Faith Works 5-19-12
A pastoral prayer for us all
We gather here today in thankfulness for another Saturday, another newspaper, another summer afternoon ahead. You are our creator and our life-giver, and while we may think you are overdoing it in that department in regards to the grass, even as we mow we reflect on the sweat of our brow, and the story of how you have been at work to save and redeem us through the years.
Lord God, in this time we set aside to reflect on your will and your Word, or for some of us just to open up the Advocate and flip past the "Your Faith" page in Section C, we are blessed to know that our prayers, individually, are welcome to you. We also know, loving Lord, that like Jesus asleep in the boat during a storm, we can find ourselves thinking you are not listening, that you don't care. Grant us the calm of spirit and ease of heart that gets us through the storm, and even gives us the boldness to step out of the boat when you call.
We also pray together, Eternal One. There are words from our fathers and mothers in the faith which we use, some of us from missals and prayer books, and even with the words of hymns. Some of us worship where much of the service takes that form, and we honor the respect of our forebearers such prayers and praise show.
Others of us are more familiar with a style where the prayers are new each week, whether we call it impromptu or extemporaneous or "filled with the Spirit." Lord, I've been asked if I could explain what a "pastoral prayer" was to those who are of a more liturgical and formal experience, and to those who are unchurched. I pray that this approach in print, but very like how I pray as a pastor in such a moment (even supply preachers get asked to do pastoral prayers ofttimes), is both respectful to You, and is understandable to those who were wondering.
And Gracious God, you already know the names of those who are ill, whose health is failing, people who are simply waiting for test results, or our friends and family and fellow worshipers who are painfully working through rehab and recovery. But it is our practice to lift up names, sometimes just first names, sometimes a situation without even a name to it, but "lifted up" in the pastoral prayer as a way to remind us all to be persistent in prayer on their behalf.
God of forgiveness and grace, we ask that you keep us from using those prayer concerns as an occasion for gossip or speculation, as well; our sinful nature can lead us down that path from time to time.
Yet we would be specific in our prayers, and that's the great impact of this part of our services, because we have been told by your Son that we should be bold, and be persistent, and ask that you may answer…even when the response may be "No," or even worse (to us) "Not now."
And Lord of life and light, it is part of the power of this moment, these petitions, as we lay them before your throne in heaven, which becomes more real, almost visible to the eyes of faith as we (mostly) bow our heads and close our eyes; the cosmic nature of what we are called by You to share in means that there is a sense and a sensibility to praying for others far away, even unknown to us. We lift up missionaries at a city dump in Honduras, soldiers on patrol where this Sunday is already dark and done in Afghanistan, and friends who travel towards the setting sun on a long-awaited, deeply-anticipated trip.
All of this we ask in the name of your Son, whom we call by many names, who is our Lord and Savior, and whose prayer is often prayed together to close this time. But since this pastoral prayer is in the paper and online, I'll leave those reading to conclude as they will, while I ask your special blessing on all those readers who are shaking their heads and thinking "these are empty words, prayed into nothing, to no one." May they know both our love and yours, and presence made real in prayer.
And all God's people said: Amen!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; pray with him at email@example.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.