For This, We Pray

On Sunday, June 1, our gospel lesson from the 17th chapter of John reflected Jesus' prayer for his disciples as he was preparing to leave them and his earthly ministry.  His prayer was for their care and protection and for unity…that they may be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. As Jesus was praying this prayer, I imagine how powerful it must have been for the disciples as they were within earshot of hearing Jesus pray for them.  Prayer is powerful - prayer is healing - prayer is a threshold to intimacy with God - prayer is a faith practice that emphasizes unity with God and with one another.  Being in prayer and practicing prayer is a discipline that followers of Jesus engage in regularly and with intentionality. We all know that we are called to be people of prayer!


When the synodical Ministry Review Team was with us a couple of weeks ago, they recommended that First Lutheran and Our Savior's enter into a spiritual discernment journey to clarify the engagement of the congregation's purpose and core values, as well as the current and future missional identity within our community.  This journey of spiritual discernment can only commence as we steep ourselves in prayer…and make prayer a priority in the lives of all of our congregational members. All who were in worship on June 1, received and invitation to enter into an intentional season of prayer throughout the month of June.  First Lutheran joins our friends at Our Savior's in committing to praying at 8:00 am every day.  Of course, you can pray at any time, but the intentionality of joining together is underscored when we commit to praying at the same time as our neighbors. In response to this invitation, there are three things about prayer that might be good for all of us to remember.


1) You can pray anytime.  Throughout the gospels, Jesus prays in the morning, in the evening, in the middle of the night. On a mountain, on the plain, when it's dark and when it's light. Inside, outside, alone or with friends. In thanksgiving, in distress, and toward all kinds of ends. Point being: prayer isn't only for church, or for mealtime, or for before bed. You can pray anytime, anywhere, for any reason and God is always eager to listen. Driving a truck for work or driving the kids home from school. While brushing your teeth in the morning or brushing your hair at night. While doing errands or playing softball. Before a meeting for work or before meeting friends. You can pray anytime. Sounds simple enough, of course, and it is. But that's part of what many of us are missing in our prayer lives, I think: the sense that prayer wasn't intended to be extraordinary, saved for certain places or times or reserved only for really important moments. Prayer was meant to be ordinary, part of the fabric of our daily lives.


2) Prayer is about what's on your heart.  Again, very simple. And, again, easy to forget. When you read Jesus' prayer in John, it's easy to get a bit hung up on all the highly relational language of "mine" and "yours" and "they are in me as I am in you" and all the rest. But all of that language simply signifies the tremendous intimacy Jesus shares with the Father and that he is inviting his disciples into. Beyond that, this prayer is simply Jesus sharing what is most deeply on his heart at the moment -- that he is coming to the end of his earthly mission, that God would see him through to the end, and that God would take care of his friends now that he has to leave them behind. "What should I pray about?" some may at times wonder. The answer is easy: whatever you're worried about, or thankful for, or need support with. In short, whatever is on your heart.


3) We never pray alone.  Jesus is praying not on his behalf nor even on the behalf of the world, but he prays for his disciples. In this gospel, we hear Jesus say, "And I ask not only on behalf of these" -- that is, his disciples -- "but also on behalf of all those who believe on their account" -- that is, all Christians since then … including us! When we pray -- whenever we pray -- we do not pray alone but know that Jesus is praying with us and for us.


I'm encouraging everyone to be intentional about prayer for the entire month of June. Let's join our ministry partners and cover Eau Claire and the surrounding area with our prayers - at work, at play, at rest…every day.  Pray for things near and dear to your heart…but also pray specifically for the following things:  Every morning at 8:00 am - take time to pray for:


·         For our conversation partners - Our Savior's and Grace Lutheran Churches

·         For guidance from God with these 3 questions: Who Are we?  Why Are Here?  Who Is Our Neighbor?

·         Pray for those who serve us - teachers, staff, administrators of the school district - law enforcement - fire fighters - medical staff and emergency workers

·         Pray for the Task Force formed to evaluate and guide the collaboration process

·         Pray for our partners in Malawi and the Chigumukire Village Clinic and Feeding Center.


I can't wait to hear about and see the many ways that God is active through our active prayer life.  There is no right or wrong way to pray. There's just prayer. The gospel story shows Jesus doing just that and now we get a chance to share and practice our prayer life with our friends in faith so that, as Jesus prayed, we may all be one.