“ Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NRSV
It certainly seems like we just turned the calendar to 2023 and here we are at the beginning of 2024. In recent weeks, the news outlets have reported on significant events from the year that was while remembering those who are no longer with us. Many of the headlines were strewn with reports of mass shootings, artificial intelligence, 2024 election campaigns, and the increased cost of living. No doubt, reflection upon our individual lives and families would yield a series of headlines of their own. Some of these might recount moments of joy while others represent times which were not so favorable. With the arrival of a new year, we often wonder what might be. In some ways, we hope it will be different, perhaps better, than what we experienced during the previous year. In other ways, we wish for things to maintain and not become more complicated.
What does our arrival at a new year mean for Little Rock? In all honesty, none of us can say for certain. After all, none of us possess the ability to see into the future. God has not pulled back the curtain so as to give us a glimpse of what is yet to be. However, that does not mean we are to sit idly by awaiting something to unfold. We must be busy “about our Father’s work” with diligence, passion, and integrity. Perhaps you are thinking, “That’s nice! But, I’m tired, anxious, and weary.” Maybe this past year wasn’t everything you wanted it to be and the events of those twelve months left much to be desired. It might be that 2023 added to your fatigue, worry, and feelings of dejection. Might I give you a word of encouragement? Don’t give up! I know that may not sound like an original idea, but there is much to be gained when hope remains present in our lives: hope for our situation, our families, and even this church body. How do we bolster our hope? How do we hold out with hope for one another? We pray.
During the month of November, I devoted its four Sundays to a series of sermons related to prayer. Over the course of the four sermons, I supplied four Ps to keep us focused in our prayer lives: priority, principles, perseverance, and posture. I received some positive feedback on those sermons and it has caused me to think in recent weeks: “What if we make prayer more than the subject of four sermons or a component of our worship services? What if we make prayer a way of life individually and corporately?” I would like to propose to you an emphasis for Little Rock as we move into this new year. Let’s make 2024 a “Year of Prayer.” Certainly, I wish for us to continue doing what we have been doing well in praying for the needs, hurts, and concerns within our church family, but I would also like to see us broaden our prayer scope as relates to our work within the world.
Part of this can be achieved through a prayer focus for each month in the new year. For example, I would like to challenge you to pray throughout January for Christian unity. If ever there has been a time in which Christians need to be together, focused, and working toward the common good, that time would be now. I encourage you to pray for healthy relationships within our church family, increased opportunities to collaborate with our sister congregations in Lucama, humility in the rendering of service to one another, patience and forgiveness when something threatens to divide our fellowship with others, a willingness to allow our unique gifts to complement those of others, and a spirit which offers affirmation and support to each other. In the coming weeks, I will provide a listing of prayer emphases for 2024 and, no doubt, you will discover other categories which contribute to the health and stability of our church community that will have need of prayer.
As I often say at the close of Sunday worship services, “Pray with and for the sake of someone.” I truly mean those words. There is great power in prayer. Not only does it touch the heart of God, it also performs a divine work within us. Let’s rediscover the difference prayer can make in our lives and also for the benefit of this church family. We may be more than one hundred and fifty years old, but I believe some of our best work can yet be done. May prayer supply us with vision, wisdom, and openness to the work God is still seeking to do in and through us.
Blessings for Your Journey,
The Reverend Kelley Smart