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The Rev. Tom Albin preaches during opening worship at The United Methodist Church's pre-General Conference news briefing at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida. Albin is dean of the Upper Room at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

General Conference 2012: Call to Prayer

A UMNS Commentary By the Rev. Tom Albin
1:00 P.M. ET February 27, 2012

The beauty of being a part of a connectional church is that we can call on one another to pray and support each other in prayer. As the 2012 General Conference approaches, it is important to know our prayer foundation is firm and we are connected in a global prayer network.

Prayer is the foundation for Christian discipleship and the essence of United Methodist spirituality. The Wesley brothers taught us "a sincere desire is an authentic prayer."

Frances Jennings of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference and I co-lead the General Conference Prayer Support team that is calling every United Methodist member and congregation, in every state and every nation, to surround and support General Conference in prayer. I am convinced the one thing every United Methodist can do to influence the outcome of this General Conference is to lift it to the Lord in prayer.

In partnership with The Upper Room, the Prayer Support team is providing "50 Days of Prayer for the General Conference," a daily prayer resource available free as an e-pub, email subscription or downloadable PDF. Our goal is to have the entire United Methodist Church membership praying with the elected delegates and praying for God's will to be done, in God's way and in God's time.

Significant spiritual preparation and planning are taking place to create prayer support for General Conference. Every United Methodist member can participate in this global prayer movement. Whether you are sitting in your home or participating at the Tampa site, your prayers will influence the future of our church.

Sandy Weber, a member of Hermitage United Methodist Church in Tennessee, wears a prayer mantle. Photo courtesy of Tom Albin.

Sandy Weber, a member of Hermitage United Methodist Church in Tennessee, wears a prayer mantle. Photo courtesy of Tom Albin.

How to join the prayer network

Here is how you can get involved in this exciting prayer ministry:

  • Visit the prayer website maintained by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. It contains information, guidance and suggestions to help United Methodists pray together in new and meaningful ways.
  • Use the prayer resource, "50 Days of Prayer Before and During the General Conference." Download a free e-book (epub) or PDF version, or subscribe to the daily email at 50 Days of Prayer.
  • Organize a prayer vigil in your local church, cluster or district. Consider praying throughout the hours that General Conference is in session (April 24-May 4 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT).
  • Conduct a commissioning service for intercessors on Sunday, March 11. Use the online commissioning service for members committing to 50 days of prayer for General Conference and all who will participate in a prayer vigil. The 50 days begin March 16 and continue through May 4.
  • Contribute to social media sites. Visit Facebook page "2012 UMC General Conference Prayer Ministry" and Twitter @GC2012Pray to participate in conversation about this prayer movement.
  • Make a mantle of prayer for the delegates and leaders to serve as a physical symbol of the prayers of United Methodists around the world. United Methodists in Florida and across the connection are creating these handmade mantles from silk.
  • Participate in the prayer walk April 23 at 1:30 p.m. in the Tampa Convention Center Prayer Room (Riverwalk Area, Rooms 3 and 4). Florida Area Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker will lead us in a prayer service before we pray and walk through the entire convention center with the help of Jonathan Dow and Margie Burger of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.
  • Visit the Prayer Room at the Tampa Convention Center. It will be a sacred place of beauty, peace and prayer for delegates and visitors offering multi-sensory experiences created for prayer guidance.
  • Serve as a prayer volunteer in Tampa. Pray with and for the needs of elected delegates, visitors and guests. To volunteer, register at The Upper Room, 877-899-2780, Ext. 7110, or email talbin@upperroom.org
  • Make an appointment with a spiritual guide in Tampa. Trained volunteers will offer holy listening and holy conferencing for those seeking discernment.
  • Hear my message about the prayer ministry. This 86-minute video includes the welcome to the Pre-General Conference event and announcements as well as the opening worship service. Fast forward to the halfway mark.

Ask, pray, seek and listen

John and Charles Wesley taught the early Methodist people, "God does nothing apart from prayer." The teaching of the Bible is equally clear, "Unless God builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1a, An Inclusive-Language Lectionary)

Friends, our prayers are needed for this General Conference. There is more potential for significant change to occur this year than at any other time since 1968. We need God's wisdom promised in James 1:2-5. We pray because Jesus promised that if we ask, seek and knock, we will receive an answer and the doors will open.

As we ask, pray, seek and listen, I believe God will act and The United Methodist Church will be transformed.

*Albin, a clergy member of the Oklahoma Conference, is dean of The Upper Room and director of ecumenical relations. He is co-chair of the Prayer Support Team for General Conference 2012.

News media contact: Steve Horswill-Johnston, United Methodist Board of Discipleship, 615-340-1726, shorswill-johnston@gbod.org.

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