Today we continue our reflection on worship as we talk about the Prayers of the People (sometimes called the “Pastoral Prayer” or “Congregational Prayer”). This is the time of prayer that occurs after the Offering in our church, but for some churches it occurs after the Sermon. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV Paul says, “I urge then . . . that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Accordingly, the church has prayed prayers of intercession for centuries. And this tends to be the focus of the Prayers of the People, following the example of Jesus himself, who intercedes for us. (See Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17.) Sadly, the Prayers of the People have lost prominence in many churches. In fact, not long ago I attended a worship service where there were no Prayers of the People. That’s not to say this church didn’t pray at all during the worship service, as many songs are prayers. But there were no specific prayers of intercession made for people. Sometimes the Prayers of the People are the first thing to be shortened or omitted if a worship service gets too long. But often this is the only time a church family will gather for prayer, so it should be guarded and nurtured. How will a church grow spiritually and remain unified if it doesn’t pray together? So, let us continue to pray for each other and the world each Sunday morning and beyond.
This year I feel called to enter the wilderness more than ever during the season of Advent. Usually at this time of the year we are gearing up for Christmas, and we certainly are doing that as we prepare for our community Christmas Eve program. However, during this Advent season, I’m trying to slow things down and be more reflective. For example, I am spending more time in prayer each morning. I’m also journaling regularly, which is a great way to promote reflection. And I’m also trying to “unclog” my life by doing things like unsubscribing to various blogs and email newsletters that I receive on a regular basis. These moves have led to greater reflection and a slower pace, for which I am thankful. All of this is my attempt to enter the wilderness, which is a metaphor I use for a time of intentional reflection and slowing. I also use the wilderness metaphor for a time of trial and trouble, but that’s not what I’m referring to here. However, whenever you enter the wilderness and in whatever way you do it, you will inevitably uncover areas of your life that need to be addressed. This gives me pause, but as my spiritual director said to me, Jesus goes with us in the wilderness, so we don’t need to be afraid. How are you preparing for the first (and second) coming of our Lord?
I forgot to submit this blog post when the season of Advent began, so I submit it now for your edification. . .
The local church that I serve is a Bible-believing, gospel-centered church. And one of the ways that we help people focus on Scripture and receive the Gospel is by following the Christian calendar. The new Christian year begins with the season of Advent. So, what is Advent? As Pastor Philip F. Reinders writes, “Advent . . . is the four-week season of preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. A good celebration requires proper preparation for us to fully enjoy it. During December, however, we mostly confuse helpful readiness for the hustle of Christmas shopping, parties, and preparations. The Advent season, more reflective in nature, can feel out of sync with all of this noise and busyness. . . . John the Baptist has always felt like the right person to get me ready for Christmas—he’s the anti-Santa needed for our day. Trade the jolly laugh for an in-your-face intensity, the twinkle in the eye for a wildness about to interrupt your life, commanding our attention but always redirecting it towards Jesus. ‘Prepare the way for the Lord is the Advent call to get ready for the coming Messiah.” (Seeking God’s Face, 23) During this Advent season we will enjoy a sermon series based on the Christmas Messiah for Young Voices (based on Handel’s, Messiah) which is the musical that we will be performing at this year’s community Christmas Eve Program. So, I invite you to join me on this Advent journey as we wait with great anticipation for the first and second coming of the Lord.