In October 1989, East Germany 'celebrated' its 40th birthday. Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev was in Berlin and he seemed to signal a new era. He even went outside and greeted protesters personally. Any hope of a softening from the government was dashed, however, when state police arrested those same protestors that night. The Gethsemane Church in Berlin decided to open its doors for a prayer vigil. Every night after that, people gathered to light candles and pray for freedom. On November 9, the Berlin Wall came down.
I sat in the same church the other night.* A member of the congregation was arrested while in Turkey in July. Repeated attempts to get more information have been blocked and there seems to be little they can do. So they decided to hold prayer vigils again. Every night since July, the community is invited to stop what they are doing for 20-30 minutes, light a candle and say a prayer. They plan to meet for prayer until he is released. I don’t speak a word of German, but we all understood one another. I trust God was able to translate the prayers whether they were in English or German.
New Hope is starting a 24-hour Prayer Vigil from Friday (10/27) noon to noon on Saturday. The Prayer Vigil is meant to be a season of prayer to attune us to what God wants to do in and through our lives. Different stations will be set up for people to pray. The hope is for have people praying for an hour in the sanctuary for all 24 hours (Session and Deacons have already signed up for the toughest times.) Even if you haven’t signed up yet, I hope you’ll find some time to come down.
If you can’t come down, I hope you’ll find time to pray, anyway. That’s what I am going to do. By the time the Prayer Vigil starts, I’ll be in Bucharest, Romania.* I’m not sure what time it will be in Castle Rock, but I will find an hour to participate in the Prayer Vigil from where I am. If God can translate prayers in different languages, God won’t be thrown by different locations, either.
Sometimes people tell me that prayer doesn’t make sense to them- so why pray? I get that. Sometimes prayer doesn’t make sense to me, either. But I pray anyway. I find that even though I can’t make much sense of prayer, my life makes more sense when I pray. Prayer changes things. I know it has changed me.
We pray for many reasons. Sometimes we pray when we come to the end of our rope and it’s the last thing we can think to do. Sometimes, we start with prayer because we want to open ourselves to what God is yet to do. Sometimes prayer doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that does.
I don’t pretend to know what God is going do to next at New Hope, but two things I do know:
1. I’m excited about it, and
2. It will start with prayer.
*I am in Germany with my good friend, Rich Gantenbein, to learn more about the amazing life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Mark Dodson has been a friend and member of Rich's church for many years, and is pretty amazing himself! Bonhoeffer has been an inspiration for him his entire adult life. He made all the arrangements, met us here, and served as our personal guide. The second week will be in Romania experiencing how the church there is making a difference for the cause of Christ. This has been an ongoing mission connection of the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Sonoma, CA, where Rich has been the pastor for over 30 years.