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.

In 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.

Comments (7)

Hla hlo (1/18/2013 2:23:42 AM)
Public prayer is part of the theology of work, not regardless of job and rank that all the believers can participate in it.Last a decade years ago under the military government of Myanmar, the public prayer program led by MCC, Myanmar Council of Churches at Yangon. And some churches held the public prayer in their particular church. Is now the democracy transformation the impact of the public prayer? or not or yes.
Larry Peabody (1/21/2013 2:08:40 PM)
Hla hlo, thank you for your response and the insight into what is happening in Myanmar. In the blog, what I was calling "public" prayer has to do with prayer when we gather with other believers. Here in the States, the government calls for public prayer only on formal occasions such as presidential inaugurations, memorial services for prominent politicians, and other events like those.
Ron Steslow (12/18/2012 6:02:59 PM)
This article really hits home and motivates one to appreciate and respect the calling of God in every dimension. Having seen the moving video from the London Institute there is a pressing need for affirmation of every Christians full-time service and the need to press prayer into the existing vacuum for these believers. I want to visit the At The Falls Church!
Larry Peabody (12/19/2012 11:11:38 AM)
Robert, thank you for your comment. Jesus' warning not to "throw your pearls to pigs" comes to mind here. Praying out loud in the workplace in the presence of unbelievers who have no understanding of or appreciation for prayer would not be appropriate. But in this article, I was speaking of public prayer in gatherings of believers--those who do understand and value prayer.
Robert Bolsinger (12/19/2012 5:12:04 AM)
I'm not saying it's right, but people are scared to pray in the work place because of repercussions. There are too many minority atheists or non-Christians in the workplace that rule over the the majority of Christians that want to pray. It's sad.
val (12/19/2012 7:05:45 AM)
As an educator this article opens many doors for me in professional development. The ideas of praying for each student and their parents individually in class and suggesting to my Pastor that he prays for the police, educators, house-keepers, entrepreneurs, taxi-drivers and civil servants on Sundays would be helpful in supporting believers in the congregation. In education we have the opportunity to influence hundreds and thousands in the workplace at assemblies, PTAs and through teaching - what a grand mission field.
Laxshmi Jaskaran (12/25/2012 3:08:56 PM)
Hello Sir, I agree that prayer should made for all who are involved in secular jobs.I believe the church scattered and the church gathered should maintain a strong prayer life. Sometimes as believers we are too busy to pray for ourselves and we are totally depending on others to pray for us.

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