CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
The pastors at our church have many good qualities. Quick learning is not among them, since they have heard me give the pastoral prayer before but still have asked me to do it again this Sunday.
There are many different kinds of prayer, and many different uses. Most of them are personal, and so are useful because they fit the person.
Pastoral prayers are tricky because they aren’t just personal. You are praying for the whole congregation, pulling together the joys and concerns of all the worshipers in a way that allows them to come closer to God.
But some there are joyful, others are sorrowful. Some have too little, some have too much. Some are arrogant as they come before God, others are groveling. How can you pray on behalf of ALL of them?
The temptation is blandness. “Oh, God, you are mighty. We are sinners and ask forgiveness. Help those who need it and help us to do better. Amen.”
Yes, that’s what a pastoral prayer should cover, but it’s not going to help people to move toward God if they are moving faster toward sleep.
When I was myself a young preacher, I heard of a similar creature who had trouble giving pastoral prayers. He wandered all over the prayerverse, trying to include everything. Finally one old lady yelled, “Just call ‘im God, ask ‘im for something, and sit down.”
Well, yes… but, no. That doesn’t do it.
My good friend, the late George W. Loveland, was our campus minister when I preached at the church in Charleston, IL that served Eastern Illinois University. He would use the prayer at the end of the service to correct any theological mistakes I had made during the sermon. That’s probably a good use of pastoral prayer.
Sunday, I’ll do like I always do, trust the Spirit and see what happens.