TO SAVE you the time looking it up online: Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang, is in the far north-west of China, and is a city of Uighur people. The title highlights the central challenge: namely, how do we intercede for the wider world in a way that touches on the deeper spiritual issues and really connects to the lives of local communities?
This is a thoughtful and somewhat unusual book on intercessions. Stimulated by a survey, which demonstrated how parochial and limited much intercession is, this book focuses on the preparing of intercessions and how intercessors draw on their own experience and knowledge to shape prayers that can draw congregations into praying for the wider world.
The greater part of the book takes the form of 52 chapters with a vignette on a different part of the world (predominantly organised by countries or regions), preceded by a short summary, which seeks to locate the reader geographically, and a concluding, short intercessory prayer.
The vignettes, each three to four pages, are personal: they emerge from David Goodacre’s experience or knowledge of the area, which, in some cases, is quite limited. But that is almost exactly the point: he is placing himself in the position of the parish intercessor coming to the task of preparing prayers. His reflections, therefore, have a true-to-life, stream-of-consciousness feel to them, while also speaking into the larger themes of the divisions of peoples and nations, the threat of climate justice, and religious division.
This is not a go-to book for a hasty grab of prayers or templates before leading intercessions early on Sunday morning. Rather, it is for the more reflective and engaged intercessor, who will also take the time to read the two other elements of the book: an essay on the theology of intercessions, infused with a mix of scriptural reflection and contemporary references, and a short section on preparing petitions.
Both are worth a careful read and contain a mix of direct advice and points for reflection. In the former category is “Be brief,” for which many of us will be very grateful; in the latter are some helpful reflections, on, among other things, the limitations of “news-based” prayer, and why and how we should pray for leaders.
The Revd Dr Duncan Dormor is the General Secretary of the USPG.
Morning Prayer in Urumqi: Preparing petitions when praying for the world
Sacristy Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.29