Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Public Prayer (Part 7)Tuesday, December 18, 2012
"If you could create it from scratch,” a reader wrote, "what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace?” This is the seventh blog in a series responding to this question.
The church-from-scratch should pray publicly for those God has placed in the work world. Think back to your own experience in church meetings. You’ve probably heard prayers for a variety of needs: healing, finances, building projects, pastors and missionaries, church programs, safe travel, and so on. But how often have you heard prayer for those in so-called "secular” work?
Does the example set by what we do not pray for publicly also affect how we pray privately? A friend of ours served overseas as a missionary for six-plus years, during which she enjoyed constant prayer support. When she returned to the United States, doing the same kind of work in a government job, the prayer support ended abruptly. As she puts it, "I was still doing the same things here as I had been doing there. In the job for the government, I was still engaged in serving God full-time. But…from Christians, I experienced mostly an absence of interest in my work. I felt demoted.”
She sensed this absence of interest from the absence of prayer. So the from-scratch church should include public prayer for those in the workplace. This could take many forms. Prayer would be offered for specific occupational groups. Most of us have heard of national Pastor-Recognition Week. But how often are truckers remembered during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week? Nurses on Nurse Appreciation Day? Teachers on the PTA’s Teacher Appreciation Week? Or agricultural laborers on Farm Worker Appreciation Day (to name just a few examples)? Those in the church employed in such occupations could be recognized and prayed for by someone actually engaged in that kind of work.
In an era of high unemployment, public prayer would be offered for those without work who need to find jobs. If businesspersons will be traveling for extended periods, their accountability groups could surround them and pray for them in the assembly. In Kingdom Calling, Amy L. Sherman reports: "At the Falls Church [in Washington, D.C.] . . . in the congregational prayer every Sunday, four or five church members are specifically prayed for by name and vocation” (p. 154).
I suspect that what Paul prayed for privately he also prayed for publicly. In his letter to the Thessalonians, he encouraged them by saying, ". . . we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith” (II Thess. 1:11). From his words to Ephesus and Colossae, it’s clear that Paul considered even the work of slaves to be good. And in urging them to offer it as service to Christ, Paul surely meant for them to do their work as an act prompted by their faith.
a brief video from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, a public
school teacher says: "I teach Sunday School once-a-week for 45 minutes, and my
church asks me to come up front so they can pray for me. For the rest of the
week, I’m a full-time teacher. And as far as I can remember, no one has ever
offered to pray for the work that I do in schools. It’s as if they want to
support half my profession and not the other half. . . . I get 45 minutes once
a week with children who are generally open to the gospel, with parents who are
supportive of the faith. Or 45 hours a week with kids who have very little
knowledge of Christianity, and parents who are either as ignorant or hostile to
the faith.” (play)
Mark Greene, who narrates that video, sums it up with this paraphrase of a well-known statement by Jesus: "Where your prayer is, there your heart is.” The church-from-scratch with a heart for believers in the workplace will pray for them—privately and publicly.