One of the things about my congregation for which I am deeply grateful is its prayerfulness. This is a church full of people who genuinely care about others, and that care gets expressed in prayer and petition — not just for fellow church members — but for a wide range of individuals in our community and the extended family of faith. And naturally, there are usually a lot of things about which to pray! Sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of the many battles with cancer, the upcoming surgeries, the significant losses, and the countless life experiences that leave people in need of strength and grace. But prayers are offered, for which I give thanks. And yet, if there’s one “ministry of prayer” in which I’d continually love to see us grow, it’s in our passion to pray not only for the needs of individuals and families, but also for the movement of God’s Spirit and God’s kingdom in our church, our community, and our world.
I harp on this from time to time (but only because it seems like such a relevant biblical point). But as I read the prayers recorded for us in the New Testament, there seem to be relatively few that focus on the sick, the grieving, and so on. (Although, I have no doubt that such prayers were being prayed; and I am thoroughly convinced that God wants us to pray about these concerns.) Instead, we find prayers for faith and love to fill God’s people ever more completely — and for the mission of God to be accomplished through them. As an example, there is this prayer from today’s New Testament reading (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12):
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (vs. 11-12)
I would never want us to miss out on praying about the illnesses, and the losses, and the surgeries, and the stressful life situations. But I wonder if one of the reasons that we don’t experience more dynamism and passion in our shared mission as God’s people is that we’re not praying specifically and passionately about that mission.
Let’s be faithful, then, to pray for one another. And may our prayers be intimate enough to lift up the deepest needs of our closest friends — and expansive enough to lift up the grandest movements of our Father’s kingdom. Amen.