Monday, May 21, 2007

My boundaries enclose a pleasant land... (Psalm 16:6)

Folks who pray from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) recently observed "Rogation Days." The prayers for these spring days emphasize agricultural needs such as seasonable weather and ask for the blessing of a good harvest from the seeds we plant now.

Rogation days also emphasize spiritual health and righteousness of life. There is a strong theme of moral accountability in Rogation prayers - our way of life can help or hinder the arrival of God's blessings. The 1928 BCP appoints a portion of James 1 for Rogation Sunday (the Fifth Sunday after Easter):

"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves... Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

In Britain, the ancient practice of "beating the bounds" involved prayer walks around the boundaries of communities. Although many associate this with agriculture alone, prayers for the spiritual and moral well being of the community are most prominent in this custom.

It is an important spiritual practice, and one well supported by the BCP, to open our hearts in prayer for all those with whom we share the land. Prayers for our own neighborhoods, communities and states can bring God's blessing on those around us, and move us to serving their needs in Christ's Name.

Here are a few ways to pray for the land you share with others:
  • Pray over a map. Sometimes, looking at a map brings to mind important prayer needs. Looking at a map of South Dakota, for example, can be a reminder to pray for rain in the dry western half of the state. You might look at a map of your city and notice schools, hospitals, churches and other institutions for which you might pray.
  • Prayerfully walk your neighborhood. Just take a walk (baby stroller or dog optional). Quietly pray for each home you pass, for people you see, for anything that God puts on your heart.
  • Know and pray for your public officials (all of them - not just the ones you like!) The Bible "exhorts" us to pray for them (I Timothy 2:1-3) and tells us that such prayers please the Lord. Drop public officials a note or email now and then, simply letting them know that you are praying for them.
  • Use the news. Internet, TV, radio and newspaper items provide prayer concerns. What blessings have come to your town? Thank God for them. What problems and needs exist? Lift them up to God.
  • Ask. Go to local officials or social service providers. Ask them about needs and concerns in the community, and pray about these. A really good question is, "What are the unmet needs in our community?" Such information is a great source of prayer, and can lead to action in Christ's service.

Some churches emphasize themselves as separate from the world around them. But Anglicanism believes in a call to engage the world. We see "the parish" as all the people and territory around us, not just church members and a building. If we are prayerful and serious about Christian life, this large understanding of "parish" opens up great missionary possibility. As the translation of Psalm 16:6 in the 1979 BCP puts it, "My boundaries enclose a pleasant land..."

1 comment:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Good suggestions for being a proactive Christian!