There are many wonderful things about being a pastor. One of them, in my experience, is that I get to pray with people. I pray with our congregation during Sunday services, I often pray with individual parishioners when they stop by seeking a companion as they work through particularly thorny problems, and I pray with anyone who prays in his or her own space on Thursdays when a portion of my office hours is designated as prayer time .
And I love praying with you! The one thing that concerns me, though, about prayer is the fact that it’s quite possible for it to feel like something only “experts” can do. I’ve known people who are reticent about praying aloud because their prayers don’t sound “churchy” to their ears. That’s because in many settings ~ particularly more “high church” settings, where liturgy is very formal ~ the prayers of the church use old-fashioned language and words that simply don’t get any air time outside of church settings.
Let’s be honest. Most of us, most of the time, don’t speak particularly formally. Most of us don’t pepper our daily conversations with words like “abide,” or “behold!” or “sanctify” … or phrases like “unto whom” or “the day is far spent” … but these things pop up in liturgical prayer in a way that is both beautiful and a little bit alien to our everyday experience.
I love liturgical prayer, but it’s far from the only kind. In a non-worship setting, I like to think of prayer as being like a companionable conversation with a good friend ~ one who knows me well, understands the emotional landscape of my heart and mind, and wants the best for me. You know, the kind of visit you might have over tea or coffee with someone particularly dear to you. In that conversation, you’d probably not use the word “sanctify” even once. You’d probably be pretty honest about what’s really on your mind. You might laugh or cry. I hope you’d listen, and maybe even ask the friend what’s going on in his or her heart. Maybe you’d even enjoy moments of quiet.
We’re a congregation that is growing more and more comfortable with corporate prayer on Sunday mornings. This year during the season of Lent, one of my personal goals is to examine my prayer life (both personally and in my role as pastor), and write more prayers and share more prayers. I also hope to use this blog to provide prayer prompts on a weekly basis, so that some of you might find your prayer life evolving and expanding.
If you love prayer, or if you find that it makes you nervous but want to love it more, I’d love to have you participate with me by writing some prayers (or drawing them, if that’s more your style) and sharing them here. If you’re interested in doing so, please let me know!
In Christ’s peace,