I have decided that for me- and my congregations- 2008 will be a year of prayer. There is no special significance to this designation. I have not received any prophecy that would indicate that this is an especially important time for prayer or the church. It is merely my attempt to re-focus myself, and others, on the value of a deep relationship with God.
To that end, let me make a suggestion to you. When you hear of a need, you may be tempted to encourage another person with a phrase like, "I'll be thinking of you." Thinking of someone, I believe, is an empty sentiment that may hold meaning emotionally, but does nothing to effect change in either the thinker, or the one being thought about. It would be much better to say, "I'll be praying for you." However, this only works if it is true. That means that you must pray for the person, situation or need that you promise to pray for. The world would be a much better place if we all promised to pray, and then did.
I want to also suggest that praying for someone is a sign of caring for them. It was no mistake when Jesus suggested that we pray for our enemies. Revolution would come if we could begin to pray for those who have wronged us. But that is not even the point of this essay. Be encouraged to equate prayer with caring, if only in your own internal dictionary. When I begin to pray about something, I will begin to care about it.
Often I find myself feeling guilty about apathy in my own life. I know that climate change is a problem, shouldn't I care more? I hear about genocide in the Sudan, I would like to be more concerned. I want to care about natural disasters around the world. I want to care about the neighbors who get on my nerves. All of these things can begin to be remedied if I will begin to pray.
Let us look at the reverse of this proposition as well. If prayer causes you to care about an issue, isn't it true that caring about something is the first step to prayer? When I grow concerned about the children in my neighborhood who are unsupervised for too long every afternoon, I am just a short step away from praying for them.
This year, prayer is the theme. And if you and I are going to pray, we need to care. When we care, we cannot help but pray.