PRAYER has the power to carry all who are suffering alone towards “healing and renewal” in Christ, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Thursday.
Archbishop Welby was speaking to Christian journalists about the “extraordinary” growth of the Pentecost prayer initiative, Thy Kingdom Come, at Lambeth Palace.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians of many denominations in 85 countries around the world are taking part in the second annual “great wave of prayer” during the ten days between Ascension Day, on Thursday of last week, and Pentecost on Sunday.
It was established last year after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote to every serving parish priest in the Church of England asking them to take part in a week of prayer for evangelism at Pentecost (News, 5 February, 13 May 2016). It has since spread overseas.
The events planned range from vigils and worship to pilgrim walks and festivals. Some of the more creative endeavours include a 168-hour prayer marathon; prayer balloons, kites, and tepees; as well as street parties, late night cafés, and scavenger hunts.
“The most striking thing has been the range and expression of prayer,” Archbishop Welby said. “In South East Asia, we have heard of the number of languages the material has been translated into: the bible studies and prayer meetings; tens of thousands have become involved. They are doing it in their own way; thankfully there is no sense of ‘Canterbury has spoken’ and I feel very relaxed about that.
“Somehow, this year, the act of Christians turning to God in their own traditions, without people telling you what to do, seems to have liberated a renewal of prayer on a global basis in all sorts of creative ways. That sense of God demonstrating that when we turn to him in Christ we are embraced more warmly than we could begin to imagine.”
The Archbishop’s adviser for evangelism and witness, Canon Chris Russell, agreed: “One of the most heartening things is the way so many Churches have engaged with Thy Kingdom Come within their own tradition. At Walsingham, there has been pilgrimage and prayer in front of the Holy Sacrament, while in some cathedrals there have been long periods of silent reflection. As it is half term, lots of the resources have been geared to children and their families, and the creativity has been brilliant.”
Thy Kingdom Come has accrued a following of more than three million people on social media so far, and about 3000 free “Kingdom resources” have been ordered — from prayer bands and mugs to Gospels and prayer journals.
Its series of videos — released for each day of Pentecost — have also been viewed more than two million times. They cover praying to Jesus; giving thanks and praise; celebration; offering; adoration; and repentance. Archbishop Welby, together with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry; the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Roger Walton; and the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Angaelos, were among those to contribute.
The need to address the healing powers of prayer, as well as its challenges, has become particularly poignant in the wake of recent terror attacks, and the uncertainty surrounding the UK election, the Archbishop said.
“One way people deal with anguish is to learn to pray together in community, so that someone who is really suffering – who may be bereaved or just overwhelmed by life, stretched, or troubled – can be carried by everyone else in prayer, and find healing that way.”
Praying with others has also been of personal help, when private prayer has been a struggle under the weight of the world and daily distractions, the Archbishop said on Thursday. “Some days I just need to be carried. And there are other days where I have Tiggerish fire and vim.”
In a written reflection on the start of Thy Kingdom Come on Ascension Day, three days after 29 people were killed and about 400 injured by a suicide bombing in Manchester (News, 26 May), Archbishop Welby urged Christians to remember the horror of suffering, without being divided by it.
“The attention of the world moves on, but the hurt and pain [of the victims] remains,” he wrote. “Those injured and bereaved in Manchester are beginning a long, hard, and cruel journey. For all of them we mourn, we lament, we cry out.
“And we pray. . . Prayer moves us closer not only to God, but to one another. It connects us with those whom we otherwise cannot see. Prayer breaks down division; in prayer we take each other’s hands and find our safe stronghold.”
As part of Thy Kingdom Come, the Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd Mark Ashcroft, and the Bishop of Middleton, the Rt Revd Mark Davies, set out on a ten-day prayer pilgrimage across Manchester. On the first day, they observed a minute’s silence in Bolton town centre, in memory of the victims of the Manchester attack, before walking about 100 miles to schools, markets, parks, hospitals, and shops across the region to answer “challenging” questions from the public about God and prayer.
Other pilgrimages included a 180-mile “walk of prayer” for the NHS and social care. This was organised by an assistant curate at St John’s, Stafford, the Revd Becky Richards, starting from the Stafford County Hospital and ending in London, visiting as many hospitals as possible.
“As an ‘agent of healing’ in our country, the NHS is truly an expression of God’s Kingdom, which provides healing and compassion to all, regardless of social standing or means, at their point of need,” she said. “The walk is not a political demonstration, but a move of prayer, recognising God’s heart for the NHS.”
diocese of BlackburnBeacon of prayer: Blackburn Cathedral were among 29 cathedrals across the country to host launch events for Thy Kingdom Come on Ascension Day, last Thursday. The special service was attended by more than 400 people, including the three Anglican bishops of Lancashire – the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Revd Julian Henderson; the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Revd Geoff Pearson; and the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Revd Philip North – and ecumenical leaders from the Catholic, Methodist, and free churches in the regionMeanwhile, churchgoers set out for Worcester Cathedral from the four corners of the diocese on Thursday, to reflect the shape of a cross. They were joined by the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, and are due to gather on Saturday on the cathedral green, for foot-washing, family activities, and food, followed by a service of prayer.
Worcester Cathedral is among 35 C of E cathedrals that are hosting “Beacon” services and events for Thy Kingdom Come, this week. Archbishop Welby is due to attend a festival on the green of Guildford Cathedral on Sunday afternoon, with dancing, music, and poetry, before preaching at Winchester Cathedral for the closing service in the evening.
The Bishop of Dorking, Dr Jo Bailey Wells, said of the Guildford event: “Sometimes the truth that ‘God is with us’ is tangible, and palpable. I believe this is one of those moments, when God’s presence is evident: at work among a ramshackle people, uniting and empowering us in our diversity, until we bubble over with the love and joy of Jesus.”
The project leader for the Archbishop’s Evangelism Taskforce, Emma Buchan, said that the response to the campaign had been “overwhelming”. “Each place is organising the time in their own way. For example, in Hong Kong they are planning big celebrations in the cathedrals, and are establishing a network of ‘prayer warriors’. That’s the beauty of Thy Kingdom Come.”
Participants can follow the prayer wave on social media, using the hashtags #Pledge2Pray and #ThyKingdomCome, or visit www.thykingdomcome.global.
Listen to more from the Archbishop about Thy Kingdom Come, in our Podcast, this week