Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Richard G. Leavitt, Senior Pastor, October 2017
It’s no accident that our Lord’s Prayer is pointedly communal. “Our Father…give us this day our daily bread… forgive us… as we forgive… lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” An important part of Christian prayer is its ability to promote community, its lifting up of the bonds that unite us as interdependent children of God. The Book of Acts tells us how the early Christians gathered regularly “to hear the apostles teach, to share the common life, to break bread and to pray” (Acts 2:42 NEB). They prayed together whenever they ordained deacons, or appointed elders; they prayed for those who were sick or in prison; they prayed for new churches; they prayed for missionaries sent out on their behalf; but most of all they simply prayed in praise and adoration for their ongoing relationship with a loving, living God.
In contrast to the age of the early church, in our time there is only a limited sense of community among Christians. John Killinger points out that technology and mobility, individualism and urbanization, have all but destroyed the old concepts of neighborliness and friendship. We simply don’t have the time! And so we are left fragmented, lonely, with few genuine friendships. And we feel more divided than tolerant of differences in our communities and across our nation because we hardly know each other in truly meaningful ways.
That seems to be the case everywhere—except where people pray together. When people are willing to risk the vulnerability of shared prayer their intimacy and sense of connectedness increases by leaps and bounds. To modify an old adage, “church people who pray together, stay together”—even though they may travel in different directions.
Some modern church members seem to believe that the “professional Christians” (the clergy) are the ones who should offer all prayers, as though our expertise somehow increases the likelihood of a favorable response from God. I disagree. We are only a true community of faith when all the members take seriously their shared responsibility as people of prayer. I am deeply moved whenever a seven or eight year-old adds his or her prayer card to the “Prayers of the People.” Even though the grammar and spelling aren’t correct, it shows they know their place in the body of Christ—integral in hope and faith and prayer.
Jesus told us to pray for one another. Just as you undoubtedly hope Maureen and I will pray for you, we are counting on you to pray for us. And all of us need to pray for one another. Even if you struggle with what to say or how to say it, or even to whom it is you’re “speaking,” keep on praying! It’s not the words but the heart in tune with God that makes prayer so powerful. As your confidence improves, so too will the effectiveness of your spiritual contribution to the body of Christ.
So, in this new season of the church year, keep praying—for your pastors and leaders, for one another, for the church! Don’t worry about the words. The Holy Spirit will take care of those. “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above!”
Grace and peace,