matterofprayer blog post for Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Think About—Talk About—Preach About Prayer
If you’ve been following this occasional blog during the past few months, I may have mentioned my change in job circumstances a time or two. About how my good friend and co-pastor Pastor Gordon and I were working together at the small congregation in the Chicago suburbs. And how Gordon has since left for another call and responsibility with his denomination, the Chicago Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ. So, I won’t go into that again.
However, before Gordon left the church, he and I met during the last week of May to recap our ministry over the past three months. In other words, look at all that we had done, and done right!
My good friend affirmed the fact that we had been a real encouragement to this congregation. That was a real affirmation for me, personally! During the next few weeks, as I was thinking about and praying about possible summer preaching series-es, the idea of prayer kept coming to me again and again. So, the week after Pentecost, I rolled it out. I began the series, and I want to concentrate especially on intercessory prayer, in the weeks ahead.
I know, from both my work and my personal experience, how much people often appreciate intercessory prayer! When I worked as a chaplain, I would usually ask the patients and/or their loved ones, “Is there anything you would like for me to do?” Very often, the answer would be, “Yes, please! Could you pray for us?” or, “Pray for good test results!” or perhaps, “Could you pray for this other situation, too?” And, people of all different denominations and faith traditions, too. Even those from outside of Christianity would occasionally ask me for prayer.
Time and again, I was so awestruck and honored to be entrusted with this precious opportunity—the opportunity to come into God’s presence with these friends. And, to journey with them, for a little way, down this road of challenge, difficulty, grief and pain.
That was such a vivid, sometimes rewarding, sometimes heart-rending experience. I really feel called to present this opportunity to this congregation. We can offer to pray for others. God willing, we can be loving, caring friends to people in need. I plan on starting this prayer ministry the first week in August.
I know there are some praying friends who are reading this blog. If you feel so led, could you pray for us and this congregation, as we prepare to minister to others? And, show others the love and care of Christ, as we pray for them and their needs? Thanks so much. I don’t know what I would do without sisters and brothers in God to walk with me. Together, we can do so much more than me, all by myself. Praise God!
Let’s pray. Dear Lord, Gracious God, thank You for Your comfort and care. Thank You for the invitation to come before You in prayer. Gracious God, help us to lift up our friends and acquaintances to You, in both praises and requests. We are so glad You are always ready to hear us, and respond. Thank You! Amen.
(also published at www.matterofprayer.net
I appreciate what you’re saying and would simple suggest several other reasons people ask for prayer. They want to feel a connection to someone who cares, they really just want someone to listen. As a chaplain I always take a “prayer request” as an invitation to listen better rather that talk. It also concerns me when people seem to suggest that somehow a clergyperson talking with God holds more weight, and I have concerns when clergy buy into that.
Thanks for your input, Chris. Yes, I know that many people want a connection, someone who _really_ is listening to them as human beings. I sincerely try to do that, every time I enter into a conversation. I also encourage people to pray. If they don’t want to pray with me, I encourage them to pray on their own. I think you and I both understand that God/Higher Power wants open lines of communication, above all else. If I can facilitate that for others, great!
I understand. And, as I’m sure you know, there are many ways of “praying” including meditation or even reading poetry, listening to music, etc (and of course, many people don’t pray; I assume you aren’t encouraging them to pray?). If your concept of prayer is having conversation with a particular God of a particular faith, I might ask whether the chaplaincy is exclusively Christian or more inclusive, which would go back to my earlier point about listening more than talking. All the best in your work.
Interesting that you say that, Chris. My personal understanding of God/Higher Power is from a Christian basis. However, that is God-as-I-understand-God. I am absolutely open to other understandings. I was chaplain at a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious urban hospital here in Chicago. The hospital is in one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the nation. (We have proof–the US Census Bureau stats.) I have journeyed a little way with hurting people from just about every different orientation, faith tradition, and religious perspective in the seven years I served there.
So, yes. When patients and their loved ones start in on praying the Lord’s Prayer, you had better believe I joined in. When Pentecostals asked me to pray for their loved one, you better believe I prayed down the power of God. I have prayed the Rosary with patients and their loved ones. I have been asked by Muslims to pray, because they saw me as a Holy woman, respected in the Christian faith. And, I have been asked to pray for blessed light to fill someone as they lay dying.
I love to be asked to pray. (!!!) However, that is NOT my first tool I use in my ministry tool belt! My primary tool is active listening! First and foremost. And a close second is using the ministry of presence. I have been told by several supervisors that I have an awesome “less-anxious presence.” God/Higher Power has gifted me with that. Awesome. And now, I serve a small congregation in the suburbs of Chicago. If you want to take a look at my other blog, here’s a link. wp.me/p4cOf8-bO
I preached on prayer just this morning! (You can find it at http://www.shinsei.org) As I told people today, prayer is the foundation for everything else in living for/with Christ. It’s impossible to overstate it. Incidentally, welcome to Virtual Vitamins. I pray (!) that my words will bless and encourage you.
I preached a summer sermon series on prayer last summer. Wonderful series. The congregation appreciated it, too. Thanks for the link!