Blog - Supporting Believers
Meshing Sunday and Monday: Public PrayerSaturday, October 16, 2010
Think back. When did you last hear prayer in a church service for those in so-called "secular” work? I can recall many publicly offered prayers for missionaries in other countries or for pastors who were ill or traveling. But rarely, if ever, have I heard such prayer in a gathered congregation for public school teachers, business people while attending out-of-town conferences, or union employees trying to pay bills during a strike.
The implied message? The only work worthy of lifting before God in prayer is that done by people with paychecks issued by churches or mission boards. After decades of this omission, that implied message leaves its mark.
Paul urged Timothy to "pray for all people” (I Tim. 2:1). In its comments on this verse, the UBS New Testament Handbook Series says, "…it is most probable that these prayers are offered during the public worship of the congregation.” In Timothy's day, "all” people in the church there at Ephesus included slaves. In our day, "all” certainly includes those who work—whether in vocational Christian service or in regular jobs.
In an earlier post on a strategy for meshing Sunday with weekdays, I recommended "Making scattered-church concerns a major part of gathered-church services.” Public prayer for those in the workplace is one way to carry out that meshing strategy.
But let's get practical. If you're a church member with a regular job, what concrete suggestions can you offer to church leaders? Or if you're a pastor or church leader, how might you incorporate public prayer into a Sunday service? Here are some ideas:
Provide an easy way for those in the work world to request prayer. A simple bulletin insert could invite such requests. This would probably require regular announcements to remind people to complete and turn them in. Provide a space on the form to report answers to work-related prayers. Relating these to the congregation will prompt thanks to God.
Pray for a different occupational group each week. Research the days or weeks set aside to recognize certain occupations. Pastor's appreciation month usually comes in October. What about those in other kinds of work? Does your congregation include school teachers? National Teacher Appreciation Week occurs during the first week of May each year. Some states have set aside weeks for recognizing state employees. Veterans or Memorial Days would be a natural time for public prayer for those in the military. Does your state or community set aside a time for honoring police officers? And so on.
Provide an opportunity for people in the congregation pray for each other. Public prayer during a service does not always have to be offered from the platform. Encourage those in the congregation to pray for each other in clusters of two or three. Emphasize that any life-related prayer request is appropriate—including work-related requests.
Last year, in a post entitled, "From a Missionary,” I related the story of a woman who served overseas as missionary for six-plus years. 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. On 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.”
If your church family were to ask how to remember your work in public prayer, what kinds of requests might you make?