Prayer – the recognition of our greatest need!
They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.
9 But you are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light. 10At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy. 1 Peter 2:8b-10 GNT
When prayer is genuine, possessing the fire by which it is kindled, prompted by a sincere heart which recognizes its need and likewise the blessings that are ours as proclaimed in the Word, and when faith in God’s Word—in his promise—revives, then the individual will be possessed with a fervor prompting him to fall upon his knees and pray for strength and for the power of the Spirit. Martin Luther
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting. Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge .
I’ve been doing some research into the collapsing mid-sized church, those that run 250-2000. In my group of churches, their numbers are shrinking faster than the hopes the fans of the… (well I won’t mention the team name). Seriously, we have a problem across the board–and many younger pastors are leaving their church to pick up the problems some other pastor left, in order to take the place of pastor #3. Or more likely, they leave the parish, and become life coaches or counselors or teachers or..
I have to believe some of this is do to our poor formation, not only of pastors, but of church leaders in general. As churches shrink, we put in place anyone breathing – anyone willing to volunteer, rather than adequately prepare them. Then frustration and anxiety set in, as they don’t feel successful, and the leaders who put them there see no results. We become unhappy, as if happiness is the answer to everything, and the lack of it causes anxiety and desperation and often, change that is… unwise
St. Peter’s words talk about what eventually happens – they forget the promises in the word of God and they don’t hear it…even as we study it with our churches, we don’t hear it. We hear about the Greek or Hebrew, we read and hear about the background of those who did hear it, and how the Holy Spirit used it to change their lives. We hear what we have to do, the doctrines we have to believe, the way we must behave (or that how we behave is okay…when we know scriptures teaches differently) But we don’t hear about the good news, the love of God poured out on His people…along with mercy and grace and healing…as He restores us.
And without hearing that, without knowing God is hear for us, ready to listen, ready to act…the noise and stress and anxiety only gets worse. Eventually, pastors and people leave, determining there has to be more, a different way…..and they try to find it on their own, or coach those who are looking for it–but are just as lost in the darkness….
The church needs to draw them out of that darkness, as it is gthered by Jesus and reflects His glory, as He revives them. He’s there, we just need to recognize our need for Him, and those promises, the promises that we are no longer alone – but we are His people. A message we receive, not just in sermons and the Lord’s Supper, but in that neglected sacrament of prayer…
Oddly enough – though Lutherans may not talk about it often today, Luther points us to that need – to pray for the power of the Spirit to be manifest in our lives together, in the church where the Spirit gathers and enlightens us all.There is no doubt of the need, there should be no doubt of the theology… and there should be no doubt of the promise…
So hear that word, those promises and pray with me…
Posted on October 5, 2023, in Ancient Future, Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Martin Luther, st josemaria escriva, The Forge, Theology in Practice, Worship and tagged hope, practicing the presence of God, prayer, sacrament, The Church. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.