I miss many things about being a pastor, now that I’m a full time writer/photographer. One of those things is prayer.
Yes, I can still pray. I can still pray in worship. But leading corporate prayer was an important part of my spiritual life.
Many pastors say they cannot worship easily when they are leading worship, but for me, the opposite is true. Even now, the mystery of prayer comes closest to me when I am praying with the community of the faithful in worship. When the pastor of the church I attend is praying aloud, I am drawn into her words, moved by the labor with which she has chosen them and how she offers them to God on our behalf.
In the congregation I last served, we had a few moments we called “Joys and Concerns,” when worshipers lifted up the names of the sick, grieving, or troubled, those who have something to celebrate, or concerns of our community and world. As these situations are spoken by various persons, their voices sometimes crack with emotion. Together the congregation reacts with sympathy or joy, and the mystery of communal prayer is, at least for a moment, a bit clearer. When it was my turn to offer the Prayers of the People, I often sensed those congregants leaning forward as they bowed their heads, joining all our deep longings with the heart of God.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ [from Luke 11]
There’s not a person reading this who hasn’t had a prayer go unanswered, or who hasn’t struggled with what God is up to in the world. Yet prayer is still upheld by Jesus as a way to connect with God.
Does God hear our prayers? It’s easier to believe this could be true when all those good souls in worship trust together in the mystery of prayer, difficult as that is. None of us can explain it, but on our good days we remember that Jesus also trusted in the mystery, and we go on praying.
© 2016, Melissa Bane Sevier