Friday, July 31, 2009

Inner~View #71: Practical Insights on Changing Corporate Prayer (for the better!)

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Andrew Wheeler Co-Director of the prayer ministry at Willow Creek's regional campus in McHenry County, Illinois and author of a new book, Together in Prayer: Coming to God in Community


book cover

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Book Excerpts

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PDF 1 The Case for Community Prayer »

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Phil ~ How did your experience as a small group leader convince you of the need for a book on how to pray in community?

Andrew ~ Over the years, I've led many small groups and even prayer groups that didn't pray well together. Our prayer times often dragged by, and our prayers frequently seemed to be aimed more at each other than toward God. Many times our prayers focused strictly on the surface issues in our lives. Occasionally we'd have a prayer time that seemed really meaningful, and I began to wonder why that wasn't happening consistently. The book grew out of those experiences.

Phil ~ You wrote: "Together in Prayer addresses the issues that prevent many groups from praying in one heart and mind and experiencing real unity in prayer." Why is this important if the small group is a Sunday school class with a focus on teaching and discipleship?

Andrew ~Praying effectively together should be important even to classes whose main focus isn't prayer. Most Sunday school classes don't have prayer as a major focus of their time. However, neither teaching nor discipleship can be effective outside of God's grace, and God gives that grace primarily as we seek him in prayer.

Suppose a class session covers a particularly difficult subject, maybe one that several of the group members are struggling with. The group could probably benefit from a time of shared confession and prayer (per James 5:16). But such a time can do more damage than good if the group's prayers for each other turn out to be more along the lines of preaching than of prayer. Group members can leave a time like that feeling judged and defensive, rather than encouraged and lifted up.

Or suppose a class typically includes a somewhat perfunctory prayer at the beginning of the study, asking for the Holy Spirit's guidance as the group studies (a fairly common practice). Such a prayer would generally be uttered by the class leader, receive a few "Amens", and make no real difference to the hearts of the class members. But suppose the class devoted their first 5 or 10 minutes specifically to praying for growth in the area they're about to study. If they pray well together, agreeing and supporting each other in prayer, such a class can approach the study with hearts far more open to what God might teach them. The difference in the class members' lives can be remarkable.

Phil ~ ...What about a small group that meets primarily for fellowship? Or say, a council or committee that has a leadership function?

Andrew ~ Jesus' promises in Matthew 18:19-20 weren't specific to the type of group or its main purpose for meeting. Just about any group - regardless of focus - can benefit from unified prayer. A group that meets primarily for fellowship, for example, would probably find that fellowship deepened by consistent times of prayer for each other. And if the group is able to get past the surface issues of their lives and pray for the deeper spiritual issues as well, they may find a level of support and encouragement that they would not have imagined.

As for the leadership council meeting, I'd expect that most such groups probably open with the obligatory prayer asking for God's guidance - usually a prayer said by one person to a soft chorus of "Amens" at the end (much like the Sunday school class above). But imagine what a difference might be made if the group really sought God together in prayer for the decisions they needed to make, putting their own agendas aside and intentionally seeking God's will together.

I remember an experience I had along these lines many years ago (I won't say how many) when several of the leaders in our InterVarsity chapter at college went up to Cedar Campus for a week of planning the following ministry year. It was the first time in years that our chapter had sent a team, and we struggled a bit with the process. During the week, we came to a decision point that we simply could not get past. I don't remember what the issue was, but I recall that our extremely close group was significantly divided as we left one particular planning session. When we got back together for the next session, we scrapped our agenda and decided to spend the time in prayer together. By the time we were done, no one even remembered what the problem was, and the remainder of the week was not only an effective time of planning, but the sweetest time of fellowship I've ever experienced. Some of the camp staff mentioned to us that we were an unusually unified group.

Phil ~ Andrew, explain what you mean by community prayer and how it is different from most of what we call corporate praying.

Andrew ~ In one sense, the difference is just terminology. Most people use the term "corporate prayer" to refer to prayer in a group setting.

I like to think of two different kinds of group prayer settings. I use the term "corporate prayer" to refer to the setting where a "CEO-type" leader prays on behalf of the gathered group. There are several examples of this in the Old Testament, such as Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple and Hezekiah's prayer when threatened by Assyria. Today we see this type of prayer most commonly when the pastor prays on behalf of the congregation as part of the church service.

In a group prayer setting where members are participating on an equal footing, the term "community prayer" better reflects the environment. Additionally, when a group prays together effectively, this enhances the group's experience of community. The idea of "community prayer" in this sense seems to me to reflect well the prayer environment of the early church.

Phil ~ A critical key to effective group prayer is the leader. What skills are essential and how can they be learned?

Andrew ~ The first thing a leader needs is a strong personal prayer life. That's not to say that the leader has to be a "prayer warrior" per se, but a commitment to prayer and to continually growing in prayer is essential. I find myself at times committed to prayer but not so much to growing - learning and stretching myself. For me, a key ingredient to this growth is reading good books. Some of my favorites are Bingham Hunter's The God Who Hears, Timothy Jones' The Art of Prayer, and of course Richard Foster's Prayer.

The personal prayer life forms the foundation, but the next thing a leader needs is a solid understanding of the fundamental differences between private prayer and community prayer. Private prayer operates only in the vertical dimension, but community prayer operates in both vertical and horizontal dimensions. Understanding the implications of the two-dimensional nature of community prayer is key to leading a group to pray well together, and that's where Together in Prayer comes in.

Finally, the leader needs relational skills, such as the ability to discern where group members are in their prayer lives, what fears they might have about praying together, etc. These are the same sorts of skills that the leader needs in order to effectively lead a Bible study or discipleship group, and even to lead a group primarily focused on fellowship. There are many good books on small group leadership that would cover these.

Phil ~ Small groups are safe places for individuals to examine scripture but also to allow scripture (and the Spirit) to examine them ... What is the role of confession in such a setting and how can the leader both guide and guard the group through this aspect of community praying?

Andrew ~Wow, that's a tough one. James 5:16 indicates that we should definitely be in the habit of confessing sin not just to God but also to one another. That should lead, not to judgment on the part of other group members, but to prayer for forgiveness, cleansing, and strength. Think about how many leaders and others might not have fallen so deeply into sin if they had practiced this regularly with a group of trusted brothers and sisters!

Despite the great benefits that can come from shared confession, this is the most neglected area of community prayer - and for some very good reasons. There may be a lack of intimacy or trust in a group (especially if new people have recently joined) - and forcing confession before that trust is built can really be disastrous.

Shared confession may not be the place to start if a group is just beginning to learn to pray together. Build some unity and community in less risky areas before moving into confession. Ideally, though, the group should grow into a level of trust that allows shared confession to become a reality. Leaders trying to move in this direction should start by analyzing the level of trust and shared commitment in the group. Then, work, on the following things:

  • Confidentiality - there must be absolute trust in the confidentiality of anything shared in the group setting. Many groups have found that a written statement of confidentiality, signed by each group member, serves as an effective starting point.
  • Grace - the group should function as channels of God's grace, not of judgment, as they hear confessions and pray for each other. A Bible study covering several examples of confession and forgiveness can be really helpful here.
  • Prayer - the leader needs to make sure that the group addresses God, not other group members - when praying for one who has confessed sin. It can be very easy to preach to other group members (even unintentionally) if the prayers are people-centered and not God-centered.

If a group is not quite ready for shared confession, a leader can still move in this direction by setting up prayer partnerships with the purpose of confessing and praying for just one other person in areas of struggle. This is often seen as less risky than confession before the entire group.

Phil ~ Small groups could be called Love One Another Communities - What wisdom do you have for the prayer leader who wants to move beyond surface prayer requests into praying deeply as a group for individuals in the group?

Andrew ~ That's a great characterization. I'd suggest that love by definition requires an element of risk - if I'm not willing to risk anything for you, then I don't really love you. Going deeper in prayer requires a certain amount of risk on the part of group members, but if group members truly love each other in the Biblical sense, they will be committed enough to each other to take a risk like this.

For the leader who wants to move in this direction, the Bible is your best friend. Check out the prayers of Paul for several of the churches in Ephesians 1:15-19; Philippians 1:3-11; Colossians 1:3-14, etc. You'll see that when Paul prayed, he focused on the deeper issues of spiritual growth rather than on surface issues. Check out also the kinds of prayer requests that Paul gave to the churches in passages like Colossians 4:3-4; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2. Paul's requests tended to center around the spread of God's kingdom through his message (an interesting way of applying the phrase "Your kingdom come" from the Lord's prayer).

On the other hand, Jesus did tell us to bring all of our needs - including the relatively "surface" ones - to God in prayer. We see Paul praying for relief from his thorn in the flesh, and as a result of that prayer coming to a greater understanding of God's grace. I think the key is our focus. Paul tells us to fix our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2). Even praying for "surface" issues like health and financial concerns can become a catalyst for spiritual growth if these issues are seen in light of God's larger work in our lives (see, for example, James 1).

One thing to keep in mind as a leader is that any time you move into a new area of growth, you'll likely have some members who readily adopt your vision and others who resist. It's even possible that you may lose some members who are more interested in a social club than in true Biblical fellowship. If you're committed to taking the group deeper in prayer, you need to be okay with that. Jesus experienced times in his ministry when followers left him due to hard teachings (cf. John 6:60-65).

Phil ~ Talk about:

Andrew ~

  • Praying for lost persons
Focus your prayers on what you want God to do in a person's life; don't spend time describing changes you think the person needs to make. Rather than pray, "May John stop hanging out with people who are a bad influence" (a person-centered prayer that hasn't asked anything of God), pray something like "Lord, please bring into John's life some believers through whom you can extend your grace and love". Remember, salvation is God's work and not ours - if a lost person is going to be saved, it's going to be on God's initiative.
  • How to agree with one another in prayer
When you're praying, keep it short and focused on one topic so that others can keep up and mentally agree with you. Seek God's agenda and not your own; agenda-based prayer is one sure way to prevent any real agreement. When others are praying, enter into their prayers with them rather than thinking about what you are going to pray next. As a leader, set up your prayer time to help the group agree together - encourage people to pray multiple times (but briefly!) on a given topic if God so leads them, and lead the group in praying through one topic at a time rather than jumping around.
  • Freeing those who are reluctant to pray aloud
By all means avoid the dreaded "circle prayer" where everyone is expected to pray in turn! You will only increase performance anxiety and prevent any real agreement in prayer. Set up your prayer time by making sure that people are comfortable agreeing silently if that's how God is leading them. Remind people to pray briefly - nothing intimidates a reluctant pray-er more than long, flowery prayers. If you notice that one or more people consistently do not pray aloud during the group prayer time, meet with them separately and attempt to find out what is holding them back. Perhaps set up some prayer partnerships where people could pray out loud with just one other person rather than with the whole group - smaller "audiences" are generally more comfortable than larger ones. As their comfort level increases, you may find them more willing to participate in group prayer.
  • Spiritual warfare
Approach with caution!! This type of prayer can be very divisive if the group is not on the same page with their understanding of spiritual warfare and their willingness to participate in it through prayer. If you want to head in this direction, start with a good study about the topic (choose carefully; it's easy to go off the deep end on this one). If the group is a church-based group, the church's doctrine regarding spiritual warfare (if they have one) might be a good place to start. Also, remember that spiritual warfare is just that - warfare. There will be casualties, and your group members may suffer as they enter into this arena. That's likely an indication that the group is on the right track, but it would be unfair to group members not to understand and accept together the risks of praying this way before beginning.
  • The role of scripture in community praying
As in all things, scripture is our guide in praying well together. Passages like Matthew 6:25-34 and Colossians 3:1-4 teach us to seek God's kingdom and to have our focus on him and not on earthly things - these are important cornerstones for community prayer. Passages like Matthew 18:19-20 and the example of the early church in Acts serve as the mandate for praying together. Scripture teaches us many things to pray that we know are God's will, and also teaches us how to relate to each other in all areas, including prayer.

While Scripture thus undergirds our understanding and practice of community prayer, I'd caution against extended quotation of Scripture while praying together. Occasionally quoting a passage can serve as an encouragement to the group, but remember that encouraging, reminding, exhorting, or teaching the group is not the purpose of prayer. The purpose is to address God and communicate with him (and he already knows what the Scripture says!). Many times I've seen Scripture quoted in a group prayer setting in such a way as to be more a reflection of pride in the pray-er's knowledge of the Bible than anything else.

Phil ~ How does an untrained small group leader begin the journey of embracing community prayer?

Andrew ~ With prayer. Ask God to give you a vision of where to take the group in prayer and to lead you into his Word for instruction and encouragement. Pray that he will break down any resistance in the group and that he will work in other group members' hearts to lay the groundwork for the group to move forward in this area. Ask him to show you where to begin. And check out Together in Prayer; there's a whole section in the book devoted to helping leaders guide their groups in the journey of community prayer.

Phil ~ Andrew, please write prayer each reader can pray in agreement with you as they seek to connect people to God in community prayer . . .

Andrew ~Father, teach us to pray. Encourage us to seek your face together as a group. Overcome our reluctance and forgive our shortcomings. Grant us unity as we move forward in praying together, and be honored in our prayers.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Uncommon Prayer ~ Jesus in each book of the Bible

>>>Distribute this list to each participant. Before interceding or requesting, ask pray-ers to give praise and thanks for these attributes/titles as a way of worshiping, lifting Christ , and increasing hope . . .

Luke 24:27: “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” NLT

Many people liken the Bible to two halves in a football game. The first half was before Jesus and the second half is with Jesus. But it is clear to me that Jesus appeared in all 66 books of the Bible.

Old Testament
Genesis --- My creator
Exodus --- My redeemer
Leviticus --- My sanctifier
Numbers --- My guide
Deuteronomy --- My teacher
Joshua --- My conqueror
Judges --- My victory
Ruth --- My redeemer
I Samuel --- Root of Jesse
2 Samuel --- Son of David
1 Kings --- King of Kings
2 Kings --- Lord of Lords
1 Chronicles --- My intercessor
2 Chronicles --- My high priest
Ezra --- My temple
Nehemiah --- My mighty Wall
Esther --- Stands in my gaps
Job --- My arbitrator
Psalms --- My song
Proverbs --- My wisdom
Ecclesiastes --- My purpose
Song of Solomon --- My lover
Isaiah --- My prince of peace
Jeremiah --- My balm of Gilead
Lamentations --- Ever-faithful
Ezekiel --- My wheel
Daniel --- My ancient of days
Hosea --- My faithful lover
Joel --- My refuge
Amos --- My husbandman
Obadiah --- Lord of the Kingdom
Jonah --- My salvation
Micah --- My judge
Nahum --- Jealous
Habakkuk --- Holy One
Zephaniah --- The Witness
Haggai --- Overthrows enemies
Zechariah --- Lord of Hosts
Malachi --- Messenger

New Testament
Matthew --- King of the Jews
Mark --- The servant
Luke --- The Son of Man
John --- The Son of God
Acts --- Savior of the world
Romans --- Righteousness of God
I Corinthians --- Rock that followed Israel
II Corinthians --- Triumphant one
Galatians --- Sets me free
Ephesians --- Head of the Church
Philippians --- My joy
Colossians --- My completeness
I Thessalonians --- My hope
II Thessalonians --- My patience and discipline
I Timothy --- My faith
II Timothy --- My stability
Titus --- My truth
Philemon --- My benefactor
Hebrews --- My perfection
James --- Power behind my faith
I Peter --- My example
II Peter --- My purity
I John --- My life
II John --- My pattern
III John --- My motivation
Jude --- Foundation of my faith
Revelation --- My coming King

Prayer: Father thank you for sending Jesus throughout the entire Bible for such a time as this. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Pastor Bill Team Prayer:
Father please bring 1............. 2............. 3.............. into your kingdom. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Copyright (c) 2010 - Pastor Bill – Christian-Cyber-Ministries - All Rights Reserved

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Incredible Power of Prayer series looking for new authors

We are now in phase two of the Incredible Power of Prayer series and I welcome you to join us. Guideposts is launching a series of 12 books on various aspects of prayer and how people from every walk of life have been transformed through God’s response to their prayers. These books will be available by mail only, sent monthly as part of a book series promotion.

You may have contributed to the first three titles in this series (Praying from the Heart, The Healing Touch, and Expecting Miracles) or perhaps to my Cup of Comfort, Life Savors, or Love Is a Verb brands. Or perhaps I’m contacting you for the first time. Whatever the case, I eagerly seek your participation in this next phase of prayer volumes.

Book four, From Tragedy to Triumph, deals with the pervasive issues related to our trials, hardships, and suffering in life, whether physical, emotional, relational, financial, etc. The focus should not be so much on the trials or the stress they cause, but on how the power of prayer eliminated or helped you deal with these trials. What lessons did prayer teach you through these ordeals and how did God use them for good for your life or others?

Book five, Refreshed by the Spirit, focuses on prayers we send to God when we are spiritually dry; when situations might be okay but we don’t feel His presence; or during a dark night of the soul when life is difficult. The fault may be our own because we’re not walking with the Lord, or He may seem distant because of struggles in our lives. As we continually pray for His presence, suddenly things change and we are refreshed and filled with his reassurance, peace, and joy. How did God visit you in a new way that caused praise and thanksgiving and may have even changed your life?

Book six, Love and Forgiveness, deals with relationships that have been strained or broken due to offenses against us, or our own faults. When we pray for love for those who mistreat us and pray for the willingness to seek restitution and restoration we regain our families and friends and change the hearts of our enemies. How was prayer the determining factor in a renewed love, forgiveness, and eventual restoration of relationships?

We would be pleased to consider as many stories for these three volumes as you wish to submit.
We’ll look at stories of up to 2,000 words and prefer that they be at least 1,000 words. The stories should have a creative title, an attention-grabbing introduction, main body with a conflict or challenge, and a clear, satisfying resolution. They need to be descriptive, rooted in time and place, compelling personal experience stories with a realistic portrayal of the people involved. They need to be stories rather than testimonies, Christian living articles, and shouldn’t focus on mere feelings or mental states.

Most important, they need to revolve around prayer itself and not the circumstances of the story. These are themed books but the purpose is to convince the reader of the power of prayer in these situations.

We prefer original stories but you may also submit previously published stories that you have full rights for and are not currently in print with a major publisher. We pay $25 fo stories under 1200 words, and $50 for stories over 1200 words. You may retain the right to publish the stories in magazines and in books with less than national distribution and not carried in nationwide bookstores.

We are accepting manuscripts for all three volumes until December 15, but the sooner you submit the better your chance of acceptance. We will notify you by February and send you a permission form if your story is a finalist for any of these volumes.

Please send your manuscript attached to the e-mail rather than pasting text in the email
Window. Feel free to send your manuscript in normal manuscript formatting, with your full contact information—name, address, phone number, email address—and whether you’re offering First Rights or Reprint Rights at the top of each manuscript. Please include a biography of 30 words or less at the end of each manuscript.

Please direct all inquiries and manuscript submissions to my colleague, Jeanette Littleton, at If this email has been forwarded to you and you can’t submit to this call, but would like to hear about other editorial needs as they arise, please send us your email address and we’ll add you to our notification list. Also please pass this along to any writing or praying friends who might be interested.

Blessing to you and yours, Jim
James Stuart Bell. Compiler, Guideposts Incredible Prayer series

Incredible Prayers: A Guideposts Series
with James Stuart Bell

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Praying from our "Seated with Christ" position

>>>Note: How might our prayers change if we remember we are "in Christ" and seated now "with Christ"/

Ruling with Christ through Prayer

“It is our responsibility to exercise the authority that is ours through His name, and in the face of all the forces of evil to demonstrate that Christ is already “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Derek Prince

Dear Intercessors,

Do you realize that you are royalty? When we were in Asia, we were able to host the princess of Thailand on our ship. It was a grand occasion. We had to learn carefully the proper way to entertain such a royal guest. As she walked passed us, we had to bow and curtsy at just the right moment. Our fingers were held together in a prayer position at just the right location on our face. Too high or too low would be offensive. Her visit was important, and we didn’t want to make any mistakes with such royalty in the room. ===>Click headline to access complete article . . .

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eight principles to leading students in prayer

Eight principles to leading students in prayer

I love the student prayer movement taking place in America. Over the last decade, thousands of students have participated in sacred assemblies, days of prayer, 24/7 prayer and fasting events. But as monumental as these moments have been, the prayer emphasis must advance past the big prayer event to the local church. Prayer momentum often dissipates unless the youth leader creates an environment for students to diligently pray.

I’ve seen many youth ministries sustain spiritual fervor by injecting a weekly prayer meeting for students in their local church. This meeting becomes a seedbed for emerging leaders and a force of spiritual vitality. Here are a few helpful principles that I’ve discovered for sustaining prayer among students:

1. Declare the kindness of God like a broken record. Often, students will approach the throne of grace in prayer only when they possess confidence that they will find mercy there. Many refrain from prayer because they’re certain God is angry with them. Students are often stricken with condemnation and need to be reminded of God’s love over and over again.

2. Be authentically privileged to be at the prayer meeting. I’ve led students in a Friday night prayer meeting for years and I don’t ever thank them for “giving up” their Friday night to pray. Instead, I affirm that they have chosen the best place to be as we pray for God’s will to be done in our church, city and generation. The prayer meeting may not be the location with the most glitz on a Friday night, but it will bear fruit forever.

3. Get the best worship band that you can. Start with what you have. An iPod is cool, but live worship unites the intercessors better. Even if you just start with a single person strumming the guitar and singing, it creates the opportunity to be more spontaneous.

4. Focus on Scripture. We can be confident our prayers align with God’s will when we pray the Scriptures. The Bible will slowly creep into students’ hearts and minds as they pray it. Additionally, it gives them language to pray. The Bible creates the content and substance of our prayers. Praying the Scriptures keeps the meeting on track. If you don’t pray the Word, it’s easy for the most talkative kid to hijack the prayer meeting with his latest prayer request.

5. Have a plan. Somehow, the prayer meeting is often the one church gathering that leaders enter without much preparation. A plan significantly helps the flow of the night. Of course, you can always detour from the plan if desired. Without a plan, you’ll often find yourself trying to spontaneously think of what to do next. It’s better to prepare ahead of time.

6. Be prepared for unexciting prayer meetings. Many leaders give up on prayer meetings because enthusiasm drops and attendance wanes. Dry, barren prayer meetings matter to God. Jesus told us to persevere in prayer (see Matt 7:7, Luke 18:1). Prayer is laboring in the spiritual realm. It’s not always exciting.

7. Create an occasional adventure. We’ve met at other local churches in town (with permission) and prayed for God to move in their church. We’ve prepared maps ahead of time and walked the neighborhoods praying for each house. When students arrive, they don’t always know exactly what’s going to happen. That keeps it interesting.

8. Throw victory parties. Nothing fuels the prayer meeting like answered prayer. When God intervenes in a supernatural way, celebrate. Some prayer meetings should feel like a big party just thanking God.

David Perkins is the pastor of prayer at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and spearheads Desperation, a nationwide youth movement for local churches.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Prayers for the Unemployed


Prayers for the Unemployed

Heavenly Father, You are the great Creator and you have created us with your perfect plan. Being made in your image, we also find joy in being creative. Our work is an outlet for that creativity. We pray for those who are unable to use their creativity in their work, whether because of unemployment or not having a passion for their work. Grant them, O Lord, opportunities to express their creativity through work and experience that joy once again. Have mercy on those who are unable to find work or are disabled. May you give them joyful work that will grow our society and bring glory to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
by Kathy Bruins

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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