender mattered. No social class mattered.
Only one thing mattered: God’s unconditional love. Prayer was alive and witnessed.
Dear Loving Father,
I am with you always, and I pray always.
Use me in ways I may not understand
So that I can share your kingdom with others.
I pray when I struggle, and I know you listen.
May my unconditional love of others
Provide a prayer for them in their struggles, too.
I pray in order to hear you, and yet I am unsure.
Let me continue to pray and to do all that I can
In any way, for all, in any way, at any time I can.
Thank you, too, Father, for all those who join
In prayer to do the same wherever they are