Isabel Peters is currently an elder at Calvin Presbyterian Church, Abbotsford,B.C., and heads up the congregation's Prayer Chain.
At a very young age, when I got up very early, my Methodist father, James, would be kneeling at the kitchen chair, praying before he went to work. He was a man of God, knowing the Holy Bible and occasionally preaching in the church as a lay minister. I thank God for his example. He never preached to us, but guided us gently, as he often did when people would come to him for advice.
The Young Peoples group met in our church every Sunday night. One night I came home very angry saying I was "never going to church anymore; they are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites!" because I had gone down into the kitchen for water and the ladies were saying some very negative things about another woman in our church. My father and mother listened to me rant and rave, as teenagers do, until I quieted down. Then father said to me, very quietly, "Young lady, you don't go to church to judge others, you go to church to hear all you can about Jesus Christ and try to live like him during the coming week."
In later years when I was married and had two young children, I was invited to a Prayer Group in Richmond by my brother, Tom, who had become the first Chaplain at the Vancouver Airport. (He had been an airline pilot and studied theology for six years at night school to become a minister.) Willard Ireland was there as a guest from Victoria, where he worked as head of the Provincial Archives. During the meeting he told of seeing a very little girl in a hospital that had never been shown any love. He and his wife adopted her, showering her with love until she began to smile and respond to their caring love. This touched me so much that when I returned home, I phoned our pastor's wife inviting her over for lunch and shared with her the experience gained from attending that prayer meeting. I also suggested that we start a prayer group in our church. The next day she phoned a few ladies from our church and we started on February 29, 1968. It grew rapidly until we eventually had women from many other churches attending. As we grew, we decided it was much better to have only eight to ten in each group. We put names in a basket, prayed over them and selected names for each group and so divided into smaller groups to pray.
We also had a "Prayer Group Covenant" and some other helpful points listed about "Some Aspects of the Prayer Fellowship" (see below), all of which guided our prayer groups. We met every Wednesday morning.
Many of the women have gone on to be with our Lord now, but those of us who are still here keep close to each other. We are all so grateful for this experience, knowing our prayer partners are there for us and praying for us.
My husband and I have since left the United Church and are attending Calvin Presbyterian Church in Abbotsford, but the group continues, and has indeed become a true community prayer group from many different churches. We also have a similar Prayer Chain Fellowship at Calvin Church.
My message to every person would be: Open the Bible often to read:
- Reflect on its teaching;
Answer its call;
Respond to its challenge; and,
Extend its message!
Prayer Group Covenant
Before God, and the members of this group, I covenant:
- To keep all confidences shared by others in this group, realizing that trust is of paramount importance to this fellowship.
- To be on time for meetings at 9:30 a.m. and to assist the hostess in beginning discussion on the "here and now," and to diminish "smalltalk," finishing by 11:30 a.m. to accommodate the hostess.
- To share with other members of the group when I am ready, what I have discovered so that together we may grow in faith.
- To share only those things I wish, realizing that some things of life are too personal to be shared with others.
- To seek to involve others in this fellowship by inviting them to join my group.
- To take time daily for quiet meditation and prayer.
Some Aspects of the Prayer Fellowship
- It is an inter-denominational fellowship. All women are welcome, whether or not they have church affiliation.
- New members are added by personal invitation. Each member is free to invite others, when she feels led to do so.
- Praying aloud is difficult for some of us. Therefore a member need not feel guilty, or a "lesser person" or pressured if she has this difficulty. God hears silent prayer as well as spoken.
- Some of us are struggling to learn to listen, while others are struggling to contribute and share. We all have much to learn about God, ourselves, and others, Yet knowing others care, love, and accept us as we are is a key to our fellowship.
- The exchange of books is encouraged. This has helped us grow at home.
- The groups offer a warm, loving and caring fellowship. However, a member should feel free to withdraw from this fellowship, without feeling guilty if it is not "her cup of tea."
- Leadership evolves from the group spontaneously and is very unstructured. The hostess for the week provides home and coffee. She sometimes has prepared either a short Scripture reading or a thought, but not always.
- We should encourage each other to share when prayer has been answered.
- Periodically all four groups will meet together.
- Members have shared inspirational tapes and records.
- An effective group should have only 8-10 members. Let us grow and divide so that others may have the blessings from such a fellowship.
GOD BLESS YOU!