Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Prayers of the Church

This past Sunday our youth pastor, Matt Kennedy, preached a very fine sermon on Job. Personal, biblical, clear but not simple. I had the privilege of leading worship with him and to offer the "Prayers of the Church." I realized that I love to pray on behalf of the church. I am not always quick to offer prayer when I am meeting with individuals. I think prayer for me has a deep intimacy attached to it that I am not always willing to enter into one on one. I also generally struggle in my own personal prayer life. Answers usually don't come quickly. Comfort is not always present. And it is not always comfortable to lay yourself bare before God.

But for some reason, leading prayer is something I love. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that leading "prayers for the church" was one of the first pastoral acts I was asked to perform when I was an intern. Each month the staff and interns would meet with the pastor to plan Sunday morning worship and often we were asked to read scripture or lead the prayers of the church. Perhaps it has to with the fact that leading "prayers of the church" was one of the few ways I could exercise my pastoral gifts when I was serving as a Minister of Christian Education. As a woman I was not allowed to preach or lead the sacraments, but I was allowed to pray... from the pulpit... during Sunday worship.
And so, today, I offer that prayer to all of you.

Prayers of the Church
North Park Covenant Church, October 4, 2009
Gracious and Loving God… we come before you this morning.
For some those words… gracious and loving God… flow easily from our lips. Our hearts are full of praise and celebration. We rest secure in the knowledge of your presence and your care in our lives. For such faith and confidence, we give you thanks.

For some, those words… gracious and loving God… are acts of faith this day. We thank you for the foundation of faith that you have laid in our lives through the work of your Holy Spirit, through our families through this congregation. We thank you for the person and work of Jesus, for the words of Scripture, for the communion of saints, for all those things that make it possible to believe that you are a gracious and loving God even when circumstances are trying, even when there is pain and suffering, even when we have doubts.

We give thanks this day for those who work full-time to laying that foundation of faith in our lives and the lives of those around the world thinking especially of our missionaries, David and Gwendolyn Mark.

For some, those words… gracious and loving God… are almost impossible this day. May we rest in the knowledge that God welcomes our tough question, that God is bigger than all of our doubts and fears. That God hears the brokenhearted. And may we allow others to have faith for us this day. May we rest in their faith as they walk alongside us.

This day we lift up a number of people in our congregation who seem to be in “Job-like” seasons in their lives. We think of Lucille Anderson and her family, Roy and Helen Olson, and the parents of John Coomes. Make your presence known in these families. Bring healing. Bring hope.
And we think especially this morning of those individuals, so many of them women and children, who live “Job-like” existences because of the presence of domestic violence in their homes. Be with ministries like Wellspring and give us eyes to see where such pain exists and courage to respond.

Bring healing to those who are ill. Bring comfort to those who mourn. Bring hope to those who are hopeless.

We gather together this day with all the saints around the world, all who are gathered around your table this morning, offering our concerns, offering our praise, offering our thanksgiving, and offering together the prayer that you, our friend and brother, taught your disciples to pray saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.