A Week of Guided Prayer is an affirmation of our intention to pray. It is the discipline of prayer within our daily life.

Contact: Stephen Ministry – stephenministry@islingtonunited.org

What is a week of guided prayer?

A Week of Guided Prayer is a retreat in the midst of daily life. Participants focus attention on God’s activity in their lives through praying scripture. The week is based on our trust that God is interested in communicating with us through prayer. Rather than drawing apart from our normal agenda, a Week of Guided Prayer helps us to centre on God in the midst of our regular activities.

what is praying scripture?

Praying scripture involves reading a passage until it becomes familiar and then, in a spirit of openness to God, letting our imagination engage the words or story.  Using our senses we experience the scripture and listen for God’s direction for our lives through the passage.

how does the week proceed?

An opening two-hour session, usually on a Sunday afternoon, provides an opportunity for fellowship between retreatants and those who will companion them through the week. It introduces the theme and an experience of praying scripture with journaling. The retreatant is given the daily scripture material for prayer based upon the theme that unfolds during the week. The retreatant and companion establish a schedule of 30-minute daily meetings.

Monday to Friday the retreatants covenant to pray 30 minutes privately each day, and to meet with their companion 30 minutes daily to be guided in their prayer experience. The companion supports the retreatant, seeking to keep them attentive to God’s leading, and guiding the retreatant through questions, suggestions and shared experience.

how does the week finish up?

The closing two-hour session usually held on the Saturday morning is a celebration of how and where God has touched us through the week. It offers time for silent reflection, large and small group sharing, and an evaluation of the week. Opportunities for ongoing prayer support are reviewed. Through communion Retreatants are commissioned to continue their journey.

Having a labyrinth available offers participants and congregation members a meaningful prayer experience.

Day 34: April 4

Rocking & Rolling

By P. Gushue

It almost sounds cliché to say that as a Newfoundlander I come from the “Rock”. And yet there is something about the people and the hospitality of the place that reminds me of the commandment of Jesus to love one’s neighbour that doesn’t seem to be found in many places. I’ve often wondered why that is, as well as why there seems to be a disproportionate number of musicians and comedians that come from a place that is often shrouded in rain, drizzle and fog!

I was fortunate as a teenager to have the experience of being part of the inshore fishery. Each morning, well before the sun rose, with the other fishermen I would board a trap skiff – a small boat about 25 feet long – and head out into the North Atlantic: this was rocking and rolling in a whole different way! It was also an experience that connected me to a way of life that rooted the existence of a people and shaped a way of understanding and experiencing the world. One of the realities of the inshore fishery was that each day there was the possibility that someone would not return – death was connected to life in a poignant way.

Joy and sorrow; life and death. These are natural and normal aspects of living that make up the everyday moments of life and they are the places where God can be found. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why the people of the Rock learned how to care for their neighbours and depend upon one another.

The experience of the plane people recollected in the hit musical “Come from Away” attests to a hospitality that is beyond warm and welcoming. On the fateful day that we remember as 9-11, 38 planes carrying 6,700 strangers descended upon Gander and the surrounding communities. The needs of every person were looked after as best that they could, and when asked why the locals would go through such an effort to take care of these strangers, one of the mayors responded “… but what else would you do?” His expectation was that people help their neighbours in need – even when that neighbour comes from half the world away and doesn’t speak your language.

It is in the seemingly mundane interactions of life where the divine floods through. And it is in the ordinary daily experiences of life where we often experience God in extraordinary ways.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
Job 37:1-13 … for love, he causes it to happen
Matthew 25:34-40 … you did it to one of the least of these
1
1 Peter 2:1-6 … like living stones let yourself be built
Philippians 4:4-9 … rejoice in the Lord always

For Reflection and Journaling

1. When do I experience God in the ordinary moments of my life?
2. Where do I experience God in the ordinary moments of my life?

Meditative Prayer

Lord, the sea is so big, and my boat so small.” 
Help me to experience you in all the moments of living
In the extraordinary ordinary days of my life. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“Ordinary Day” – Great Big Sea

Still Rolling Stones” – Lauren Daigle

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 33: April 3

Living Stones

By D. Kucharczyk

What a difference it makes knowing Jesus is the author of my life. Imagine being a letter written by Christ! In the Message translation of his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote: Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit, not chiseled in stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it … It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives! (vs. 2-3, 6). Wow! This feels like a huge responsibility: to live the life that Jesus would have me live.

Then words of peace that Jesus spoke to his disciples rise up in my head and heart – and I remember, it is not what I do but what God has done. Ah, yes – You, Holy Spirit, are the Living Stone – but how did You get carved into my life?

I was not churched as a child, but “God” stories were popular in cinema and song. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer was how a school day began and I remember having to memorize Psalms 23 and 121 in Grade 4. We were even given little red New Testaments at school that year and that book became a ‘Godsend’. I would turn to the pages that told me where to find help when I was sad or lonely, confused or angry. I could also look up God’s promises for me. It was comforting to learn that God cared for me, even though I wasn’t baptized and that this mysterious Holy Spirit was available to me, too.

As I moved into my teens, the story of Jesus was even being told in Rock musicals. Without my realizing it one of the songs from Godspell was written on my heart: “Day by day. Day by day. Oh, Dear Lord, three things I pray. To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, Day by day.” I didn’t know then that these were the words of a very old prayer nor did I understand the impact this prayer would have on my life. As an adult I learned to pray those words in earnest and discovered that by the grace of God and the power of the Living Stone’s Presence, I had come to see, love and follow Jesus more clearly, dearly and nearly.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding me of everything that has been written on my heart. So, I guess my life is a letter waiting to be read by others, not a perfect edit but one with misspelled words and crossed out sentences that may be incomplete and confusing at times. But I’m okay with that because I know the Holy Spirit will help others find the gem, they might need to lead them closer to God, just as I was.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
Genesis 1:1-6 … the wind of God
Jeremiah 31:31-34 … I will write it on their hearts
John 14:26-29 … whom the Father will send in my name
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 … written on hearts

For Reflection and Journaling

1. Where did I learn about God?
2. How might my life be read as a letter written by Christ?

Meditative Prayer

Christ, help me live the words you have carved into my life so that your ways become mine and others may read them just by looking at me. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“Day by Day” – Doug and the Slugs

 

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 32: April 2

Rejection

By A. Hills

We all want to be recognized as a rock star; someone who is known, welcomed and loved. More often life offers us small rejections like being ignored, excluded from a social group, cut by a sports team or not getting a job. Then there are rejections that are more traumatic. The experience of being rejected by someone you love – a mom, dad, wife, husband, romantic partner or offspring.

A young man close to me and my family was packed off to Canada at the age of 12 because of his spirited nature. While in school having to learn English, he struggled with being alone far from his mom, dad and sibling. As an adult, he moved back to his home country, worked diligently and respected his parents’ authority.

Time passed and when he returned to work in Canada, he met a lovely young woman who shared his nationality. When he asked his parents’ permission to marry his sweetheart, they point-blank refused consent because of status and prestige. Their message was clear “if you marry without our approval, we will cut you off.” After much soul searching, he made the decision to marry without permission. He and his wife now have two beautiful children. As promised mom and dad have completely cut him and his family off. The consequences of this rejection – the anger, sadness, and hurt are always with him.

We can only imagine how much hurt Jesus must have endured, when after preaching at the synagogue, he was rejected by villagers from his hometown, who attempted to throw him off a cliff. For people like my friend who carry the hurt, anger and sadness of his family’s rejection there is comfort in knowing that Jesus understands their pain.

Although Jesus knew Peter whom he called “the rock”, would deny him three times after his arrest at Gethsemane, he must still have felt let down and saddened. However, we know Peter went back to Jesus, was forgiven and became a cornerstone of the church.

There is no bigger rejection than when a person closes their heart and denies the existence of God. God loves everyone but not everyone loves God. Even if we lose our faith in God we are loved. Regardless of our past, our problems or our errors the One who has experienced rejection firsthand holds us in forgiveness and love.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
1 Samuel 8:1-8 … appoint a king to lead us
Isaiah 53:1-6 … despised and rejected
Luke 4:16-30 … drove him out of town
Luke 22:54-62 … I do not know him

For Reflection and Journaling

1. When has rejection prevented me from moving forward?
2. How can God’s love help me accept rejection?

Meditative Prayer

Lord we know everyone in our world experiences rejection, as did your son and our saviour Jesus Christ.

Give us the strength to overcome rejection with faith and trust you are by our side.

In your love we will abide. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“All You Need is Love” – Beatles 

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 31: April 1

Cornerstone

By A. Hills

One evening I was reading the scriptures in preparation for some work at my church and I came across the scripture Isaiah 9:2-7. I could not stop thinking about the passage “the government will be on his shoulders” RSV. What could this mean for my life? This really impacted me as I thought about my future. Was I being called to ministry? I contacted my minister and arranged to see him. What was so interesting as I walked the one and a half kilometres to the church, songs were in my head. Not the hymns I would have expected, but popular beer jingles! 

Looking back, I thought that I wanted to go into the ordained ministry but now I see I was called to the “ministries of my life”. With my life experience these ministries changed. Being in the world was good for me and has expanded my understanding of life and relationships. Rocks have been placed in my way and I have stumbled and rolled. Reflecting on singing those jingles has shown me that I needed to serve where I was.

After having retired from a career in electronics, this foundational scripture passage has come to a fruition in my life. It has given me the courage to step out and do many of the things that I would have never dreamed of. It has kept me involved in my church, Bible study and reaching out to others who needed support and encouragement. I have been able to work in the wider church, feed others, visit people in hospital and in prison. 

The cornerstone that was laid in my youth has been significant during the ministries of my life. It is more important now than ever before. With the cornerstone of Jesus, we can do anything we are called to.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
Genesis 28:10-18 … he put the stone under his head
Isaiah 9:2-7 … for a child has been born for us
John 8: 1-11 … neither do I condemn you
Ephesians 2:17-22 … the cornerstone is Christ Jesus

For Reflection and Journaling 1. When have I changed direction in my life? 2. What have been the cornerstones I relied on?

Meditative Prayer
Open my ears to hear the music of the world
that will lead me in your paths. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“Jesus Was Way Cool” – King Missile

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 30: March 31

Rebellion

By J. Cameron

When I was reading the story of the people’s rebellion in building the tower of Babel, I was reminded of the origin story of the building where I worship. Our experience was quite different. It began with neighbours talking over the back fence about their congregations; both were renting space and looking for a permanent home that neither could afford. The spark of that initial conversation grew and eventually the two congregations met and selected an architect to help them design a shared building. The project was made especially interesting because my church’s partners, in what is now The Cedars Worship Centre, are Jewish.

There was no clear path forward because no such thing had been done in the United Church or in Canada. Our sensible solution looked like rebellion to some. Shared ownership of the building required new covenants and agreements. Questions were asked about the need for a new building. There was uneasiness among some in the Jewish community about whether a Christian church could be a trustworthy partner. We heard a few rumblings of hate that we knew existed in our city. Together, guided by God, we persisted.

People ask if I have had a lot of interaction and learning about the Jewish faith. This has not been my primary experience. Both congregations are busy with their own folks. I do, however, have a much deeper understanding of the roots of Christianity and Christian practice in the United Church. I have examined my own faith and its symbols and the things I say about Judaism and other faiths.

At some point we stopped building a building and recognized that we were helping to build an interfaith partnership: supportive, empathetic and trustworthy. To stand in the church’s pulpit is to face the front of the other sanctuary where, as in all Jewish temples, The Cedars has a lamp that is never extinguished. For me, it symbolizes God’s eternal presence shining on everyone.

After the confusion of Babel, we are invited to learn a new way to talk with our neighbours. Reaching out beyond what we know, might look rebellious even to our friends. But do venture out. God is here and there. Don’t be surprised if what you find is a deeper understanding of yourself, your church and your faith.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
Genesis 11:1-9 … let us build ourselves a city
Exodus 32:1-7 … he took the gold and cast an image of a calf
Mark 12: 1-11 … the stone that the builders rejected
Mark 14:41-50 … have you come out with swords and clubs

For Reflection and Journaling
1. What learning happened when I reached out to encounter another?2. Where might God be guiding me to take a new path?

Meditative Prayer
We give thanks, O God, that you walk with us through times of rebellion, 
responding to our cries, guiding our way and creating miracles made of love. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 29: March 30

Foundation

By H. Leffler

During Lent, our congregations engaged a different spiritual practice each week to help us grow in deeper relationship with God and each other. One week we were invited to reflect on a name for God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit that draws us closer to the Holy One. I was drawn to the name for God – Ground of Being. In those words, I found myself rooted in the assurance of God’s deep and abiding love, and forgiveness.

In naming God as “my rock and my fortress”, the Psalmist takes me to the beginning of time. Before there was anything there was God. God’s overflowing love is the foundation and starting point of all creation. Though life encompasses storms and struggles, the One who gives us life is always there supporting and protecting all people.

Again, and again God intercedes with the people of Israel and then Jesus comes into the world to assure us of God’s faithfulness. In faith, we build our lives on that foundation. I am grateful for the assurance that whatever choices I make in my life – whatever materials I add to the foundation that is Jesus – God will test them with a refiner’s fire. Where I have let God down or hurt another, those actions will be burned up. What I have built that has been loving and life giving to others will survive.

Over the years, my husband and I have collected rocks from Newfoundland to British Columbia, from Israel, Austria and Scotland. Our house is full of bowls and jars of rock … amethyst and granite, quartz, labradorite and sandstone. In my pocket, I keep a stone my 2 ½ year old grandson picked up for Grandma when we were out trick or treating and gave to me. Each stone reminds me of how firm my foundation is in God – the Ground of Being.

Credit

Week of Guided Prayer Network, Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council, The United Church of Canada, 2019.

Scripture
Psalm 71:1-6 … you are my rock and my fortress
Joshua 4:20-24 … what do these stones mean
Luke 6:46-49 … build your house on a rock
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 … that foundation is Jesus Christ

For Reflection and Journaling
1. What name of God grounds me in my faith?
2. How does the image of God as rock and foundation strengthen me?

Meditative Prayer
Ground of Being, you are my rock and redeemer.
I give thanks for the love and forgiveness
you offer me each day. Amen.

Music Suggestion
“Teach Your Children Well” – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Maya's Live Daily Message

Day 28: March 28

Making Connections

By Dale Kucharczyk

Yesterday’s devotional closed with an invitation to discover ways in which the Spirit is with us today. Appreciation of creation and special moments in life are a couple of the ways the Spirit leads me. I wonder if the sun breaking through clouds catches your eye, or if the laughter of children makes your heart laugh, too. I wonder if someone has shown up exactly when you needed them, or if an interruption led to something amazing. I wonder if a scent has stirred up memories, or if something new came to your attention when you read something old and familiar. When this happens to me, I wonder if the “Spirit of truth” is trying to catch my attention by pointing me in a certain direction.

This wondering did not begin on its own. Islington United hosted its first Week of Guided Prayer 20 years ago. It was described as “a retreat guided by the Spirit in the midst of everyday life – a unique and meaningful opportunity for deepening your relationship with God.” Now I know that life is anything but “everyday” right now and that makes me want to seek out God even more. Perhaps you feel that way too.

The Week of Guided Prayer gives us the opportunity to let the Spirit work with us and in us as we read scripture and discover that the messages there are relevant for us today. Some people say that’s why the Bible is called the Living Word of God – it rings with truths that continue to give us life today.

By reading scriptures with the intention of connecting to God in some way, I have found that God is in all things and is with me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I hope you will join me for the Week of Guided Prayer starting Monday, March 30, and discover it for yourself.

If you’re new to the Week of Guided Prayer, I have included information below on the two main spiritual practices that will help guide your prayer. I have also included a practical experience to give you an idea of how you might approach praying scripture in the coming week.

Dear God,
Gratitude rises up in me when I think that
You actually want to spend time with me. Help me make
space for us to be together. Amen.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105