WILDWOOD – For 40 days prior to Greater New Jersey’s 2018 Annual Conference session in Wildwood last May, GNJ was committed to intentional praying for the gathering. Each day, a specific area of GNJ ministry was lifted up through a daily e-mail that included scripture, a short devotion and a prayer. Over 1,300 signed up to be a partner in prayer.
Gina Yeske, Director of Small Groups, took the lead on initiating the 40 Days of Prayer and was moved by the people who came to the prayer room during Annual Conference.
“What people might not know is that there were folks in the prayer room during the entire conference praying for the needs of the people of GNJ,” said Yeske. “We received comments that people could feel the presence of God in a powerful way.”
After annual conference, Yeske considered what the next steps were for GNJ’s prayer ministry. She asked the 18 prayer ministry volunteers if they would all commit to two days a month of prayer for GNJ, assuring that prayers are being lifted daily. At the same time, United Methodists across the world began on June 3 to pray regularly for the special session of the General Conference in 2019. The initiative led by the Council of Bishops calls for daily prayer and weekly fasting as the denomination seeks a way forward regarding homosexuality.
“The Bible instructs us to pray in times of need, but for what and how do we pray?” asked Yeske. She continued, “In times of crisis, loss, fear or uncertainty, we grasp for what we know for sure, returning to familiar routines until our mind and heart can catch up with our new reality. Until we find ourselves ready to hope again.”
When Kathleen Altobello read in The GNJ Digest weekly e-newsletter earlier this year that Yeske was looking for fellow United Methodists to share in a new prayer experience by leading a team of prayer warriors leading up to Annual Conference, she knew she had to sign up.
“Each day for 40 days we received an e-mail from a GNJ staff person. These people would give a description of what their positions or committees entailed and then we would all pray for that group,” said Altobello. “It was educational and not time consuming, and it was easy to do. I enjoyed it a great deal.”
At Annual Conference, a prayer station was set up where the prayer team would pray for the ongoing sessions, speakers and any concerns. It was a quiet room lit with candles and with small ‘cube holes’ set up for people to place their written prayers likened to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
“While we sat there, conference attendees would enter and we would hold hands and pray with them,” said Altobello.
A few days after the conference, Altobello received an email asking if she wanted to continue praying throughout the year on her own.
“We would agree to pray for GNJ, its churches, clergy, members and any other specific concerns we as an individual may have,” she said. “I pray on my own for GNJ once a week. It’s so easy. No deadlines, no meetings and it’s such a blessing to be able to do it.”
Yeske said that she has experienced divine intervention, answers to prayer, as well as miracles that she never expected.
“At the same time I have known the deep disappointment of prayers not answered. Amidst the seemingly unpredictable nature of miracles, I have learned that I would rather place my trust in God whose ways I did not always understand, rather than live in hopelessness. I will keep praying for miracles.”
When asked how to do that, Yeske responded that she first allows her concerns, problems and needs to be an opportunity for prayer.
“Prayer can replace the anxiousness in my heart and calms my fears,” she said. “In prayer I pour out my desires to God. When I am unsure what to pray, I turn to the scriptures and pray these words to God. I use the scripture, often the Psalms, to offer words of lament, praise, thanksgiving and request. There are times when I have recorded my prayers in a journal as a way of expressing myself. This has given me a way to go back and reflect on the work of God.”
For Yeske, prayer is not always a personal, private practice.
“At times I share my prayer requests with others so they can pray alongside me,” she said. “I have had prayer partners who I met with regularly; they have helped me to wait, kept me hopeful and interceded when I no longer could. I have also seen God work through the intercessory prayers of churches, in small groups and gatherings of friends and family. We pray in anticipation of a miracle.”
“God is creating signs and wonders in GNJ and there is even more God wants to do,” exclaimed Bishop John Schol at Greater New Jersey’s 2018 Annual Conference session in Wildwood. “God wants to continue working through the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey so that miracles of healing and transformation occur across GNJ and around the world.”
Yeske encourages all of GNJ to “be a part of the movement” anticipating miracles everywhere. “Psalm 77:14 says, ‘you are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.’ Begin by joining us in prayer for GNJ, The United Methodist Church, and our world.”
Leading up to the 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church next February in St. Louis, United Methodists in Greater New Jersey will be invited into another opportunity to be a part of a 40 days of prayer. Stay tuned for sign up information in The GNJ Digest e-newsletter.