Taylor: The clergy’s hot-line to God

The minister repeated all the concerns in his prayer… After I asked, “Didn’t God hear, when the people said it themselves?”

In my religious tradition, we have something commonly called The Prayers of the People.

Essentially, it’s a time when people within the congregation have an opportunity to identify and voice their own concerns—silently or out loud.

Most of any worship service is defined in advance. It may come from a prayer book or a lectionary.

Some one—sometimes a minister or priest working alone, sometimes a team of staff and volunteers—chooses the readings, the music, the themes that will be presented to the gathered people.

The worshippers often have no direct input (aside from singing hymns and intoning liturgical responses) until the Prayers of the People.

There are still places, I’m sure, where clergy presume that they already know what their people should be praying for, and proceed accordingly.

But that doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Even in churches that follow a prescribed liturgy, there’s usually time for individuals to name the persons and situations for whom they want prayers.

But why, I keep wondering, must those concerns be expressed by the worship leader to qualify as a prayer?

I understand and respect the need for the person with the microphone to repeat some of the requests. Even when asked to speak loudly, some people can’t—or won’t. Perhaps when they were children, too many adults told them to keep quiet in church.

But why, having already repeated the information once, do clergy then feel they have to repeat it again in the body of the prayer?

Does God listen only to church professionals?

I recall visiting a church where the minister asked for prayer concerns. People spoke of one person’s diagnosis of cancer, another’s car accident, of a spouse sent overseas to help with disaster relief. They spoke with joy, with pain, with a catch in the throat.

Even as an outsider, I could feel emotion rippling through the congregation.

The minister made careful notes. And then he repeated all the concerns in his prayer. But by then, a spontaneous outpouring of caring had become a sterile formality.

After the service, I asked, “Didn’t God hear, when the people said it themselves?”

He looked startled.

There was a time, before Roman armies razed the Great Temple, when the Jewish people thought their religious obligations were taken care of as long as the High Priests in Jerusalem performed their functions. I wonder if modern churches have slipped into the same mindset.

Invariably, it’s the minister who’s asked to open a meeting with prayer. Or to say grace before a meal. Or, on Sundays, to voice the prayers of the people, as if concerns only register with God when an accredited voice says them.

Does heaven use voice-recognition technology?

To his credit, the next Sunday, the minister I referred to above asked for the people’s prayer concerns as usual. As usual, they responded from the heart.

After a pause for reflection, the minister simply said: “God, you have heard our prayers…”

I don’t think anyone felt God had not been listening.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Join the Regional District on Instagram Live

The Regional District of Central Okanagan parks interpretive programs are going online

COVID-19: Diabetes Canada donation bins becoming garbage dumps amid pandemic

Diabetes Canada has asked residents to stop overflowing bins with donations and garbage

Okanagan College students receive emergency funding

Funding is available to domestic and Indigenous students from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

Lake Country ceases tourism operations for 2020, Okanagan tourism continues to suffer

The District of Lake Country voted to suspend tourism on March 31

COVID-19: City of Kelowna defers property tax penalty, other city charges until September

The city is deferring interest and penalties to September, for those who need it

Okanagan College grading system critical despite COVID-19 pandemic

On heels of petition penned by student, VP academic says grading system necessary for accurate assessments

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Spike of visitors to Princeton-area stressing grocery supply chain and healthcare teams

‘We are really not set up to have this many people at this time of year.’ Area H Director Bob Coyne

Summerland to offer mental health webinar

Event will examine ways of coping during COVID-19 pandemic

Van crashes into Kamloops home

Police say the driver went into medical distress before the crash

Salmon Arm Silverbacks remember Humboldt Broncos on anniversary of fatal crash

Sixteen people killed, 13 injured after semi collided with team bus on April 6, 2018

Most Read