The United Methodist Church believes prayer changes things. Soon after the Special Session of General Conference was scheduled in 2016, a Praying Our Way Forward initiative began. Phase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe. In Phase 3, all United Methodists are invited to engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast, pray for the church’s mission and way forward daily from 2:23 – 2:26 p.m., and to pray using a weekly prayer calendar posted on www.umcprays.org.
The praying culminated when all 864 delegates came together for a day of prayer on the first day of the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis. The opening prayer service began at 9 a.m., and different parts of the world led prayer sessions throughout the day.
At 11:45 a.m. Missouri Bishop Bob Farr and Illinois Great River Conference Bishop Frank Beard led the Conference in a pray dedicating in a prayer blessing the prayer room and prayer volunteers. Bishop Farr acknowledged that a lot of prayer had led up to this moment, and then offered the following prayer:
Gracious God, we bless this area that has been set apart for your people to seek your presence.
Where there is hurt in our hearts, may we find healing in your presence.
Where there is hope in our hearts, may our hope be in you and you alone.
Where there is confusion in our hearts, may peace and clear direction be given by your Holy Spirit.
Where there is weariness, may you grant us strength and courage.
Your sons and daughters from around the world will gather in this space to pray for your will and for this conference. Cover each person in your grace; may each be reminded of you faithfulness and love. We thank you for your guiding presence, and we ask for your mercy. May we follow you wherever you Spirit leads. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The prayer room at General Conference is actually multiple rooms and areas dedicated to specific prayer practices, and a prayer labyrinth. The entire area was adorned with images of stained-glass windows from Missouri Conference churches.