“Prayer is at the heart of worship. In prayer, through the Holy Spirit, people seek after and are found by the one true God who has been revealed in Jesus Christ. They listen and wait upon God, call God by name, remember God’s gracious acts, and offer themselves to God. Prayer may be spoken, sung, offered in silence, or enacted. Prayer grows out of the center of a person’s life in response to the Spirit. Prayer is shaped by the Word of God in Scripture and by the life of the community of faith. Prayer issues in commitment to join God’s work in the world.”
W-2.1001, PC(USA) Book of Order
“I can pray at home” is one of the most common reasons I hear for why individuals do not attend church; it is also a reason that is fact. We can pray at home. We should pray at home. For many of us, home is where we first learned to pray as we knelt by our bed each evening and folded our hands together, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” When we pray with another, however, we experience the Holy Spirit in a new way.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege to pray with the congregation at First Presbyterian Church in Edenton, NC. This small congregation gathers in the upper room of the church building, already bringing so much meaning into the act of worship (I couldn’t help but think about the disciples climbing the stairs to gather with one another and with Christ in the upper room for their last meal with one another.) Worship begins with the beautiful sounds of the piano, offering a few moments for each person to gather their thoughts and go to God in prayer, preparing themselves to receive, proclaim, and carry God’s Word into the world. Worship feels very familiar to a guest like myself– and then comes the time to share “Pastoral Concerns and Affirmations,” followed by the pastoral prayer.
Just before those who had gathered began sharing both their struggles and celebrations from the past week, Rev. Douglas Eddy invited them to say “Lord, hear our prayer” following each concern and “Thank you, Lord” following each celebration. The next few minutes were filled with communal proclamations of both as the congregation gathered together as one, lifting up each prayer to the Lord.
As Rev. Eddy moved from the communal proclamation of prayer into the more familiar (to me, at least) pastoral prayer, I was moved with emotion as I recognized the way that the Holy Spirit had just moved in that sacred upper room. No person was left alone in their sorrow and no person was hushed in their celebration as every voice in the room lifted each prayer, both vocalized and kept silent, to God.
In the past, I have lifted up the importance of creating a safe and quiet space for individuals to take time with God. Today, I want to add to that the importance to not only open a quiet space for prayer, but to open a communal space for prayer. Hearing the voices of God’s children lifting prayers up to God is more powerful than simply “liking” a prayer request on Facebook or subtly nodding and maybe even groaning a bit as prayer requests are voiced. The communal sound of many voices becoming one brings strength to each prayer, and might even bring strength to each individual.
How does your congregation share in communal prayer?
Share your ideas here!
Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer