This Sunday we continue our series on the elements of worship with a discussion of public prayer.
In a famous passage from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus seems to argue against praying in public.
Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [Matthew 6;5-8]
But while God may already know what you need, I usually have little idea until you tell me. To be sure, just from what I know about you I may be able to guess at your deepest joys and sorrows. I may have some inkling of what keeps you awake at night. But my best way of knowing is for you to tell me. In fact, I am a lot like the unjust judge Jesus describes in the Gospel of Luke.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"[Luke 18:1-8]
Learning to fear God and respect people is an ongoing project for me. I can be quite self-absorbed and I am easily distracted. So I benefit from multiple reminders of what you need!
Last Sunday while Rev. Amanda was leading us in the prayers, and then later when she offered blessings and anointings, several of us, including first-time visitors, trusted the group enough to share with us their deepest longings. It was a powerful experience for all.
To feed and be fed in spirit is core to the mission of the Garden Church. One way to feed each other spiritually is to ask regularly, "How can we pray for you?"
In praying for each other we get to know each other in all our vulnerability. Just that can start the healing process. Just that can lead us out of loneliness. Just that can create spiritual community.
Join us this Sunday as we continue to pray for each other.