Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Pastoral Concern: The pastor's private prayers

The Church has no secrets.  Granted, we proclaim mysteries, and some of those we will never unravel (e.g., the Trinity, the dual nature of Jesus Christ, et al.).  But the Church has no secrets.  No secret hand shakes.  No secret password.  No secret agenda.  It is all proclaimed and declared for everyone to see and hear so that, by God's grace, people may be saved by it.

Although there are no secrets, there are some things that are done privately.  Two examples are the prayers that the pastor (at least, I do) prays during the Divine Service.  One prayer is said before the sermon.  Before every sermon, I offer up this prayer, which may vary slightly from week to week.  As the congregation sings the final stanza of the hymn before the sermon, I am at the pulpit praying:

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Dear Lord Jesus, bless this sermon and send your Holy Spirit along with it so that it may be worth something to those who are gathered here.  Use me as a mouthpiece to bring your grace and your peace to your people.  Keep me a faithful servant of your word who proclaims your word boldly and clearly.  Bless this sermon and those who hear it.  Amen."

I'm sure other pastors pray something similar before they preach.  This is just the prayer that has come together over the years, and it has remaining pretty constant for quite some time.

The other prayer which is done privately is shortly before we begin the liturgy for Holy Communoin. While the ushers collect the offering of God's people, I go into the atlar guild room to wash my hands.  In addition to that washing, I pray Psalm 26:6-12.  The English Standard Version of that Psalm is as follows:

"I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.  LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.  Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with those who are bloodthirsty, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes.  I lead a blameless life; deliver me and be merciful to me.  My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD."

I suppose none of this is shocking, but it has always been my private, pastoral prayer for the sake of leading God's people.  And since the Church has no secrets, I thought it might be worth sharing.

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