by David Sparks
I was going through one of my “Why should I bother with pastoral prayers?” phases recently when a voice deep inside me reminded me that it wasn’t me that was the issue here. The prayers offered on Sunday morning are for all the people of the church. It is their concerns, their anxieties, their faith community that matter, not mine.
The news had been full of the European debt crisis. The uncertainty would impact the stock exchanges in Canada and the United States, and this in turn would mean that pensions would not increase and jobs would not be created. A lot of people would be affected.
Hopefully, the situation would be offered to God, not in the hope that God would get the Greek government sorted out, but because older persons on fixed incomes need to know that their financial concerns are appreciated. Maybe some members of the congregation would hear these worries as a result of the prayer.
Some members of a recently bereaved family will be in church on Sunday and will hear their names mentioned and will be sure that the faith community cares about them. Perhaps some congregational members will feel moved to visit their home when the close family members from away have scattered.
And there is illness; people undergoing tests or waiting for test results. The names won’t be mentioned, of course, but people will be alerted to fact that some of their friends are going through tough times and be on the lookout to provide support and a listening ear.
And there will be times of silence during pastoral prayer, when members of the congregation may voice their own prayers to God. Hopefully, the words of scripture and the meditation on these words, and the sacred space and time let their heartfelt words flow.
And God’s love is so infinite, so all-encompassing that I believe every prayer is heard.
Pastoral prayers are worth bothering about!
David Sparks was educated theologically in England and Canada and has served for 30 years with The United Church of Canada. David’s three-book, lectionary-based series, Prayers to Share, has been welcomed and widely used in North America and Europe and further afield in India and Australia. He is also the author of the more recent three-book series Pastoral Prayers to Share (Year C is available Fall 2012). David has led many workshops on public prayer.