Discernment Prayer Guide

Discernment Committee

 At the August 2021 business meeting, Pastor William presented a process for the church to discuss and decide on our policies regarding the inclusion of people in the LGBTQ community in the church. As part of that process, he recommended a special committee be formed to discern and draft recommendations on how we will operate reflecting what our congregation believes God’s will is for us. The charge of the committee is:

In light of resolutions and events between 2017 and 2019 that exposed a need for Faith Baptist Church to find agreement on the questions relating to church participation and membership of persons identifying with the LGBTQ community, and in light of requests from the pastor and church staff to have guidance for representing the church’s position and practices related to members of the LGTBQ community, the Moderator of Faith Baptist Church is calling to service a special committee. This committee will operate for the purpose of completing the following charge:

To 1) discern the church’s prayerful understanding of their calling as Faith Baptist Church to members of the LGTBQ community seeking inclusion in church membership and those seeking marriage. And based upon these findings 2) to recommend guidance to church staff and potential adjustments to church policies to align church practice with the position of the membership that will be considered at the November 2021 meeting of Faith Baptist Church at business.

The following persons agreed to serve: Mike Collins, Greg Earwood, Jawanna Herd, Cynthia Insko (elected chair), and Shelby Napier. Taking a cue from the charge to the committee, they named themselves the Discernment Committee.

Below you can find the conversation schedule, our bylaws, and our current building use policy.

 

Prayer Guide

Everyone on the committee believes that prayer is integral to the process and agreed for the need to have a Prayer Guide. Greg Earwood volunteered to take on this task and present help in praying daily for God’s guidance. For each day of the week you will find a Scripture to read, the selection of a key verse, a prayer prompt, and additional insights.

(A note from Greg: As the person who offers this Prayer Guide on behalf of the committee, I want this to be clear: I alone am responsible for the structure, choices of Bible verses, prayer prompts and additional materials.)

We invite you, as faithful Baptists, to pray for the process as described by the title of a book by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing the Will of God. We ask you to join us in praying to God for yourself, our committee, our congregation, and LGBTQ persons as we seek understanding of the life and ministry of Faith Baptist Church in relation to persons identifying with the LGBTQ community.

September 19-25, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of GRACE

Some comments and prayers below will be building on the God of Wisdom and the God of Love from the two previous weeks. This week’s focus is the God of Grace. Several of the daily readings will be from the letters in the New Testament traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul. Consistently, near the beginning of each letter, we see the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” For many years I have noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace.

Sunday, September 19

Reminder: The Discernment Committee will be hosting a Listening Session tonight at 6 p.m. at the church. We will assemble in the sanctuary for a brief opening. Then we will divide into small groups for you to express your hopes, fears, and questions about Faith Baptist Church in relation to the inclusion of persons who are LGBTQ+.

Read Exodus 34:1-9                                                          

Key verse: “The Lord passed before [Moses], and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’” (v. 6)

Prayer Prompt: “Dear Lord, you speak to us through Scripture. You speak to us through the voices of the oppressed, outcasts, marginalized. You also rejoice with us through the uplifted. You remind us through Your voice and presence that You are always with us, and that You are always speaking to us. Keep us listening.  Keep us talking. And speak to us through each other.” (Adapted from Geoffrey Duncan, Courage to Love Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities)

Monday, September 20

Read The Gospel according to Luke 10:25-37

The story of the “Good Samaritan” is told by Jesus in response to a “lawyer” (not in modern sense; rather a Torah expert) who wanted clarification on who is his neighbor. In the story, a man beaten half dead by robbers is left on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite saw the man, offered no help and passed by on the other side.

Key verses: “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,” (v. 7) and took care of his needs. When the story concludes, Jesus asked who proved to be the neighbor. The lawyer gave the only right answer, “‘the one who had mercy on him’. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’“ (vv. 36-37) 

The “Good Samaritan” acts like God whose grace finds expression in being compassionate and merciful. In the Gospel according to Luke, this story pictures for us the ministry of Jesus as merciful and compassionate to persons in need, often the ones left hurting on the side of the road.

Prayer Prompt: Help us, God, to be like you, merciful and compassionate, especially as revealed in life and ministry of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 21

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 1:1-10

Key phrases: “Grace…and peace” (v. 2); God “destined us in love (v. 5); “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6); “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” (vv. 7-8)

To tie together the theme of this week, The God of Grace, with yesterday’s emphasis on mercy and compassion reflected in the story of the “Good Samaritan,” please read carefully the writing of Parker Palmer.

Palmer cites what he has learned from Roshi Joan Halifax regarding compassion. “Joan defines compassion as the capacity to attend to the experiences of others, to feel concern for others, to sense what will serve others, and to be able to be of service to others.” Palmer also notes compassion “demands grace and G.R.A.C.E.”

Prayer Prompt: “G.R.A.C.E. for Cultivating Compassion”

Gathering our attention – get focused, be present

Recalling intention – understand the ethical foundation of our humanity

Attuning to self/other – tune in to our biases and sense the needs of others

Consider what will serve – using wisdom and knowledge to inform our actions

Engage and ending – take actions that support others

[My thanks to Jawanna for sharing these helpful insights from Parker Palmer]

Wednesday, September 22

Read The Second Letter to the Corinthians 1:1-4

Key verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort….” (v. 3)

After the initial greeting (vv. 1-2) that includes extending the grace and peace of God, the powerful language of blessing expresses praise to God as “the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort.” The mercies of God are the catalyst for the comfort God provides in our times of difficulty. As elsewhere in Scripture, the blessing of comfort given to us by a merciful God is meant to be on the way to another person (v. 4).  

Prayer Prompt: With thanksgiving for Your mercies and comfort, lead me to share that comfort with others, especially persons identified with the LGBTQ+ community.  

Thursday, September 23

Read The Letter to the Philippians 1:1-11

Key phrases:Grace…peace” (v. 2); “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (v. 3); “thankful for your partnership in the gospel” (v. 5); “for you are all partakers of grace with me” (v. 7).

Prayer Prompt: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” (v. 9) 

Friday, September 24

Read The Letter to the Colossians 1:1-10

Key phrases:Grace…peace” (v. 2); “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (v. 3); “because of…your faith…and love…and because of the hope…” (vv. 4-5); [because] “of the gospel…from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth” (v. 6).

Prayer Prompt: “we pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” (v. 9)

Saturday, September 25

Read The First Letter to the Thessalonians 1:1-5a

Key verses: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.”

The typical version of the greeting of grace and peace (v. 2) is abbreviated because God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are mentioned in the opening verse. In the introduction to this week’s emphasis on the God of Grace, I noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace. But the pattern is grace and peace!

Prayer Prompt: “Our Response” to the God of Grace

Let us receive God’s gift of grace.

Let us celebrate grace by being gracious.

Let us open our hearts to God’s grace.

Let us celebrate grace by counting no one less worthy to receive it than we.

Let us open our minds to imagine the impact of God’s grace,

            proclaimed in word and deed in our world.

Let us celebrate grace by offering grace to all.

Adapted slightly from “Testimony” in the Celebrating Grace Hymnal (#585)

September 12-18, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of Love

The Bible often gives witness to the love of God. Two prominent locations in the New Testament for this emphasis are The Gospel according to John and the Letter of 1 John. Readings from them can be found in five of the seven daily offerings.

Sunday, September 12

Read The Gospel according to John 3:16-21 (read online)

Key verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (v. 16)

Prayer Prompt: Thank God for this inclusive love (“world”), expressed through the gift of God’s only Son, so that anyone (“whoever”) can receive this gift by believing in the Son.

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. John 3:16 is a summary of the message of New Testament in one verse. Its content presents the essential nature of God as love. It declares that all persons are loved by God. This verse tells us that the demonstration of God’s love is revealed in the only Son of God. John 3:16 stresses “believing” in God’s Son. In fact, this Gospel does not employ the noun “faith,” but the action found in the verb “to believe.” All of this leads to the gift described as “eternal life.”

Monday, September 13

Read 1 John 4:7-12 (read online)

Key verse: “Beloved, let us love one another; for God is love, and the one who loves is born of God and knows God.” (v. 7)

Prayer Prompt: Ask for God’s help in the practice of loving one another.

The phrase “one another” occurs many times in Scripture. Most commonly this phrase refers to sisters and brothers in Christ. In our key verse quoted above, we are encouraged to love one another because God is love.

Paul and mission partners: “We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brothers and sisters, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

May love for one another increase at Faith Baptist Church!

Tuesday, September 14

Read 1 John 4:13-21 (read online)

Key verse: “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in that one.” (v. 16)

Prayer Prompt: “Take my gifts and let me love You, God who first of all loved me.” (first line and title of Hymn #670 in Celebrating Grace Hymnal)

To explain the second part of the key verse:

“…the one who abides/remains/stays in love, abides/remains/stays in God, and God abides/remains/stays in that one.”

Wednesday, September 15

Read 1 John 3:11-18 (read online)

Key verse: “For this is message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (v. 11)

Prayer Prompt: Remind us often, dear God, that love is what You want us to share with one another. 

When Bob Fox preached his final sermon as pastor at Faith from 1 John 3, he told us that one thing was important – love! Amen

Thursday, September 16

Read The Gospel according to John 14:18-24 (read online)

Key verse: Jesus in farewell address to disciples “The one who has my commandments and keeps them, that is the one who loves me; and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love and make myself manifest to that one.” (v. 21)

Prayer Prompt: Jesus encouraged his disciples then and us now to obey the commandments as evidence of his love in us. Pray for divine leadership to live like Christ in faithful obedience to the ways and will of God.

Friday, September 17

Read Psalm 103:1-14 (read online)

Key verse: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (v. 8)

Prayer Prompt: Think carefully about the picture of who God is according to this psalm. Consider especially God’s steadfast, faithful, abundant love.

“O God of Exodus and Easter, I remember all I know of your love poured out in deliverance and resurrection….I praise you for your unending mercy and your untiring faithfulness.” (Eugene Peterson, Praying with the Psalms)

Saturday, September 18

Read Romans 8:31-39 (read online)

Key verses: “For I am sure that neither death not life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39)

Prayer Prompt: Give thanks to God that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God!

September 5-11, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of Wisdom

Sunday, September 5

Read Proverbs 2: 1-10 (read online)

Key verse: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” (v. 6)

Prayer Prompt: Lord, we want to be open to Your wisdom in order that we may “understand righteousness and justice, and equity, every good path.” (v. 9)

Prayer for God’s wisdom: We give thanks, O Lord, for Your love of us and all of Your good creation. We ask you to speak to us as we listen carefully for Your guidance to help us live according to Your will. Help us to serve You and our neighbors with greater love and compassion. May we practice Your wisdom and learn to leave all judgment in Your hands. We pray that we recognize Your presence with us through the Holy Spirit. Let us work alongside You to create a world shaped by Your unconditional love. We thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen. (adapted from the Human Rights Campaign)

Monday, September 6

Read Proverbs 22:17-19 (read online)

Key verse: “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge.” [v. 17 is from a wise voice regarding life and conduct]

Prayer prompt: Pray for ears that hear God’s Word.

From Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening by Rose Mary Dougherty (pp19-21): “The habit of discernment is an attitude of listening to God in all of life. It is in the words of St. Benedict, listening ‘with the ear of the heart.’ ” It is a life of prayerful attention to God….Inherent to discernment is the belief that God is actively and caringly involved with us in every moment of our lives…In the habit of discernment our choices are again and again refined by the invitation to love….Discernment is a gift that has been given to all of us….Perhaps we need to pray that the eyes of our hearts be opened so we can see the gift that is there and look to the practices and people that might encourage us to cultivate our discerning hearts.” [Provided to committee by Chair Cynthia Insko] 

Special prayer request: The church-elected Discernment Committee meets tonight at 6 p.m. Please pray for this committee.

Tuesday, September 7

Read James 1:5-8 (read online)

Key verse (paraphrased): “If any of you lacks wisdom, let that one ask God who gives to all generously and without reproaching, and wisdom will be given.” (v. 5)  

Prayer Prompt: God, help us to “ask in faith with no doubting” for generous gift of wisdom.

Hear the refrain of stanza one from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.”

Wednesday, September 8

Read James 3:13-18 (read online)

Key verse: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.” (v. 17)

Prayer Prompt: Pray to have and practice “the wisdom from above [God]” as described in verse 17.

Hear the refrain of stanza two from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.

Thursday, September 9

Read Matthew 6: 9-13 (read online) –  The Lord’s Prayer/Model prayer from Jesus 

Key verse: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” v. 10

Prayer Prompt: Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, pausing to ponder the significance of each phrase.  

Hear the refrain of stanza three from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving Thee whom we adore.”

Friday, September 10

Read Matthew 7:7-12 (read online)

Key verse: “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (v. 7)

Prayer Prompt: Prayer is both listening to God and voicing our needs (we are typically better at the second). We are invited to ask, seek, knock. Try out each of these as you pray.

Hear the refrain of stanza four from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, that we fail not man nor Thee”

Saturday, September 11

Read Matthew 6:25-33 (read online)

Key verse: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (v. 33)

Prayer Prompt: Seek God’s help in your priorities and in living the right way.

A Prayer for Wisdom and Peace When Making Big Decisions

Gracious God, you number our hairs and determine our days; you hang the stars and feed the sparrows; you open doors no one can shut and shut doors no one can open. Surely, we can trust you when the time comes for making big decisions, or for that matter, any decisions. We are in just such a season again, dear God, and we know we are not alone. We will trust you for generous wisdom, straight paths and peaceful hearts, all for your glory.

How we praise you for being the decision-making-God. It’s not our decisions, but yours that make all the difference. We will plan, but we trust you to order our steps. We will pray, but ask you to help us pray. We will search the Scriptures, but not looking for proof texts but for you, our God. All we want and need is you.

Free us from the paralysis of analysis—wanting to make the right decision, more than we want to be righteous people; wanting to be known as wise people, more than we want to know you. Free us from the idolatry of assuming there’s only one “perfect” choice in any given situation. Free us from making decisions primarily for our comfort and other’s approval, or fear their disapproval. Free us to know that good choices don’t always lead to the easiest outcomes, especially at first. Free us from second and twenty-second guessing our decisions.

So, make us more and more like Jesus, even as we trust you for the opening and closing of doors that are in front of us. All for your glory. Amen. 

[Jesuit prayer resource shared by Jawanna Herd and adapted for Prayer Guide by Greg Earwood]

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