Wednesday, March 30, 2011

who prays "best"?

Presbyterian with the letters rearranged = "best in prayer"....awesome. (ignore the fact that it could also rearrange to "britney spears")

This morning a friend tweeted about this article, where one of the myths is that the pastor's prayers are more powerful than "normal" people (I don't even want to think about what that means for my normalcy quotient!)...and it reminded me of a conversation we had last night in which, after I opened the Bible study with prayer, someone asked "how do you do that? I could never pray like that." (It wasn't even a particularly stellar prayer--it felt sort of...well...standard. You know, the usual prayer at the beginning of a class or meeting.) I actually said that I had a lot of practice praying essentially the same prayer over and over again, because those prayers are just a few sentences and always say the same things--thanks for this day, for the privilege of gathering around the with us as we discuss and learn and we can be faithful disciples in the world.

You know the one.

Anyway, in this conversation it quickly became clear that everyone in the room really believes that they can't do that. That they can't pray out loud, that they aren't good enough to talk to God on behalf of a room full of people, that because they stutter or their mind wanders or they might ramble or whatever, God and the other people in the room will be judging their praying ability. Pastors should just do the praying because we are so much better at it.

Um, no.

We're protestants. One of the key things about the whole Protestant idea is that every single one of us has direct access to God through prayer; we don't have to wait for the priest to go to God on our behalf, we don't have to wait for someone else (priest, saint, monk, pope, whoever) to pray for us, we can do it all on our own. And I have spent years now trying to convince kids that they can talk to God and whatever they have to say, God will listen to. It doesn't matter what other people think of their ability to speak in public, it doesn't matter whether the grown-ups in the room think the prayer is fluffy or "cute," it doesn't matter if you have to pause and think about the next word because you're not sure yet what you even want to say. Everyone can pray, everyone can pray out loud, everyone can pray on behalf of others, everyone can pray at Bible Study or in worship or at a meeting or a potluck. It's not like pastors have some special power that gives us the right words to say, or makes us unusually eloquent, or whatever. We all have that same power--it's called the Holy Spirit. Some of us have more practice, but that doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't be practicing. And in this case, practice doesn't make perfect--like any other spiritual discipline, this practice makes us more comfortable chatting with God despite our imperfection.

Apparently I should have been reminding the parents, not just the kids.
Next week: one of the parents will pray. (mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha....)


  1. I think one of the reasons I pray so readily is that I grew up Baptist, and when you're Baptist, everybody prays (except maybe super-shy 13-year-old boys). But in UCC circles, people mostly want to leave it to the professionals. I'm combating this in my own way. Every Sunday, I get the kids to pray with me at the end of the children's message, and I have them repeating simple phrases. Maybe when they grow up, they'll remember how easy it is!

  2. Great post. I just spent 6 weeks getting people to understand the idea from Bonhoeffer that they are equipped to hear one another's confessions and assure one another of God's forgiveness. You would have thought I overturned the idea of the Virgin Birth. Sigh. Loving into change.