Monday, November 29, 2010

Faith Works 12-4

Faith Works 12-4-10

Jeff Gill

When Someone Says "I'll Pray For You"


There's an interesting aside in a number of congregational histories
along the Ohio River Valley in the late 1840's, which is picked up
here in Licking County with the following note in the First
Presbyterian Church of Granville records:

"In 1851, the innovation of sitting in time of prayer began to show

That's right. Before this period, the standard Protestant practice
during the pastoral or congregational prayers was for everyone to
stand. In some settings, people might turn, kneel, and pray with
their elbows on the pew benches, or kneel on cushions in churches
with box pews.

But that was it, standing or kneeling. To sit with bowed heads was
an . . . innovation.

It caught on. File that with the long list of things we think have
always been that way, but haven't.

Prayer, though, is a common thread in worship, and certainly
Christian worship. In the core verse on community gatherings at Acts
2:42 (ESV), "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching
and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

Today we continue to have readings from the Bible and interpretation
(sermons), plenty of fellowship, communion where the bread is indeed
broken, and we certainly offer up our prayers.

There are set prayers, such as the "Lord's Prayer" outlined from
Matthew 6 & Luke 11; prayer books in some traditions with prepared
prayers such as the Episcopal "Book of Common Prayer,"; and many
traditions value spontaneous, or impromptu prayers, whether spoken as
an invocation, a dedication over the offering, or in benediction.
Many "pastoral prayers" are a mix of planned phrases and words, from
the heart, in the moment.

Even those of you who don't regularly attend services are familiar
with these prayer forms. But for many unchurched people, there's a
little puzzlement over the statement "I'll pray for you!"

What does that mean?

For various traditions, they might undergird such a statement in
different ways. In Catholic practice, a prayer intention can be the
"holding" of a person's name in one's mind while praying the prayers
of a rosary (which includes the Lord's Prayer and other repeated
short standard prayers). In many Protestant churches, you may be
prayed for by having your name included in the pastoral prayer, or
simply by having your name "lifted up" before the prayer itself is
said, again as a sort of prayer focus for all those gathered. In both
traditions, there may be a "prayer chain" where names are shared,
usually just with first names or even just with a description of the
situation in question, allowing people to offer up their own private
prayers for your health or well-being.

Some believers set aside a set period of time for what's called
"intercession," an intense focus on praying for the needs and
concerns of others, which they may do on their own, or also in prayer
groups that meet regularly. Most churches have at least one prayer
group that meets each week (or should, he editorialized!), and
there's always someone who's known to all as a real "prayer warrior,"
a label given to someone uniquely committed to praying for others.

If someone says "I'll pray for you," they may mean an extended
conversation with God where they ask for something on your behalf;
they could be planning to focus their intentions for blessing and
guidance towards you, through God; they might plan to include you in
their own private devotions where they seek the growth of goodness
and beauty and hope in the world in general through prayer, and for
your needs as a particular.

When I do my own private, personal prayer time in the morning, I
regularly include those who read this column as a group, as a set of
individuals which I ask God to bless, and to help me serve them
(you!) well in showing faith at work in the world around us.

So I can say, quite honestly, to you – you! – that I have, and will
pray for you. Among other things, that you have a blessed & joyful
Advent season!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around
central Ohio; he's praying for you! Pray for him, or send a message

Knapsack 12-2

Notes From My Knapsack -- Granville Sentinel 12-2-10

Jeff Gill


[This is third in a series of stories called "Twelve Years Old in
Granville," each set in a particular year from the perspective of a
twelve year old, based on our local history with a bit of literary
license to help the narrative along.]


Jane knew that her mother didn't want her near any crowds, not after
the last year.

Even adults here in Granville had been pulling pranks and doing
tricks on each other, since the huge rallies for Tippecanoe and Old
Kinderhook, Harrison and Van Buren, had so riled up all the Whigs and

Horses lost their tails, and well-aged eggs flew when crowds pushed
close, protecting the names of people who would never want to be seen
clearly doing such mischief. It had gotten so bad, when the Whigs
announced their nomination of the Hero of Tippecanoe for the
presidency, that young women had to fear for getting jostled and
bumped on the street, even if only by accident.

But last fall Jane had climbed out onto the roof of the buttery that
extended from the house below her bedroom window, and swung down the
branches of the maple tree out back, so she could walk up Bowery and
down to a vantage point where she could see the Grand Illumination:
all of Broadway and most of the streets adjoining were lit with
candles in every window. Trundling along, pulled by cheering young
men of the Literary and Theological Institution, were carts with
broad sheets of parchment nailed to staves along the outer edges, and
a row of oil lamps inside projecting profiles and puppets in sharp
black outline onto the warm brown panels.

Every window was lit, except in a few houses known to support the
Sage of Kinderhook, president for the last four years. Some of those
houses lost panes to thrown hickory nuts, to the general disapproval
of all but the most political in the village.

Now Mr. Harrison had been elected, had died after a month, and Mr.
Tyler was sworn in, of whom it was now realized: he came from
Virginia. The slavery question flared all the brighter, as both sides
suspected the other of ill-dealing, and no one asked the slaves what
they thought.

The Atwell house had never seen a slave, but people from the South
would occasionally pass through with their African servants, exciting
no little discussion. What had Jane sneaking out the back fence and
down Pearl to Fair Street, lined with elms, and over another two
blocks, was a loud discussion in the Academy building, one you could
hear many blocks away.

Crossing the Lancaster Road, she saw the crowd of men in profile,
like the illumination, inside against the windows, and a larger crowd
outside, the boys clambering up on the sides of a sea of wagons
nearby, trying to see in.

Then suddenly, there was a stir throughout the crowd, a silence
within that spread without, and then dimly, from inside, a loud voice
calling "There'll be no shackles here! Make way for Liberty."

In silhouette she saw a man being lifted up and passed over the heads
of the crowd inside, a few hands grasping for him and being beaten
back by others. Then the actual person, a black man, came feet first
out the top of the door, and was gently set on the ground.

Mr. Hillyer she knew, and he pushed through the crowd at the door
leading two horses; he leapt on one after helping the African fellow
onto the other, and together they galloped up to the Broadway
crossing, disappearing to the west beyond Sugar Loaf.

She was glad she had snuck out again, but marveled at what she had
seen; heading home, it occurred to her that she couldn't, this time,
ask her mother to explain it all.

[The slave known only as John escaped, with much local assistance,
after a habeas corpus hearing presided over by Judge Samuel Bancroft
in the Old Academy Building in 1841.]