Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Live This Prayer: Reflections on Church & Mission

"...an authentic church is one that lives for others." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Each morning, in the gentle and well-worn course of Morning Prayer Rite II, "unless the Eucharist or a form of general intercession is to follow," the rubrics invite me to add any one of three prayers for mission to the day's intercessions. Unlike many directives in the prayers, this rubric is not optional. Evidently, to pray to the God of Jesus Christ is to pray for the mission of God. By prayer, Christians learn to love the things that God loves. When we pray, we follow the unpredictably generous God whose love moves in mission.

Three prayers from which to choose. In reverse order: the third of these prayers asks God to pour his Spirit on us, such that we would reach forth our hands in love, bringing those who do not know Christ to the knowledge and love of Christ. The second of these prayers asks God to do all kinds of things to bring about the coming of God's kingdom. The first of these prayers asks God to receive our prayers for the Church.

In a game of "which of these three does not belong," I suppose most of us would pick "Church." Even before it became popular to question the Church, the Church's insular, country club reputation would have made such an association - Church and mission - uncomfortable. But the prayer book simply assumes that to pray for the Church is to pray for the mission of God; that to pray for members of the Church in her members' many vocations is to pray for love shared with strangers and Christ sought and proclaimed in the world Christ came to save; that to gather together as the People of God is already to witness to the God who has called us together, made us God's own, and sent us to proclaim Good News for the life of the world. What can it mean to live this prayer?

Pray for the mission of God. Pray for the Church.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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