Foundations: Prayer - Part II
One of my favorite words in Christianity is one that we say routinely and often without much thought. It’s this word often left untranslated, “Amen”.
Amen! What does this mean? The word “amen” means that something is true, sure, or certain. Sometimes it can be translated as “This is so!” or “so be it!” I also like the way it is translated in certain parts of the Small Catechism when Luther ends the explanations to the creed by saying, “This is most certainly true!” He’s really saying, “Amen! This is so!”
So talking about prayer, why is the word “amen” so meaningful to me? It really stems from the fact that when we pray corporately, whether there is a pastor, liturgist, or leader that is the one voicing the prayer, when the whole body says, “Amen”, the church together is saying “this is our prayer!” The congregation is giving assent to what was just prayed as if they prayed it themselves. This is why from ancient times, the Church has responded to petitions uttered in corporate worship with phrases such as, “Hear our prayer”. It’s not “hear our prayers”, but “hear our PRAYER”-singular, as we pray together with one voice.
In some ways, prayer is always corporate. It is never alone. Think about the prayer our Lord taught us to pray. He teaches us to pray “Our Father…” First and foremost, our prayers to God are prayers prayed along with Christ, the mediator between God and man who has brought us into this relationship with His Father where we can call upon Him. So we pray with Christ, and we pray with all who are united in Christ (other believers). And the language doesn’t stop there. You continue and you pray, “give us this day, our daily bread,” and “forgive us our trespasses”, and so on. When you are home in your room and praying the Lord’s Prayer in the morning or evening, you don’t change the words to be singular. Rather, you continue to pray it with the company of faith, that great cloud of witnesses. And they echo our prayer and say, “Amen”.
We were created for community (both with God and with each other), and we’ve been called into community by the Holy Spirit in His Church. We stand together. We hear and receive His Word and Sacrament together, and we lift up prayer and praise together. Prayer is a powerful weapon against the assaults of the evil one, and while we cover ourselves in prayer to God on our own, we gather together as well and lift up holy hands in prayer against the forces of darkness. So we stand together in prayer. This happens in the church service and in numerous other settings. I’m reminded of the words of Matthew 18 when Jesus says, “…if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
As St. Paul gives instructions on worship to St. Timothy he says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). This is a reference to what the body of Christ should be doing together-Praying for all people!
The church is a praying church. Attending to God’s Word together, we turn to Him in prayer together. We seek Him together. We pray for healing together. We praise Him together. This is what the Church does.
We’re accustomed to this on Sunday, but it is my prayer that we continue to gather in small groups and as a whole community for times of prayer. It is our prayer that we will be providing prayer and praise services on occasion for us to come and call on His name together, imploring Him to be at work in and through us, and lifting up our intercessions for each other, for our community, and for the world.
One of the true blessings in my ministry was the ability to begin my work week in prayer with brothers and sisters in Christ. My first two and a half years of ministry my Monday mornings began with two dear ladies who have faithfully departed this earth, Leah Spenn and Joyce Deany. We gathered in the front pew of Faith Lutheran Church and prayed. I continued a similar practice when I arrived at Prince of Peace in Iowa. And I believe it is time to reinstate that here.
I’d like to invite you to join me in the sanctuary on Monday mornings at 9:00 AM (for whoever is available) that we might join together in prayer. We’ll begin this on October 2nd with a schedule forthcoming.
Let us be people of prayer! And let us turn to Him together, for He hears us, He’s gathered us, and where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in our midst.
Pastor Joe Dapelo