Prayer and the Lutheran pastor

This past Sunday I revealed in my sermon that I occasionally feel a little weird about people finding me praying. After all, who knows, maybe I could be napping. Of course, then I thought about how tough it is for someone whose vocation isn’t supposed to be religious. I mean, if I’m afraid of people thinking that I’m napping, you probably are Prayer and the Lutheran pastorscared to death. Besides, even if they don’t think you’re napping, then they might think you’re one of those weird religious types. Even worse.

One of the things that is popular in certain pastor circles is that when you go out to lunch with them, they’ll ask the server if they can pray for them. “Hey Melinda,” they’ll say to the server, “we’re going to pray over our food in just a little bit, is there anything that we can pray for, for you?” While I’m shrinking below my menu, I listen to the responses. Surprisingly, most servers have actually asked for something. A few have sort of non-chalantly said “No, I don’t think there is anything,” but MOST (!?!?!) have said “actually, yeah . . . .” and then told us things about their lives that we would have never heard otherwise.

The last time this happened was right around Hurricane Matthew. Our server started wiping away the tears welling up in her reddening eyes. She told us about how her family was in New York and very concerned about her, and how she hadn’t seen them in a very long time because she had moved down to Florida. Every time she came back to the table we learned a little more about her. Every time she thanked us.

I guess some people would say that we’re living in an age where prayer is less and less acceptable. Maybe they’re right. I’m not sure it was ever really acceptable. It’s sort of like sleeping. Everyone is ok with the idea that you do it, but unless you’re family, we don’t want to see it.

But if we broke out of that mode (responsibly) and found a way to pray in front of other people – what would that make us admit about ourselves? Would that be a good thing? Jesus said both to pray secretly in a closet (check), and to let our lights shine. There’s a dynamic tension there. It’s one in which I cry out to God, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

How about you?

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