Prayers for General Conference 2016

March 23, 2016
Photo by Mike DuBose

Each day this year, a different annual conference from around the world has been praying for delegates, for the process, and for the wisdom and love of God to prevail when the denomination gathers in Portland, Oregon from May 10-20 for The United Methodist Church General Conference. On Wednesday, March 23, Minnesota United Methodists came together for a 24-hour prayer vigil. Hundreds of churches, groups, and individuals from throughout the conference signed up for a 15-minute period on that day when they committed to be in prayer. At least one person or group was praying for General Conference every minute for the entire day.

Meanwhile, about two dozen clergy and lay people from across Minnesota wrote their personal prayers for General Conference, and those prayers were shared via Facebook and Twitter every hour throughout the day of the vigil. Below is a compilation of those prayers, all in one place. We encourage you to continue to pray in the remaining days and weeks leading up to General Conference. You can pray your own prayer or pray some of these prayers that really speak to you. 

The prayers:

“Almighty and gracious God, as we prepare for General Conference in Portland, have mercy on your church, troubled and divided. Pour out your heavenly blessings; redeem, restore and remold your church until we are made new, that we may be one in Christ for the sake of the world. Instill within delegates humble hearts and discerning minds that hunger and thirst for your righteousness and justice, and your vision for our future. Through the decisions and spirit of General Conference, renew in the whole church a passionate longing for the coming of your kingdom, and unite us in one mission: to reach and make new disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world. Amen.”
--Bishop Bruce R. Ough
“God of grace and glory, as we approach these days of coming together to conference, favor us with your presence. Pour out your Holy Spirit to bless, to cleanse our hearts and minds, to open our spirits to the unseen possibilities before us. Guide each of our delegates to seek to understand one another with humility, gentleness, and care. Make us passionate for your kingdom and your vision of what this world can be. Renew us as a church in our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Amen.”
--Rev. Laurie Kantonen, Hubbard UMC
“Gracious God, we pray for the safety and well-being of those traveling from around the world to meet in Portland, Oregon. We pray that you let your Holy Spirit be in their midst and that you will prepare their hearts and minds to be receptive to your word. Let their love for Christ be the unity by which they make decisions to honor you and to honor one another in their faith. Direct the tone and nature of the discussions, and let everything be done and said to your glory. Let the words of their mouth and the meditation of their hearts be acceptable to thee, oh God. We ask these blessings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
--Lee Rainey, Park Avenue UMC (Minneapolis)
“Heavenly Father, we give thanks to you through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Bless us, guide us, and lead us—young and old—as United Methodists who seek to grow in grace and live out your word and your vision for our future. Keep us from all sin and evil so that we may serve you in all faithfulness through Jesus, our Lord. Amen!”
--Kieu Doan, Faith Vietnamese Fellowship (Richfield)
“Save us, O Lord our God, we desire to flee the wrath that is to come. Gather us safely. Gather us as United Methodists from among the nations. May we, as a connection of faithful followers of Jesus, give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. In our preparation, blessed be the Lord; in our session, blessed be the Lord; in the missional sending out, blessed be the Lord; blessed be the Lord from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’ And let all the people say, ‘Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord.’ Amen.”
--Rev. Joel Xavier, Kasson & Pleasant Corners UMC / Prayer adapted from Psalm 106:47-48
“God, in the quietness of this moment, help us to hear your voice and know what you have called us to do. Help us, Lord, to remember that this is really all about you and your amazing grace through Jesus Christ. Fill us with your presence that in doing the business of the day, we experience your kingdom breaking through. Bind us together with your Spirit to be a unified body, holy in our diversity, and wise in understanding. May our decisions reflect the beautiful nature of Christ to the world: life-giving and transforming, a sign of peace and hope. Amen.”
--Rev. Terri Horn, Le Sueur UMC
“Our gracious Lord and God: We turn to you in these days leading up to General Conference. People have been elected from diverse locations to do some of the hard work of our denomination. We realize that we are being transformed day by day, and more than anything, we pray that in thought, word, and actions, we might become the church you desire. Embrace our delegates with an earnest depth of discernment, and may every corner of each piece of legislation be washed in prayer. This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior. Amen.”
--Rev. Grant Tanner, Cedar UMC (Ham Lake)
 “Gracious God, as you gather United Methodist delegates from many places throughout the world, come Holy Spirit from the four winds and breathe life; breathe wisdom, unity, and love. Lord, prepare hearts, minds, and hands to remain open to your voice, your heart, and your guidance. Surprise us as you lead our United Methodist Church into a more vibrant future that bears witness to the world that you are God who continues to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.”
--Rev. Cynthia Williams, Camphor Memorial UMC (St. Paul) & Park Avenue UMC (Minneapolis)
 “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” --John Wesley 

“Lord God, we turn over every proceeding, every breakout meeting, every item of legislation, every delegate conversation, every word from the session floor—all of it, Lord, we turn over to you, asking that by the power of your Holy Spirit, it might be fruitful toward resetting and reestablishing the doctrine, spirit, and discipline on which we first set out. Lead us away from any manner of conversation, legislative act, or proceeding that would lure us into the embrace of empty religion which manifests the form but lacks the power. Lead your Methodist people to life-giving decisions. Amen.”
--Rev. Fred Vanderwerf, Southern Prairie District Superintendent 
“God of our yesterdays and our tomorrows, help us to be your faithful church today. On this very day children suffer needlessly, neighbors are separated in their ideas, and a million human hearts long for your grace and power. This, O God, is the day to rekindle your fire in the hearts of your people and organize us with methods that will carry your good news as effectively now as in the time of John Wesley. Help us to bring joy in love, faith in our mission, and hope of your salvation to everyone. Guide and inspire your United Methodist Church and its delegates to General Conference to heal and bless our world. Amen.”
--Rev. Brenda North, Detroit Lakes UMC
A compilation of prayers offered by Confirmation students from throughout the conference:
Holy God, as we prepare for General Conference, we pray:
-for the big heart of Jesus to guide delegates in actions and voting
-for a church that has a place for young people
-that God’s love is available regardless of the “label” a person has been given
-that the work and light of Jesus Christ will shine among all
-that God will guide and inspire us to continue on our mission of faith
-that delegates will put their mind, body, and spirit into action to heal a broken world
-that as a denomination, we find unity with integrity amid theological differences
-that wisdom, discernment, and justice roll down like waters for all
-for people who have become disconnected from God
-that love for God and each other opens all hearts to God’s grace
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
“We! Us! Right now, Father.
Not someone else, not them, not our congregations, but us! Right now! Use us!
Not because we know more, not because we’ve memorized it all and read it many times, not because we’ve been chosen to be here, but because we have hands, and feet, and hearts that long for you, and you can do a lot with that. Every thing, even.
Free us! Right now, Jesus.
Free us to seek and accept your forgiveness. For over two thousand years, we've had the chance to free your people, to share with them the joy that we know—to bring healing to the sick, relief to the suffering, and freedom to the slave. Yet we see so much we haven’t done in spite of the ages we’ve had to do it. Forgive us, redeem us. 
Be us! Right now, Spirit!
Fill us with your presence so that we will not be contained but will see no alternative but to burst forth from this place with a renewed zeal to be your people, to proclaim your kingdom come! 
We! Us! Right now!
--Jeff Adams, Hilltop UMC (Mankato)
“We confess our anxiety as we march toward our quadrennial family reunion, O God. We are human, and this is unavoidable. Equally unavoidable, though, is the mandate to be your church. Strengthen us to keep marching and keep calling each other family, especially when we least want to do so. Give us courage beyond our anxiety, and confirm our hope that wherever this march will lead us, you will be there. Amen.”
--Rev. Rachel Morey, Northfield UMC
“Loving God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear your desire for us. Help us act with love for our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church, of faith, and throughout the world. Guide us towards action that goes further than simply dialogue; help us put our conclusions into practice for the betterment of the world. We thank you for our similarities and agreement and ask that you help us realize they are greater than our differences and disagreement. Empower us to earnestly listen to each other in order to learn rather than to simply try to prove each other wrong. Amen.”
--Walker Brault, Wesley UMC (Winona) 
“Expansive and longing God, you know us. You know the ways our hearts have been strangely and powerfully warmed. You know the ways our hearts can become strangely and tragically hardened. We your people ask for a radical awakening. Help us to trust that through you all things are possible. May we hold fast to that which is good. May we live good news with the oppressed. Grant us recovery of sight for our blindness, and release us we pray from the ways our convictions may hold us and your movement captive. Have patience with us, God, we pray. Unite us through your wisdom and courage for the living of these days.”
--Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, Christ UMC (Rochester)
“Creative Spirit who broods over chaos to bring order and who initiates constructive chaos when order becomes stilted, Incarnate Love who continues to draw near in the Spirit of Jesus the Christ, Empowering Spirit ever-present, come. Our prayer for General Conference is simple and direct—Come, Spirit, come. Be again for us a creative presence. Draw near to us again in love, opening wide your arms that we might open wide our arms and hearts to others. Empower us again to be your people, sharing good news, creating community, building bridges of reconciliation, doing justice. Grow our hearts. Enliven our minds. Expand our dreams. As General Conference gathers in Portland, may we gather not simply in the name of Wesley, but in a Wesleyan spirit—committed to having our conversations seasoned with salt, committed to loving alike, even when we don’t think alike. Come, Spirit, come. In Christ. Amen.”
--Rev. David Bard, First UMC (Duluth); General Conference delegate
 “Awesome God, we remember the experiences of the early church as recorded in Acts 4:31-32a: ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind.’ May all those who gather at General Conference in Portland pray for, be open to, and rely on the mighty power of the Holy Spirit as words are spoken and passions are shared. And at the end of this holy time of conferencing, may the church be united in heart and spirit, through your grace. Amen.”
--Janet Beard, Minnesota Conference Co-Lay Leader
“Oh God, our best friend and strength, we, your children, are here to bless your name, and thank you for your grace, friendship, solidarity, hope, and support. We ask for your wisdom and discernment for all the decisions we need to make in the coming days. We know the world needs more love, tolerance, care, peace, and hope; and we your children have the responsibility to be light and salt in this society where technology, consumerism, and arrogance distract us from our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God, give us your blessing! Amen.”
--Jesus Purisaca Ruiz, Simpson Center for Servant Ministries (Minneapolis)
“God of wisdom, open our hearts and minds to your wise counsel, not relying solely on ourselves or those who think like us, but listening for your still-small voice even in those who disagree with us. Grace the distances between your people, whatever they may be, enticing us to come together for the good of all. Bless those elected to General Conference with keen discernment, a willingness to negotiate to move the church forward, compassion for those most vulnerable in our midst, and a heart for your justice and mercy. Amen.”
--Rev. Pam Serdar, Richfield UMC (Minneapolis)
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for your presence within the United Methodist community, and we ask for your Spirit to fill each of its delegates during General Conference. Give wisdom and discernment as our leaders make decisions that will have a great impact on your people. Unite your Church in mission as we make your truth and love known and create disciples for your cause. Give to those leaders a renewed vision to see your kingdom on earth, and instill in them boldness and courage to fulfill that calling. Bring transformation and restoration to this community and to the world. Amen.”
--Greg Vang, pastor, Wheelock UMC (St. Paul)
“Energizing God, you continuously pour your transforming love into our lives. That love is the power we need to change and to grow into the people you intend for us to become. Remind us that we cannot grow by our own efforts alone. Forgive us when we selfishly refuse to listen to you and ignore the abundant love flowing into the lives of all of your children. Be with the delegates to General Conference that they may discern your will and act in accordance with your great love. Help the delegates remember that they are vessels of your tremendous loving energy and carry an obligation to listen to others, to pray, and to do justice in accordance with your will. Help them to grow forward and to feel your love deep within their souls—and then help them act accordingly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
--Faye Christensen, Park UMC (Brainerd); General Conference delegate
“O God of grace, we pray for our delegates with joy for they have been our partners in spreading the good news. God of justice, you began the good work within our church; continue your work through General Conference. May we keep our hearts to share the favor of God both in defending and confirming the truth of the good news. O God of love, let us be filled with the tender compassion of Christ. We pray that Your love will overflow more and more, and that our church will keep growing in knowledge and understanding of Christ, for we want to understand what really matters to You and Your kingdom. O God of Holiness, may we always be filled with the fruit of your Holy Spirit, for this will bring much glory and praise to God. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.”
-- Keihwan Kevin Ryoo, Korean Evangelical UMC (Hopkins) / Prayer adapted from Philippians 1:3-11
“Gracious and loving God, we give you thanks for your love, which is enduring, sustaining, and faithful from generation to generation. We pray for your church this day as we prepare for General Conference. Open our hearts and our minds to receive your wisdom, and give us ears to hear and eyes to see that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Fill us with the courage and humility to follow the way of Jesus in all that we do and say as we seek to love one another even in the midst of our differences. Bless your church that we may be agents of transformation and hope in the world today. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.”
--Rev. Judy Zabel, Hennepin Avenue UMC (Minneapolis); General Conference delegate
“God of infinite possibilities and opportunities, help us be prepared to see your spirit, power, and gifts poured out in Portland. Be with the delegates, keeping them healthy and able, as they prepare to do the work of your church. May they be ready to be your hands, feet, and voice at General Conference and as they meet and encounter your people in Portland. Be with the community of Portland as they make preparations for General Conference in their city. Fill them with a spirit of hospitality, of graciousness, and alertness to all of the details. We lift our prayers in awe of what is to be. Amen.”
--Deaconess Leslie Hobson, Park UMC (Brainerd)

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