Has the Church Given Up?
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
20 Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)
8 In every church service I want the men to pray, men who are dedicated to God and can lift up their hands in prayer without anger or argument. 1 Timothy 2:8 (TEV)
372 If you persevere in your prayer, with “personal perseverance”, God Our Lord will give you all the means you need to be more effective and to spread his kingdom in the world. But you have to keep faithful: asking, asking, asking… Are you really behaving this way?
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray
The first quote, from the book of Hebrews, is how we often end our service. It is a benediction, a blessing, but it is also a prayer. Interestingly enough, it is not a suggested to be used in most of the liturgies I have seen over the years, as I’ve researched liturgy and worship. There are others; the Aaronic Blessing is popular, so is one in a Trinitarian format, but not this one from Hebrews.
It popped into my mind, as I read St Josemaria’s words this morning, (the quote in green) And as I contemplated this blog, I started to think about prayer, especially prayer for God’s people to .. well be the people of God. To live life with Him in a way that brings God great joy.
I thought of the prayers that begin most of Paul’s letters and the prayers of Christ for the church. You see, this prayer/blessing of Hebrews does not stand alone. I also thought of a great book on Church Revitalization, and the author’s insistence on the prayer team, noting it is more importance than vision casting, or those who work the change. (I’ve seen that part often dropped as churches adapt the book to their own need)
Then I thought of the articles I read yesterday. Articles that talked about churches closing, and another about the dwindling numbers of seminarians, and church attendance. I thought of as well recent conversations with pastors, who talk of dry lives, and as well, struggle to see any benefit to prayer. Is there a correlation between our lack of prayer, and our observation of a church that is weak, sick, and even dying and our lack of persistent prayer? If we judged the effectiveness of the church based on the prayers of pastors and people, would we have to say the church has given up and surrendered?
Luther would say that we pray, not that God is hindered by its lack, but because we are. Our lack of prayer results in a supernatural pessimism, and even apathy. We know that prayer and faith go together, as we pray, so we depend on God to see those prayers addressed and answered in our lives, in our communities.
So why don’t we pray, and why don’t we pray as this passage and so many others indicate? Is it because we don’t see prayer as a sacramental act, a blessing where God comes and communes with us? If we did, as the Lutheran Confessions advise, and see Prayer truly as a sacrament, would it make a difference?
I think it would. It would stop us from seeing prayer as a duty, and see it as the wonderful blessing it is, we would persevere, not because it might manipulate God, but because of the peace that comes from knowing God is dealing with it. As we pray, the anxiety is reduced, our trust and dependence on God grows, and we become sure of God’s wisdom and strength at work. What a blessing this is! What a comfort!
if we would see the church grow, if we would encourage men to become pastors and encourage people to serve in the church and its ministries, prayer is the key. Fellowship with God that breeds and magnifies the trust that knows the transformation God works in us, and celebrates our union with God.
This is when ministry is at its strongest, when we are relying and depending on God, and we truly see His work in us, and the joy it creates.
My friends, hold up your holy hands, depend on God and ask Him to bless His people everywhere. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1462-1465). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Posted on May 24, 2016, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, st josemaria escriva and tagged Church, church closing, confession, pastor shortage, prayer, priest shortage. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.