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By Rev. Mary Farmer

Like so many others, I feel as if the season of Advent preparation and the upcoming celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus has snuck up on me. And just around the corner is New Year’s.

It’s especially difficult to balance the external demands of our lives in the world with the needs of our hearts as we move through the seasons of the church year.

This year is especially challenging, with the escalating unrest and chaos in the world. As I write this, the latest woes of the world occurring in Gaza fill the news, and spill over into the communities in which we live, as people predictably take sides. Closer to home, hunger, homelessness and financial strain touch each of our lives, in one way or the other. How then, do we focus our prayer intentions as we live through the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love in 2023? How do we intentionally develop and foster a rhythm of prayer in our busy lives this year? (If you are looking for some help with that, the AFP session with the SSJD on The Rule of Life from September 30th, 2023 will be a great help!)

I am blessed to have active AFP representatives in my parishes, and especially one who writes weekly intercessions that address the specific needs of the world and community.  Those prayers connect and inform us, and the following petition ends the Prayers of the People every week. It is a regular reminder to give thanks for our time together and to open ourselves to hearing the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts. Writing your own prayers means listening for the leading of the Spirit and taking a risk, but the changes in the writer and the listener can be life changing. If you are interested in learning to do this, there are resources from AFP, or reach out to your executive contact person.

The words that follow help ground and direct me, as I move through the rhythm of prayer in my own life. I am thankful this person takes a step out of their comfort zone. I pray these words may perhaps open a space for your prayers to begin and grow, as we focus on hope, peace, joy and love, as we once again await the birth of our Lord.

We are so thankful for all that we have been given including this time we have had together.

We continue to pray for peace and healing for this afflicted world; comfort for the dying; assurance for the broken; love and friendship for the lonely and a spirit of hospitality for the strangers among us.

We pray that we will be ever mindful of the needs of others and that we will take every opportunity we’re given to be kind. Be with us, Lord, as we face our struggles, not alone, but together. We ask for all of this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. AMEN

Rev. Mary Farmer is an AFP Executive.