Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Priests For One Another

The concept of “priesthood of all believers” so beloved of us Reformation types has, frankly, always been something of an abstraction for me; and I suspect for a lot more of us as well. Another abstraction – probably due to lack of opportunity as much as lack of understanding or immediate relevance – was the idea that persons in committed relationships are called to be priests for one another.

But it came home for me last week, during the hospital drama in our household, when Fellow Traveler asked me if we could pray together before her surgery.

I grew up in a household where “Come, Lord Jesus” around holiday dinner tables pretty much constituted family prayer. So despite my churchy interests and experience front and center in worship, praying with loved ones has always felt a bit odd and uncomfortable to me. I remember when my pastor came to the ICU after my mom’s heart attack to commune us – he was en route from somewhere else, and didn’t have all his chaplain gear, so I let him borrow my little pocket-size Book of Common Prayer that I sometimes take with me on anxiety-provoking trips, and we read aloud from it together – and how relieved I was that at last someone “official” was here to provide spiritual comfort to my mother.

But, anyway: FT and I agreed that praying together before her operation was a good thing to do. So we did. We prayed over the phone together while she was on the VA bus en route to Ann Arbor, and we prayed again over the phone after the surgery. I can’t exactly remember the words I used – I had a BCP-ish outline in my head, and just riffed from that – but it was both a powerful and an intimate experience, even over a distance, over the phone. There are times when I'm assisting in worship, and praying the Prayers of the Church, where I have a strong sense of carrying others with me in my petitions -- where the prayers that I treated, frankly, as a writing assignment the evening before are transformed into something much bigger; and that is how I felt at these times, but in an even more intense way.

But FT also provides spiritual care for me. It’s usually in the form of encouraging me in pursuing my lay ministry education and in helping lead worship; prodding me when I’m procrastinating in things like writing my Prayers of the Church or faith-blogging; and keeping the spiritual side of our relationship front and center when I get distracted by other things – which is a lot of the time. The other day she said, “You know, I think we ought to pray more together,” and of course she’s right. I’ve always wanted a spiritual director; well, now I have one.

So I think I’m kind of “getting” the priests-for-one-another thing now, in a way I never have before.


Tom in Ontario said...

I'm not great at extemporaneous prayer, especially out loud. I'm always grateful when I'm asked in advance if I'll pray at some function so that I can prepare something and pull a folded up sheet of paper out of my pocket. But one pastor once suggested a foolproof way to pray with people.

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

[brief extemporaneous prayer]

Lord's Prayer together.

I usually forget that form and stumble around trying to come up with words and then thinking later that I should have said...

When my wife and I got married we'd pray together, out loud, holding hands, before we went to sleep. That didn't last long. I think FTs prodding to pray together with you will be a good thing in the long run for both of you.


P.S. an after-thought said...

I think that when I pray out loud with my little Bible group, that I do a good job, which means, I guess, that I let the spirit pray through me or pray for me, or something like that. But my own inner prayer life is pretty lazy. I'm not exactly sure why I don't tap into the Spirit more for my own prayers.

My DH and I would do well to pray together more, besides our set prayer, a psalm, at the dinner table.

One time after 6 months of great spiritual and emotional distress, I gained peace and healing after DH prayed for me, for us, holding my hands. Somehow, I was able to let go of the situation, because it wasn't going to change, with that prayer.

chartreuseova said...

My dh and I try to pray together daily. At a minimum that means sharing prayer needs and praying together silently for a minute or so early in the day. Then some days it is out loud, or a longer time period, or several times throughout the day. But we have committed to daily prayer time.

It's nothing fancy but it seems to set the tone for the day, reinforces our committment to each other, and reminds us to hold those prayers throughout the day.

We all ought to pray more together. I think we just get bogged down in trying to follow churchy prayer models. I like Tom's suggestion but even a simple "Lord, help us get through this day." is effective. It's the communion with each other and God that is important...the form and words don't matter much.

Prairie Pastor said...

Yes, mutual consolation is good, necessary, and so often underestimated and/or overlooked. It also points to why we need to be with each other in the gathered assembly--strength, healing, peace. Thank you for your commentary on the subject. Peace to you, LutheranChik.

Chris (The Lutheran Zephyr) said...

Prayer is an intimate beast, ain't it? I admit that my wife and I don't pray too much together, apart from Luther's Morning Prayer each morning along with our girls, and mealtime prayers. Good for you for finding the intimacy of prayer with FT.

Kievas said...

Prayer can take many forms, but sharing the time with someone else seems to add a special meaning, whether silent or spoken.