Monday, October 03, 2011

D to the O to the H... DOH!

For the past few months, we have been writing our own prayers of the people instead of just using the prayers out of the Sundays and Seasons resource. During the latter half of the summer, Jono, our Project Connect immersion experience student was writing them (and well I might add).  When his time ended, I picked up writing them again.  This past Sunday, I realized that my writing left something to be desired. One of my petitions said,
Compassionate God, sustain all who suffer with your promise of new life.  Strengthen those who are oppressed, heal those who are ill, comfort those who are afflicted.  
 I didn't pick the problem up when I wrote it.  I didn't pick the problem up when it was prayed in our service on Sunday morning.  I picked it up when I prayed it at the evening service at the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU

The problem is that first line.  I realize that everything hangs on whether you suffer FROM or WITH something.  We generally suffer FROM diseases and ailments, but we can indeed suffer WITH them as well.  So it struck me as odd when I prayed "sustain all those who suffer with your promise of new life."  I suppose my intent was to pray "Sustain with your promise of new life all those who suffer."  That would have been better writing.  

Maybe it struck me as odd because we had just read in Philippians (3:10), "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death," where the promise of the resurrection is linked with suffering.  Perhaps unintentionally, I prayed for all of us who suffer with this promise that brings suffering.   

We want Christ but maybe not any suffering, even though the way Paul writes they go together.  Luther marked suffering as a mark of the church.  This mark, this verse, is a challenge to us who live comfortable lives.  It is awfully easy to rationalize taking the path of least resistance... even when we are usually fairly faithful. 

So maybe my prayer was right. Unintentional... but right.


Chuck Steel said...

I think that in a way we do suffer with the promise of new life. The promise isn't free and there are requirements put upon as a result of that. Of course, good Lutherans don't put as much emphasis on the works side of the equation as we are all justified by grace, but I feel there is more to it than that. There is suffering that we should all experience. Too often we think that our salvation should be easy, but I don't think so, there is work here for us. The results may be joyful in the end, but life isn't all fun and games.

On another note, have you considered having the liturgist help write the prayers of the people? It would take some training, but I think that it's a great idea, especially if you have the liturgist say them. It helps enforce that they are the prayers of the people, and not just of the pastor. One of the courses I've had at seminary was Worship Prep for Lay Leaders and we had a section on writing the prayers that explained it in a way that most people would feel comfortable with doing it.

Brian Bennett said...

I am hesitant to use the word "requirement." The promise is precisely free. But I am also keen on discipleship. The commitment that Christ shows to and for us is the seminal event that moves and enables us to follow him. The suffering that we experience with the promise is, I think, two-fold. First there is the suffering brought on by the world as it reacts against the witness of Christians.

The other is internal to us. Perhaps it is a subset of that first. Our old sinful self, knowing that it is dying, reacts against the life that Christ brings to the new life. And we can suffer as that inner turmoil rages.

There is perhaps a third kind of suffering. Suffering through the transformation of our lives. If Christ transforms us, and I think he does, we are likely to feel discomfort, in much the same way the athlete feels discomfort as her body is strengthened and prepared for her competition. Muscles are sore. Body parts can hurt. But it is a good hurt.

My lay leaders are always welcome to write prayers. None have yet taken me up on the invitation to write prayers for Sunday morning. I get them prayers usually on Thursday, but they can write more for Sunday.