24 February 2005

Methodist Church looks forward to "Pray Without Ceasing"

The Methodist Church will launch 14 months of non-stop prayer later this year. The 14-month Pray Without Ceasing programme will be launched at the annual Methodist Conference in late June and will end on 1 September 2006.

The 33 Methodist Districts will each take a one- or two-week period, during which the churches in the District will between them maintain continuous prayer. The aims of the programme are: to celebrate prayer as a gift from God; to affirm prayer that is already happening; and to resource prayer by providing ideas and inspiration to help people pray in ways that are new to them. Another key feature is that the prayer will be both diverse and inclusive, spanning age, gender, culture and theology.

The Rev Michaela Youngson, Methodist Secretary for Pastoral Care and Spirituality, says, "Prayer is at the heart of the Christian experience. The Christian ideal is to be in relationship with God - relationships thrive through mutual communication and it is in prayer that we can express our love for God and create space to listen to God's word to us."

The Pray Without Ceasing programme follows the 2004 Methodist Conference, when the Church committed itself to a year of prayer, which caused some eyebrows to be raised. "Obviously, as a Church and as individual Christians we all pray anyway," says Michaela, "so the idea of a year of prayer may have looked a little surprising. But things we do routinely can lose their freshness, so raising the profile of prayer will help us come to it anew. I hope that Pray Without Ceasing will be an opportunity to look again at what we believe about prayer and an encouragement to people to pray in ways new to them." The Conference resolution was inspired by the non-denominational 24-7 Prayer movement, which encourages churches to pray for 24 hours a day for seven days. A number of Methodist churches have already done 24-7 weeks and many more will try this form of prayer as one of the ways of joining in the Methodist Pray Without Ceasing initiative.

The programme is supported by a website www.praywithoutceasing.org.uk and more resources will be launched as the start of the programme nears. Although aimed at Methodists, the web site will develop to be a rich prayer resource for all churches.

"Continuous prayer is not a Methodist invention and we celebrate the prayers of all Christians worldwide," says Michaela. "The Priorities of the Methodist Church urge us to take seriously the need for God centred worship and prayer. We have a rich tradition of liturgical and free prayer in which we express our devotion to God and bring before God the concerns of our churches and communities. This year the Methodist Church is committed to the Make Poverty History campaign and this is one reminder of our calling to pray for the needs of the world in which we live."

The Rev Graham Horsley, Secretary for Evangelism, says that Pray Without Ceasing will highlight the fundamental importance of prayer to Christian life. "It can be hard to find time to pray in today's busy world," he says. "If Pray Without Ceasing brings us into the life-changing presence of God for even a few minutes more than we are used to, it will have been time well spent."

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