On May 2nd, our nation will celebrate the National Day of Prayer. Congregations will gather with an intentional period of focus on prayer. Special attention will be given to things like veterans, racial unity, the sanctity of life, homelessness, and social justice. Some cities will hold inter-denominational events, rallying pastors, leaders and musicians to call people to their knees about these matters. Leaders will urge the masses to humble themselves and pray.
Let us celebrate the opportunity to come before the living God together. And I mean, truly together! Let’s gather and pray in such a way that is also certain to welcome and bring before the Lord the world’s largest lost people group. I’m talking about people with disabilities, including invisible disabilities, chronic health issues, traumatic injury, mental health difficulties and aging-related conditions.
Our churches and events are likely to be logistically accessible because we are required to make them so by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But in Jesus’ book, meeting ADA requirements is just a minimum expectation. The spirit of Jesus’ welcome is for a broadly diverse community that values every single part of the body as indispensable .
Making Prayer and Worship Events More Inclusive
At the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection (MDMC), we have been praying about and exploring with community organizers ways of making prayer and worship events more inclusive. For example, last year PULSE Ministries welcomed people of all abilities to volunteer in serving at the UNITE Twin Cities event at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Individuals and families affected by disability served in various roles from greeters and response card collectors to prayer intercessors at the prayer tent. The MDMC is currently working with PULSE and another group who are planning National Day of Prayer 2019 and a music festival to once again make volunteer involvement inclusive.
Consider some of the ways your church or prayer event can include and embrace people with disabilities, by modeling diversity that goes beyond language, skin color, economic position, marital status or age. Beyond having a sign language interpreter present, invite someone with disabilities to lead part of the corporate prayer time. Invite people with disabilities to serve on your volunteer teams. People with intellectual-developmental disabilities can be among the best greeters and prayer warriors you’ve ever had. Someone with limited mobility can hold a collection basket on their lap. People with autism can be among the most enthusiastic and inspiring corporate worship participants.
Prayers for Disability-Inclusive Faith Communities
As we pray, may our prayers do a clear and thoughtful job of reflecting Christ’s values, character, promises and ultimate will. At a recent MDMC meeting, we spent some time considering what inclusive prayers might be like. Perhaps the examples below will inspire some of your own:
Lord God, thank you that people from every tribe, tongue and type of gifting are all valued parts of the body of Christ.
Sovereign God, your good design is beautiful. Your love extends to all and shows us how to love each other without partiality. We confess our tendency to discriminate. Teach us how to engage in life with people who are different from ourselves and celebrate that all people were made in Your image. Use us to strengthen your Church as a place of welcome and belonging for all, regardless of anyone’s ability. Teach us how to embrace each other, even the seemingly weaker among us, as the most highly valued ones you say they are.
In Your mercy, hear our prayer for people who experience disability, mental health difficulties, illness or injury, chronic health concerns or aging-related conditions. We ask you to release healing according to Your will. By Your Holy Spirit and in Your mercy, empower these friends and their caregivers to fullness of life.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that all of our friends with disabilities are indispensable members of our community.
Heavenly Father, we confess that we don’t always know which to pray for — healing or the strength of faith to endure while waiting for Your ultimate healing. We ask You to help us minister to those who are suffering. Most of all, we ask for your help in sharing the comfort and wisdom of Your Holy Spirit, Lord. Please shape our vision, perspective, values and priorities according to Your Truth. Help us to align our lives and choices to your character and design. Holy Spirit, help us to walk alongside people of all abilities in friendship. Show us how to foster ways of thinking and living that uphold life, human dignity and the glory of who You are. Thank you, Lord, for how the uniqueness in our families creates a living picture of the coming kingdom!
God’s precious ones with special needs will certainly benefit from our faith-filled prayers. Caregivers of all generations and special needs family members need our prayers too. And, as we gather to pray on this National Day of Prayer, let’s make sure that people of all abilities have opportunities to join with us in worship and be part of the serving team too.
Let us be praying both for and with our friends with disabilities.
Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including the Finding Glory series of resources and the new children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.