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How to Pray Together on Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017

Growing up in my family, we would spend each Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at my Grammy's house with all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins on my mom's side. On Christmas Eve, we all crammed in 3 or 4 pews at the local Baptist church for the candlelight service, but on Thanksgiving, we struggled to develop any sort of spiritual traditions. There was the traditional watching of the Lions football game (which we watched on mute during the meal), and then taking a break until the start of the Cowboys game (I didn't even really know there was a big parade until much later) to dig into all the pies.

A couple of times my older cousins wrote out verses about being thankful on cards at each place and we read them before eating, but for whatever reason that never caught on.

So, a few years ago when my Mom was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, Bonnie and I began to put together the liturgy below as a way to pray together as a family and give thanks on Thanksgiving. Here are a few things we learned:

1. Don't let the food get cold

The first year we waited until the food was all ready and on the table to pray and it was a disaster. The kids got antsy and kept grabbing food. The adults kept grabbing the food. Then the food we'd been preparing all day got cold. We couldn't really enter into the prayer because we just wanted to get to the feast.

The next year we took a break about an hour before we ate in a different room where the kids could hang out on the floor and we could pray without feeling rushed. The 10-15 minute service we developed (based on the Book of Common Prayer's noonday service with the additional of a few other prayers specifically for Thanksgiving) can be shortened or lengthened to fit the number of kids and level of chaos of any given year.

2. Involve everyone

Praying through a liturgy like the one below let's everyone participate in a way that doesn't put anyone on the spot. Everyone can read things in unison. Different people can take turns reading prayers or Scriptures. If your family is comfortable praying spontaneously, you can do that. But if you're not, or if you need help getting started, the liturgy can help lead you into it.

3. Give thanks for specific provisions from the past year

For a few years, there was a new baby at each Thanksgiving somewhere in our family. So we added a collect giving thanks for this new life that came to us that year. We've celebrated graduations and new jobs. We've celebrated new in-laws as siblings have gotten married. We've celebrated health situations where there's been healing.

This year we'll celebrate Thanksgiving in a new house that the Lord provided for us. Sometimes we remember those who have passed away, or who are not with us for others reasons. Or we remember real challenges and griefs that we are going through. In the midst of these, we can still believe in God's faithfulness, pray for one another, and wait on the Lord to provide.

Giving thanks for these specific provisions of the Lord and asking for his provision in areas of need helps us remember his goodness year after year. It reminds us to tell the stories of God's activity in our lives. "Wasn't it last year that God..." "Remember last year when we needed...and now look what God has done!"

4. Remember those who don't have, and do something to serve them

As we give thanks for what God has done in our lives, we remember God's love for all people—especially the poor and lonely. Pray for them, and then do something to serve them. A lot of families do something to serve during the holidays, but what would it look like to live a year around lifestyle of generosity for others because of God's generosity toward us?

Yes, we celebrate from a heart thanksgiving through abundance and enjoying good things. But we also sacrifice from a heart of thanksgiving—knowing that when we give ourselves, our money, and our things to others, that it is the Lord that provides what we need.

Looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition? Join us for our Thanksgiving Eucharist Service at 10am in the All Saints Prayer Chapel!

Download the liturgy for Thanksgiving Noonday Prayer

Taking a Prayer Ministry to the Nations

July 19, 2017

Our newest missionary, Devon, wrote a beautiful letter detailing the way in which she received her calling in and through Resurrection ministries, including the 24/7 prayer initiatives, the Transformation Intensive, and Holy Week. It is a powerful, encouraging testimony to the way that the Lord is answering the core prayer of our Moved by Jesus campaign, that the Lord would "send forth laborers into the harvest."

Dear Resurrection family,

When I found out that the Global Mission Team decided to officially send me out as a Resurrection missionary, and I felt so honored, joyful, and grateful for their affirmation of my call to serve the Lord in the Middle East. While reflecting on all the ways that God shaped and directed my life these last few years, it is clear that Resurrection played an integral role in the discernment and confirmation of my next season of ministry.  I want to testify to all the ways that Resurrection has equipped and apprenticed me for “such a time as this,” and to thank this church for the way that you have supported me in the past and continue to support me as I move ahead.

I started going to Resurrection fifteen years ago as a high school student, but was not truly involved until I joined Choir and the Communications Team after college. When the Internship program was launched several years ago, I was thrilled to receive training and discipleship from Fr. Trevor, my cohort leader, and from the pastoral staff at Resurrection. I grew so much over those two internship years, becoming involved in several different teams—including the then Nations Team—and stretching myself to grow in devotion to the Lord, in leadership, and in service.

The most impactful experiences that overlapped my internship were the prayer intensives. While in college in Chicago, I had become involved with a 24/7 prayer ministry, and was deeply impacted by the call to worship and pray with a community around the clock. When I heard that Resurrection wanted to champion the call to pray continuously in the form of these prayer intensives, my heart could barely contain itself! My beloved home church was embracing a ministry that was near and dear to me. I look back to Prayer40 and Prayer100 as times of accelerated spiritual growth, where the Lord saw the fasting of our time and our weaknesses, and he moved in strength and power! Especially during Prayer40, as I meditated on Matthew 9:36-38 and prayed that “the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers,” and as I helped with the communication of the “Moved by Jesus” campaign, I began to see the profound connection between my call to pray and my call to labor in the harvest fields.  There were many NightWatch prayer slots where I would go and just pray over the map in All Saints Chapel, with a sense that the Lord was calling me to go, but the questions of where and when remained.

Sandwiched between the two Prayer Intensives, I took the Transformation Intensive with Deacon Val. Because the Transformation Intensive is particularly helpful for those discerning a call, my intention was to use this time to seek the Lord about if, when, and where he would like me to serve as a missionary. Going through the Ignatian exercises and attending weekly spiritual direction helped ground me further in my dependence on the Lord and in hearing his voice.Though I did not get the “final word” during this time, I firmly believe that it was here God laid the groundwork for his call to the nations.

Soon after I completed the Transformation Intensive in spring of 2016, a good friend called and asked if I could join her on a short mission trip to Jordan. I was pretty indifferent to Jordan at the time, but I agreed to go. Nothing could have prepared me for my first foray into the Arab world. After several days of observing and absorbing, I arrived at a startling conclusion: I loved this place, and I loved these people. It seemed so sudden, so different from the ministry that I was currently in, so divergent from any work that I had done in the past, that I felt it must be the Holy Spirit loving these people through me. Every day during the two weeks that I spent in Jordan, I was overwhelmed by how the Lord was moving and drawing me into his Middle Eastern story. By the time I was on a plane back to O’Hare, I knew that I needed to seriously pursue specific answers—did I need to focus my prayers to intercede for this region, or did I need to go and live and work there?

For about a month I fasted and prayed, asking God to show me in a very clear way what he wanted me to do. Around the end of this month was Holy Week 2016. I walked through that week somewhat distractedly, not being able to fully enter in because of the questions that loomed so prominently in my mind and spirit. It wasn’t until the start of the Vigil where I had breakthrough. Bp. Stewart led the first ministry time, and had a word of knowledge that the Lord was commissioning new works in our congregation. As he called out these new ministries, Bp. Stewart mainly focused on local, compassion ministries such as working among the homeless or marginalized. I prayed that if God was commissioning me to a new ministry overseas, that Bp. Stewart would specifically address those who felt a new call to the Middle East to come up for prayer. Within a few seconds, Bp. Stewart called all those with a burden to minister to Jerusalem and the Middle East to come to the front for prayer. Stunned that my request had been so immediately and exactly answered, I walked to the front.

As I kneeled for prayer, I questioned over and over in my heart, “Lord, do you want me to go? You want me to actually pack my bags and move?” Soon, Margie Fawcett placed her hand on my shoulder and started praying for me. As if in direct dialogue with my internal prayer, she said out loud, “Go! I will make you a fisher of men. Take only your cloak and your staff. You are coming back with stories.” Fr. Kevin, a few weeks later, further confirmed this word during Eucharist by telling me, “The Lord is taking your prayer ministry to the nations!” In his kindness, God had given me a direct, irrefutable, answer to so many of the questions that I had been asking. No longer was I questioning if I was supposed to be a global worker or where I was supposed to serve, but when do I need to leave and how will I get there?

These questions didn’t remain unanswered for long. Later that next week, I received an email announcement from one of my favorite missions organizations: Frontier Alliance International. They were starting a training for ministering in the Middle East—an “Emmaus Walk”— and were currently accepting applications for their Spring 2017 school. I presented this training opportunity to the Global Missions Team as a first step to answering the clear call that the Lord had communicated through the ministry of Resurrection.


Without reservation, I can say that this Emmaus Walk was absolutely what I needed to succeed in this next season. After three and a half months on the field, I returned to Wheaton and Resurrection ready to go back long-term to the Middle East, and more confident than ever that this is where the Lord has been leading me these last several years.

In August, I will return to Jordan to begin working with a Frontier Alliance International team. This team will be providing accountability and encouragement toward growing in intimacy with the Lord through worship, prayer, Bible study, etc., toward diligent acquisition of Arabic, and toward regular and intentional gospel engagement with those around us, including Syrian, Iraqi, and Yemini refugees. We believe this intentional gospel community that ministers to the Lord with regular prayer and worship will provide a rich context for the Holy Spirit to equip and send small teams out from our midst into other ripe fields in the region by the grace and for the glory of God.

Thank you, Resurrection, for walking with me on this pilgrimage. I am forever grateful for the way that you have heard the word of the Lord on my behalf, how you have called me to grow and not let me stay stagnant spiritually, and how you have supported me in the various stages of this journey. I am deeply humbled to be sent out by this church, and with God’s help, I hope to honor the trust that you have put in me.
 In
Your thankful daughter in Christ,

Devon

To read an article Devon wrote for Frontier Alliance International, click here!
Devon P.
Global Partner
devonphil@gmail.com
Tagged: missions, prayer, calling