Fine. I’ll Pray.

Very often it seems like the only time I pray is when I am forced to pray.  It’s like Job or Elijah.  When things get SO BAD (in my perception at least) that there is no other recourse, then I will pray.  Unless, of course, I don’t have the energy.  So my prayers become much closer to a 911 call than an ongoing conversation.

I wish it were not so.  I wish I were more disciplined in my prayers.  But I’m not and I can’t seem to figure out how to do it.  My prayers are weak and timid.  They are fearful and uncertain.  My best prayers come when I am too desperate to do anything else.

So often my prayers make me feel like I am a fraud.  I project the air of quiet faith and confidence to my parishioners.  I sit in the hospital with them, console them with the Gospel which I hardly feel like I believe half the time.

I think this is all too common with pastors.  Faith and doubt go hand in hand.  There can hardly be one without the other this side of the grave.

I think a part of the problem lies in feeling like prayer is a show.  So often for pastors, because we are called upon to publicly pray for others, it means that the prayers we offer are half prayer/half proclamation.  Prayers can offer comfort, and we pastors will use any trick in the book to sneak in a little Gospel.  But this can lead to making prayer feel like a show.  I have to have a “good” prayer, because they are counting on me.

How do you counteract this?  What is the actual goal of prayer?

I’m sorry I have more questions than answers today.  Some days are just like that.

-DMR (aka Todd Peperkorn)

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4 thoughts on “Fine. I’ll Pray.”

  1. First, your comment about being in the hospital with parishioners reminds me of something. Remember that line in the Luther movie? Staupitz says, “We preach best what we need to hear most.” Yup.

    Second, I’m inclined to think that the “goal” of prayer is to bring our will into alignment with God’s will. This is not accomplished because we are “doing something” (that is, saying prayers or being spiritual in some esoteric sense of the word). It is not about getting God to change His mind so that we essentially boss Him around like He’s a genie in a bottle. But we speak back to God what He has spoken to us, and it is His promises that comfort us and vivify the New Man. If that makes you feel like you’re putting on a show, then you’ve got two options. Listen to yourself “putting on the show” because I assume what you’re saying is true regardless of how it feels to you. OR go to your pastor and have him pray with you and for you.

    That’s probably not what you’re asking, though. So just pray anyhow. Get out the psalter and the Pastor Care Companion and read them out loud to God and to yourself. If it feels like you’re faking it then, tell the devil he’s a liar and to go to hell, and that this prayer is what God wants and what you want.

  2. First of all Susan’s answer is right on point. Well said!

    Second of all, when I have gone through dry times and dark roads I have resorted to listening putting my audio Bible on and listening (because I felt too weak to even read, and was plagued by stress-induced migraines which sapped my vision). The other thing I have done is to sing. Sing in my office, sing in my car, sing in the church by myself. I hurl the songs of the church against the darkness and as I do so I have found that those Scriptural hymns have lifted me up and enabled me to pray once more.

    Third, it has really helped me to talk with my father confessor. The consolation of the brotherhood isn’t just cards or chess or beers and shared conversation…

    Peace be to you in Jesus’ name brother!

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