I was wrapping up a meeting the other week when all of us were squirming around, gathering our belongings, and restlessly stirring. Yet, all their eyes were locked upon me. Suddenly, I realized this was a “Christian” meeting so they were waiting for me to pray. There, and in that moment, I began a fun new game with you all.
I have stopped giving the obligatory “closing a meeting prayer.” At one worship service of another church, the worship leader who wrapped his music set said a prayer, then the next person to go up to give announcements closed with a prayer so the next person could lead us in the confessional prayer, then the pastor opened and closed his sermon with a prayer, and the final guy “prayed us out.” While I am all for prayer, I am not for perfunctory prayer that is really just a socially acceptable way to wrap things up (or move musicians around on a stage).
So while I have stopped praying, I am not done praying in meetings. Instead, I have started to call upon normal people, if they desire, to pray.
This has created a powerful moment as a pastor, as I have been able to hear even better the heart of the person with whom I had been meeting.
At a wedding rehearsal, I witnessed a groom pray over his future wife in front of his parents, future in-laws, and friends.
With a couple wanting to launch a small group, I heard their desire to gather people in their home in order to feel the love of Jesus.
Hearing the words of a teenager, a pastor, a father, and others as they commune with God has encouraged me as a pastor and challenged (hopefully) each one of them in their faith.
Paul reminds us to be devoted in our prayer. To be perseverant. It may feel stilted and awkward at first. It may feel unsteady. But any genuine relationship starts with that awkwardness. Think about the first time you spoke to your spouse or the frustration a child feels trying to articulate themselves to a parent.
Prayer is not a magic formula to be recited; it is a conversation. It helps us be watchful and thankful. It gives us eyes to see what God is up to in our lives and to be thankful for what He has done.
That is why I believe the most important word in any prayer is “Amen.” In prayer, we humbly bring ourselves and allow our hearts’s desires to be expressed to God. We hold these things up to Him, seeking his guidance, His wisdom, His peace, His permission, His protection…and then we say, “Amen”–“Let it be So.”
So, I look forward to praying with you soon as we seek to draw closer to Him.