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Prayer Network

The NIC Prayer Network is an entryway for joining in common prayer for the ministries of the Northern Illinois Conference.  As we draw near to God, we can listen and ask for direction and inspiration.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.   - Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB 


June 2024 Devotion

Pastor Caleb Hong, Rockford: Christ UMC

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

One of the Bible’s great paradoxes is the invitation to "rejoice always."  Sure, it’s easy to rejoice when the going is easy, but life is not always easy.  It’s hard to rejoice when we’re struggling with health concerns and financial issues.  It’s tough to rejoice when relationships are rocky and families are split.

And yet, we’re invited to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.”

Friends, the apostle Paul is not inviting us to live in denial with our heads buried in the sand.  Paul is not inviting us to close our eyes to the pain and suffering all around us.  Instead, Paul is calling us to keep our heads up in the midst of hardship and remember our enduring hope in Jesus.  Because of Christ's resurrection, we can live each day knowing that sin is defeated and death has lost its sting.  No matter what troubles we face in this life, we can live each day with an everlasting hope.

This is why Paul can write words of hope as he’s seated in a Roman prison.  “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

In the midst of troubles, Paul implores us (as people of faith) to cling to this unwavering truth,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

So, let us give thanks to God – not only when life is easy, but when life is difficult.  Let us worship God – not only when circumstances are comfortable, but when they’re lousy.  In doing so, we'll receive the strength to persevere through life's toughest storms.  We'll bear witness to our faith in Christ.  AND we'll become more (and more) like Christ each day.

Prayer - Gracious God, we praise you for this day.  We thank you for the gifts of life and love, friends and family, church and community.  Thank you especially for the gift of your son Jesus, whose love endures forever.  Help us to be the bearers of your gospel - sharing the light of love in the midst of the darkness.  In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

April 2024 Devotion

Rev. Seamus Enright, Ottowa: First United Methodist Church

At a recent gathering of clergy, we began our time together remembering our baptism, the vows that go with it, and the freedom and power that God promises to provide so that we can fulfill them. In our baptisms we hear the same sort of declaration as Jesus did in Mark 1:9-13; we are “Beloved”, children, and a source of delight. In that grace, and only from there, are we able to face wilderness and temptation.

Great Wave

Some wonderful human chose to adorn the bulletin for the service with an image of Katsushika Hokusai’s famous print “Under the Wave at Kanagawa”, also known as “The Great Wave”.  For those not familiar with the piece, it shows 3 small Japanese fishing boats out on the sea facing a large, beautifully stylized, wave that dominates the viewing field, while Mt. Fuji can be seen in the distance.

In some ways, I resonate much more strongly in my life of faith with the image of the Great Wave than any sort of calmer waters. I reach more easily for Psalm 42 verse 7 than for Psalm 23 verse 2, and I hear the echoes of Jonah, praying, in chapter 2 of the book that bears his name. The same Son declared “Beloved” after going under the waters of the Jordan is the Word spoken at the beginning that brings order out of the chaos of the Deep, the primordial waters of becoming. “The molecules remember”, a colleague said, connecting the water of Jesus’ baptism and the first waters.

“The molecules remember”. 

“Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls;
    all your massive waves surged over me (Psalm 42:7; CEB).” 

The Great Wave has become an icon for me. The case for my phone, the cover for my laptop, socks, necktie, t-shirt, sweatshirt, stickers, and more. When the waters rise as they so often do, and the struggles come in waves and following Jesus feels more like being overwhelmed than becoming, the Wave reminds me to check my expectations, and to see how far I’ve been carried.

Like the disciples in the boat (that great metaphor for the Church) or Peter who has stepped out of it (a beautiful cautionary tale of calling), we forget that the waves were always part of the journey. From the water in our veins, pulsing like a wave with each beat of our hearts, the molecules remember the balance and tension between stillness and action, order and disorder, being and becoming. Sometimes when we’re craving stillness, it’s good to remember that God may actually be most creative, most active, most loving, most near, or maybe we’re just most open to God, when the waves are at their highest. 


Carry us, Lord, on the waves that remember your sovereign power. Let the memory of our baptism surge over us, your justice roll down like mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). Trouble the stagnant waters of our longing for the false comfort of the familiar and from the deeper spring of the living water of your grace within us call us to the Beloved Word whose Resurrection continues to transform everything. Amen.

Musical Accompaniment(s) to this post:

March 2024 Devotion

Rev. Heewon Kim, Evans / New Life / Harlem United Methodist Church

Serving on the DCOM (district committee on ordained ministry) has been an immense blessing in my life. It has provided me with insight into the dedication of numerous pastors as they serve both God and their communities through their church and personal lives.

I often have the privilege of hearing their calling stories, learning about the challenges they face, and celebrating the milestones they achieve. During their annual (or biennial) meetings with the committee to renew their certification and license for ministry, I have the opportunity to delve into their papers and engage in interviews to understand their lives and ministries more deeply.

Time and again, I am inspired by their stories, their ministry work, their unwavering passion, and the abundant fruits of God's labor in their lives and congregations. This experience has helped me recognize the profound blessing of walking alongside these faithful followers of Jesus Christ, a tangible expression of our Methodist connectionalism.

Regardless of the size or location of their churches, I want everyone to understand that we are all in this together. As the scripture says, "“Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, especially for those in the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

I would amend the last phrase to read, "….especially to those within The United Methodist Church." Yes, we pray for all. We pray for our country and the world. But there’s a special prayer for those who are in the Northern Illinois Conference.

My own congregation, New Life UMC, is currently observing the season of Lent with a Forty-Day Lenten Prayer Challenge. For the duration of these forty days since Ash Wednesday, we gather Monday through Friday from 6 am to 7 am to pray together. We lift up one another, our church, and yours. We lift up our conference, our district (the Prairie North District), our district superintendent, Dr. Hwa Young Chong, and our Bishop, Dan Schwerin. Remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together, and God is with us.

Will you join me in prayer?

Dear God, in the face of life's various challenges, within our churches and our nation, help us answer your call to "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). We pray for all who serve within the Northern Illinois Conference. Bless our churches, revive our spirits, and equip us to fulfill your will in and through us, all to your glory. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

February 2024 Devotion

Rev. Megan Thompson, Marseilles & Seneca United Methodist Churches

Grace and peace be with you!

We are about to enter into the season of Lent, which, like many church seasons, like much of what God does, offers us a Fresh Start.

I’ve had so many fresh starts in my life: going to college, then seminary, then each new church I’ve been introduced to. And those are just the professional and educational fresh starts.

Every day can be a fresh start, if we allow it, a chance to do something different, learning from what worked (and what didn’t) in the past, a chance to grow into who we are meant to be, a beloved child of God.

Sometimes it takes some wandering (I hear hearts are prone to wander), some mistake making, even some harm doing before we figure out how we can best live the life of abundance that God wants for all of creation. 

A fresh start doesn’t wipe away the past completely; it does say we can learn and grow and do better know that we have the experience of messing it up under out belt.

A fresh start isn’t necessarily easy: amends need to be made so justice can flourish.

A fresh start is remembering that God is working to make all things new, and that includes myself.  Even me. Even you.  God claims us, just as we are, seeking us in our busy-ness and our pain, and invites us to grow, to claim our belovedness, to know that, no matter what, we are not alone.

The Rev. Sarah Speed, in the materials for A Weary World by Sanctified Art:

The Bravest Thing We Can Do

Trust your belovedness.
Let it be a protest,
an act of resistance,
a song of celebration.
Trust your belovedness in a world that is rarely satisfied.
Wear it like a badge of honor.
Speak it as confidently as your last name. Tattoo it to your heart.
When outside forces
chip away at your sense of self,
when life asks you
to hand over the keys,
remember the water.
Remember creation.
Remember how it was good,
so very good.
Let that truth hum through your veins.
Sing it so loud
that it drowns out the weariness of the world, for the bravest thing we can ever do
is trust that we belong here.

May the knowledge your belovedness give you what you need to live the life you are living.

January 2024 Devotion

Rev. Heewon Kim, Evans / New Life / Harlem United Methodist Church

Have you ever tried to read the whole Bible, like from Genesis to Revelation? This year of 2024, that is my goal to read the Bible through. Whether or not you did, I know that there are some spots that make it difficult to read the Bible. At first, we may have so much fun reading Genesis with the story of Abraham or Joseph. Even we can feel the thrill and excitement in Exodus, like when the Red Sea was divided, and the Israelites walked through the sea. It seems like a spectacular movie. But when we move on to read Leviticus or Numbers, we come across a lot of instructions on worship, such as how to cut the cow and how to drain its blood, and there are lots of details about it. And there is a huge number of names and tribe numbers in Numbers, as its name suggests. We might feel bored and get stuck there. If we succeed in reading that, I am sorry to tell you, but that’s not the end. Here is another peak that could make us get stuck again in reading the scripture. It’s 1 Chronicles. I’m not kidding, but you will get to read more than five hundred names of people in a row from chapter 1 through 9. This is how it goes. Please listen, “The sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahaem, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. The sons of Ibeon: Aiah, and Anah. The son of Anah: Dishon. The sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ethran, and Keran.” And it goes on until five hundred names. It’s overwhelming.

But, it is very interesting that there is a popped verse in between those constant number of names. Suddenly the Bible introduces a person’s life. It’s about Jabez and his prayer. It’s in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez, his name means pain or suffering as his life is shortly described in verse 9 “His mother had named him in pain.” In the ancient world, a name was so important, and even in the Bible, naming determines one’s life. Jabez’s name meant pain. But Jabez didn’t follow as what his name defined him. Turning away from the name, he began to cry out to God saying, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And the Bible said, “And God granted his request.” He lived a wonderful life, and his name and his prayer were recorded in the Bible. What do you expect for your life? Even in a world where names were so important that it almost bound and destined people’s lives, Jabez prayed to God. And God answered his request. He lived not in what the world defined him. He did let God define his life by prayer. Likewise, if we pray to God, God starts to work beyond our limitations and weaknesses. God will accomplish his wonderful plan with those who pray to God. I hope that all of us would pray in this New Year 2024 like Jabez’s prayer, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)


Let us pray. Dear Lord, you are God who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask for or imagine. Because your power is at work within us. Help us to trust your unfailing love that I may say like Paul, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT)


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