Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Prayer, Part 1: Prayers of the People
For the past few months I've been praying during our church service's Prayers of the People. This is the time, after confession and assurance of pardon when we come before our Creator with our concerns and praises. I enjoy participating in the service in this way. It blesses me in the preparation but it also has its drawbacks.
I feel a bit odd as a prepare to pray (writing it out-somehow I think it should be spontaneous) but I know if I stood up in the pulpit to pray my words would stumble out of my mouth and ums or ers would fill up most of the space. On Saturday night I look through our church's personal concerns, read the news to find out what's going on in the world, and read the lectionary to incorporate those scriptures in the prayer. I enjoy the latter most of all.
The drawback to praying in public is the reaction I get from parishioners. A few folks have come up to me after a service and commented how they appreciated the prayer. I smile, cringing a bit inside, and say "thank you" but thinking, "I'm praying, is that something you should get a high five about?" Many times folks tell Dave how they appreciated the sermon. Is this any different? And there are prayers of the saints which we recite (i.e Mary's Magnificat or the prayer of St. Francis or St. Patrick's Breast plate) because the words speak to the depth of our souls.
There's always the possibility for my head to swell, "Oh, I pray sooo well, I'm sooo spiritual. Oh, I am sooo close to God!" I almost feel, when I am up there praying, I am also praying underneath my audible prayer, that God would accept my words, sincerely and honestly, and that He would protect me from praying like a Pharisee
Oftentimes, as I'm composing my prayer for Sunday morning, I find myself over-analyzing - - does it offend, does it meet all the requirements for a Prayers of the People-type of prayer, am I covering all the names I should be covering...and sooner or later, I lose track of what I'm actually supposed to be doing. Then my motives become mixed.
I truly believe this is one tactic the enemy uses to thwart believers from acting on their faith. My heart's desire is to lift up our concerns to our Father. Then quietly an idea enters my head, "How spiritual I'll look up there!" "What a complement to your husband's ministry!"
"No, No"....I stop these messages from going any further but begin to doubt that I have the integrity to be up front in church praying because, obviously, my motive is tainted. And I need grace to remember my first and foremost desire is to stand before God with our concerns and praises. So I press on and pray.
Part 2: Where Does Prayer Come From?