All UMs urged to pray for General Conference


UMNS FILE PHOTO BY RASUL WELCH ••• Alice Jean Parker prays in the prayer room during the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Rev. Tom Albin sees prayer as the wind behind the sails of General Conference. And he wants a big wind.

“The Wesleys taught us that God does nothing apart from prayer,” said Dr. Albin, dean of the Upper Room. “I’m absolutely thrilled with the direction we’re going, but my goal is to engage every United Methodist around the world in the process of intercessory prayer for our leaders.”

United Methodists have long been intentional about prayer for General Conference. For the 2012 General Conference, that has only intensified, Dr. Albin said.

Here’s a breakdown of prayer activities and initiatives, some new, some reprised from past General Conferences:

  • Pre-General Conference Prayer. The Upper Room has published a print-on-demand booklet titled 50 Days of Prayer Before & During General Conference 2012. It can be ordered by calling (855) 469-3386. The book also is available free in e-book versions and in PDF files. The PDF files offer the guide in English, French and Portuguese. See
  • Online Prayer. The Florida Spiritual Formation Team has created a Facebook page named “2012 UMC General Conference Prayer Ministry” and a Twitter account, @GC2012Pray. The General Board of Discipleship has a General Conference Prayer website:
  • Mantles. In a first-time effort, volunteers are making mantles of prayer, made of hand-dyed silk, to place on every delegate, worship leader, bishop, staff member and prayer volunteer attending opening worship of General Conference. “We wanted to create something that would be a physical symbol of the prayers of the United Methodist people,” Mr. Albin said. (Those who want to help can contact Joyce Estes, artistic designer for the effort, at
  • Prayer Walk. On April 23 in Tampa, the day before General Conference begins, Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the Florida Conference will lead a 1:30 p.m. prayer service at the Tampa Convention Center. It will be in the Prayer Room, River Walk Rooms 3 and 4. Participants will leave that room and walk and pray through the entire Convention Center, led by Jonathan Dow and Margie Burger of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.
  • Prayer Room. Having a prayer room for General Conference has become standard. “In 2004 and 2008, virtually every segment of the General Conference came—delegates, visitors, bishops, worship leaders, speakers,” Mr. Albin said. “You’d find people from [conservative caucus] Good News and [liberal caucus] the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and everything in between.
  • Spiritual directors. New this year in the prayer room will be trained spiritual directors, from the Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders, to help other volunteers. “They’re coming at their own expense,” Mr. Albin said. “They have experience in discernment and holy listening.”
  • Scheduled prayer. Daily sessions of General Conference will begin in prayer, and prayer will be a major part of worship.

In 2008, more than 700 UM congregations committed to pray for General Conference while it was in session, and Mr. Albin is hoping for many more than that this time. In his view, prayer guarantees greater civility and mutual understanding. But he thinks its importance goes beyond that.

Mr. Albin believes United Methodists and other mainline Protestants have been “seduced by the clarion call to modernism, or even the call to functional atheism, the idea that if we can’t do it, nothing will happen because God can’t.”

That self-reliance is dangerous, and cured best by prayer, he added.

“We’ve overvalued statistics and studies and best practices, and we’ve neglected prayer. Not that I want us to stop thinking or stop studying, but I want to balance planning with prayer and statistics with silence before almighty God.”


Sam Hodges, Managing Editor –

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