Prayer is formative. The way we pray shapes the way we think and behave. That’s as true for individual Christians as it is for entire Christian communities.
The 2018 election season was bitter and divisive—and the presidential primaries are likely to unofficially kick off before the new members of Congress are comfortable finding their offices. That gives us only a few weeks to find rest and refuge, to consult and encourage one another, to accept hard rebukes and find opportunities to love and serve our neighbors without the noise of major campaigns ringing in our ears every day.
The Center for Christian Civics wants to help you make the most of these few blessed weeks. So, on the first workday of every week until the end of January, we’ll be sending you an email with resources for reflection and prayer. Each email will include a scripture passage and general introduction (for your personal reading and reflection), a few prayer points (to kick off prayer on your own or with your small group) and a sample prayer (that you can pray through on your own or use to lead prayer with larger groups).
This will take the place of our standard email updates, but we may include some other updates at the bottom of a couple of these, or send you an additional announcement or two before the series is over.
I’m praying that each of you may find something in this series of emails that is valuable to you; that God will use something here to challenge you, encourage you, comfort you and grow you.
Prayerfully and expectantly,
Center for Christian Civics
WEEK ONE: PRAYER FOR SABBATH
We are not called to work, toil, fight or worry without reprieve. God actually commands us to honor the idea of sabbath and to build rhythms of it into our lives in big ways and small ways. This is not just so that we can rest—though rest is important, and we would eventually burn out without it. It is also so that we can improve. Sabbath days, slower seasons, and other forms of “sabbaticals” offer us a chance to reflect on what we have done, receive correction and training in how to do it better, and prepare to go back with fresh eyes and a renewed mind. These regular periods of taking stock and correcting course are essential if we want to honor God and avoid sin.
Over the next few months, we will most likely enjoy a blessed reprieve from the constant deluge of campaigning we endured this year and will endure again as the 2020 elections draw closer. Let’s use this break to refresh our weary hearts, and to let God’s Spirit work in us, shaping to approach the next election season with wisdom and grace.
Thank God for the privilege and responsibility of helping to steer a participatory and representative democracy. Ask God to show you opportunities for rest and restoration after a tiring election season. Pray for rest and recuperation for the men and women who have participated in the exhausting work of election campaigns this year.
Lord of the Sabbath,
You’ve delivered us into a land where we get to share the responsibility of overseeing the comings and goings of government, and we are honored that you would entrust us with that. In the garden, you commissioned humanity to give order to the world, and when your Kingdom comes, that work will be instituted perfectly by your Son, but in this intervening time, we get to take part in it—and it can be wearying and dispiriting work.
Thank you for sustaining us in this work, even through another bitter election season. We know that you equip us for every good work, but we also know that it is your desire for your people to practice rest from our work. In a time when the work of stewarding our political and governmental systems is so fraught with questions and crises that seem so urgent, we ask you to teach us what it means to rest in you. At a time when many of our neighbors, many of our brothers and sisters, many of us feel under threat, we ask you to teach us to retreat to places where we can hear the still, small voice of your Spirit speaking into our hearts. In an age when the opportunities for toil are plentiful—even endless—disavow our hearts of the notion that your victory over the powers and principalities of this world will fail if we wear a lighter yoke.
We especially ask you to teach us the difference between sabbath and idleness, between fruitful restoration and mindless passiveness. Teach us to not just retreat to ourselves, but to retreat to you, and to your church. Show us opportunities to tend to one another, encourage one another, and receive instruction from one another. As 2018 draws to a close and 2019 dawns, help us to provoke seasons of healing in one another’s lives, so that together, we can provoke seasons of healing in our churches and in our civic communities.
We know that making ourselves vulnerable to the instruction, the encouragement, the correction, and the questions of others is not always easy—especially when you’ve called men and women of every tribe and tongue to you, including tribes we don’t belong to and tongues we don’t speak. As we practice this season of prayer and restoration, we ask you to give each of us at least one person we can turn to, confide in, pray with and receive instruction from who isn’t from our political or cultural tribe—a brother or a sister who we wouldn’t be bound to if they weren’t also a member of your gathering.
And as we pray for ourselves and for our churches to prepare for the work of witness and stewardship, we also pray for the men and women who work in our political parties, in our governmental systems and in our elected offices. You didn’t intend Christians to be the only people who rest—it was part of your vision for humanity before the fall. And we know that campaigns are punishing and unrelenting work environments—which means so many of the people doing the work of politics and government have just gone through months where they have to deny part of what it means to be human. In their weariness, give them opportunities to rest. And in their rest, teach them what it means to need a master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, who took our fears upon himself and will return to assuage them; who took up our anxieties and will return to put them to rest forever; who felt our passions and will return to fulfill them. May we rest in him in ways that leave us restored for the work he would have us do as his hands and feet.