At our session meeting last week, we had a robust discussion. (For those who might not know, ‘session’ is the official name of the gathering of our congregational leaders, the elders. They are sort of like a board, but with pastoral responsibilities.)
It was a very good discussion and one, I thought, in which the wisdom of the people was permitted a voice and in which we witnessed the power of communal discernment. It was, shall we say, something like democracy at its best and I think the correct decisions were made in the end.
On the way out one of the elders stopped me to let me know that he prays for my family and I everyday. He is not the first person to tell me that and I hope he isn’t going to be the last. I’ve read of and heard pastors tell stories of churches that not only prayed for their minister, but also prayed that the words to be preached that week would reach the hearts of the hearers, and prayed for the sanctity of the minister’s and the faithfulness and love within their marriages. I have heard amazing stories of the impact this has had on ministers and whole communities of faith. It is too self-serving and bold for me to suggest that the people of our congregation double down on their prayers for my family and I and the sermons I preach. But I will say this: I pray regularly for the church, this congregation, and the issues it faces and some of the situations the people find themselves in. Often my prayers for the congregation are less personal than I would like them to be. I used to worry about that because there are so many people. It is hard to pray for them each individually. Today, I am not so concerned about it because I know that I am in good company.
Paul wrote, For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph. 3:14-21).
The “you” in this passage is all the saints in Ephesus. That is to say, this is a prayer by a leader for a group of people. It seems like a good one for a pastor to repeat and it is a great one for anybody who feels called or led to pray for their congregation, but might not know everyone’s names or issues.
This prayer recognizes God’s power and glory. It seeks to further that glory and so it is a humble prayer, accepting God as God and created as created. It is also a theological prayer. It notes the depth of God’s love and the profound fullness a person can derive from recognizing that love. It is a pastoral prayer in that it is a call for the other to be filled with love and to experience the deep satisfaction of knowing we are neither alone nor unloveable.
It helps me to know that people are praying for my family and me. I ask that if you are taking the time to read this, that you pray for your minister and their family. I ask that because it isn’t just a psychological help to me, but because I believe in the power of prayer to accomplish real results. I’ve seen far too many “coincidences” to believe otherwise.
If you are looking to start praying for the first time or to restart an old habit, there are countless ways to do so. This week, I want to suggest you try looking up famous prayers in the Bible, reading them, praying them, and thinking about them; there is no better way to learn to pray and no better way to ensure your prayers are pleasing to God.