Happy 2020! Ever since I was a little girl, it’s seemed to me that the New Year really started when school started back in the late summer. Many schools in my region now begin in early August, but when I was growing up, I don’t remember ever going back to school earlier than the Monday before Labor Day, nor later than the day after Labor Day. So for me, that’s my mental image of when the year begins.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the way that a new paper calendar looks and feels. I love making the first entry in it, always months before the next year truly begins. I love writing in my journal-style, month-to-a-page calendar in pencil, so I can easily make changes. You can see my cryptic notes for meetings, appointments, and things I need to do before or on a certain date. (“Taxes” on the 8th, for example, was my reminder to pay my state sales tax for my book sales, while the notation of “Worms” on the 16th reminded me to give my dogs heartworm pills.)
Calendars not only help us get to where we need to be, but their overarching goal is to help us set our priorities in life and remind us of them every single day. One of my priorities is to have a rich prayer life; I think that must have been a goal of many people in the early 1900’s as well. The early newspaper in my hometown was The Comet, which was only published weekly, every Thursday. The Comet reported in the January 5, 1911 issue “The Week of Prayer opened last night with services in all the churches, in spite of the inclement weather. The meetings were all largely attended and a great deal of interest was manifested. The meetings will continue through the week, the ministers alternating each night.” .
My suspicion is that this was a week-long prayer meeting combined with a revival. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an annual event that took place around the first of each year. With “ministers alternating each night”, it sounds like there was a partnership between or among the churches that participated in The Week of Prayer. If anyone knows definitively if my conjectures are correct, I’d like to know. It speaks well of my community that there are more than a few churches still in existence that had hearty congregations then; I only wish we still had the Week of Prayer.
Prayer, like many things I do daily, isn’t something I write on my calendar. I don’t write “Church” on my calendar on Sundays, because it’s so much a part of me that I don’t need a reminder. As an aside, I have a prayer journal that I keep to note days and times people especially need prayer. For example, I note days and times of surgeries, medical appointments, travels, job interviews, meetings that are likely to be unpleasant, and the like, and I try to pray for those situations during those times. If I can’t do that, I can at least pray for a positive outcome for the circumstance during my morning prayer time.
Don’t let anyone tell you that prayer doesn’t matter or that it doesn’t make a difference. The summer my mother was dying, many people would ask one of us, “What can I do for you?” We would respond, “Pray.” And I would often add, “It’s the least you can do. But it’s also the most you can do.” My mother wasn’t afraid to die, and I felt the hands of Jesus around me all summer long.
I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know what to pray for.” You may have said those things or had those thoughts. I certainly have. I was recently at my book club luncheon; Tanya Tucker Huevel, a retired nurse educator, prayed a very eloquent prayer. With her permission, I’m paraphrasing and sharing a part of it. Tanya’s prayer went something like this, “Lord, I ask Your blessings upon the least, the last, the lost and the lonely. Surround them with Your love.” Isn’t that prayer absolutely heartwarming and lovely? Ever since I heard Tanya pray those words, I’ve tried to incorporate them into my daily prayer life.
Changing the topic completely, 2020 is an election year in the United States just as it was in 1896. Both years are also leap years In the January 9, 1896 copy of The Comet, the Athens Post, a newspaper published at that time in Athens, Tennessee, opined, “There will be 366 days in next year – one more than usual to give additional time in which to abuse opposing candidates.” Clearly, the Athens Post had originally shared that sentiment in 1895. And it’s just as clear that the sentiment could well be used just as accurately today in 2020, as it was in 1896.
Copyright January 6, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson.