National Bishop Susan C. Johnson

Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.

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National Bishop's Turn

Preserving Our Devotion to Prayer

Maintaining a personal prayer life has its challenges—and there's no shame in looking to others for inspiration.

This past summer, I spent some of my holidays in Ireland. One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to Skellig Michael, a small island off the coast of County Kerry and the site of a 6th century monastery. The monastic buildings are perched 150 metres above the sea, accessible by 600 stairs cut into the steep rock face. The monastic community survived for six centuries, enduring hardship brought about by severe weather, isolation, limited food supplies, not to mention at least two Viking raids.

I was awed by the witness of these committed Christians and the extent to which they were willing to isolate themselves from worldly temptation and dedicate themselves to prayer, meditation, and worshipping God.

I spent time inside one of the cells, alone and in prayer. I prayed for our church, for our bishops, pastors, and diaconal ministers, and for all of our members. I prayed for our synods, our congregations, and specialized ministries. I prayed for our partners in ministry—churches and agencies in Canada and around the world. I asked that God would lead us and guide us and equip us in our ministry, service, and witness. I prayed for wisdom, strength, and courage for my role as National Bishop of our church.

I prayed for our world. For peace in the many areas ravaged by war or divided by conflict. For justice for those who face poverty, inequality, oppression, and all other forms of hardship. For the creation that is suffering from our misuse. I prayed for those in need—the sick, the abused, the dying, those suffering from addiction. And I prayed for the individual concerns that have been entrusted to me.

These are my regular prayers. I must confess to you that as someone who is a raging extrovert, it is sometimes hard for me to be routine in my private prayer life. It is easier for me to pray with others. But I have been helped over my lifetime by the witness of others in their faithful prayer life. When I visit my parents, I join them in prayer at the conclusion of mealtimes. Others have shared with me their prayer techniques and the devotional materials that aid them in prayer.

Who has helped you with your prayer life? What examples from the faith and tradition inspire you in your devotional life?

One of my hopes and prayers for our church is that as we grow in spirited discipleship, we will grow in both our corporate and individual practise of prayer, and that we will work together to equip all members to pray both with and for each other and our world.

Bishop Susan C. Johnson

Canada Lutheran, October/November 2008