We at BJS accept submissions from our readers. Pastor Michael Mohr submitted this — an article he wrote for his church’s April newsletter. To submit an article to us, click here.
This article was in our April 2012 newsletter. Each month, in addition to my regular article, I write a piece on one of the three Synodical emphases. April was the time for “Witness.”
The Witness of Prayer
The act of prayer confesses faith and bears witness to those who see about the importance of God. In his famous painting Saying Grace, Norman Rockwell depicts an elderly woman and her young grandson stopping for a moment to say grace before eating in a crowded restaurant. Those in the restaurant have all stopped and are looking at this pair – some in respect, some in amazement, confusion or awe. I have seen this same respect, amazement, and confusion when I have been in public, either at my own prayers before meals or at the prayers of others.
But the witness of prayer goes beyond just the outward act. When we pray to God, we speak back the truth of what He has spoken to us. In so doing, we make confession of who we are, who God is, and what God has promised to do. In short, it is not just the act of praying but the content of our prayer that is witness to the world around us (believers and unbelievers alike).
Recently, I was asked to deliver a prayer prior to an appearance by a political candidate. When I have attended such events in the past, the opening prayers usually amounted to nothing more than an additional rally speech – “Rah! Rah! Thank you God for [insert candidate name here] because he will be our salvation from [insert name of candidate’s opponent here].” I was relieved at the narrow scope of the request I had received from the event’s organizers: “please pray for the election in general.”
The prayer offered was a pretty thorough-going, typically Lutheran prayer: Law and Gospel, recognition that the State is the Left Hand Kingdom of God, distinction between the Kingdom of the Right (Church) and the Kingdom of the Left (State), and vocation as service to neighbor. After the event, I was approached by several people, nearly all of whom were not Lutheran. There was an Armenian Catholic priest, a couple of Baptists, a few Methodists – and they all said essentially the same thing, “That’s not how I would have done it, but what you said was true and it was what we needed to hear. Thank you.”
Here is the prayer (and the introductory remarks) I offered:
In the first book of Samuel, we learn about the nation of Israel turning their backs on the Lord and crying out for a king other than God to lead them. Their experiment in self-government was an unmitigated disaster – “In that day, you will cry out because of your king, who you have chosen for yourselves.” (1 Sam 8:18) Israel’s election of a king was an exercise in idolatry, separating the people from the rule of God in their lives. In our democratic republic, it is easy for us to lose sight of God’s hand in the selection of our leader, because “we, the people” are the instrument in the hand of God. We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) We have heard the revelation that God has established rulers in our lives to punish evil and reward good. (Romans 13:1-8) So let us then pray that God would keep us mindful of the vocation that He, Himself, has given us as voters in these upcoming elections.
Let us pray…
Lord God, heavenly Father, Sovereign of all that You have made, forgive us our shallowness of heart and mind. You have given us the great task of being the instruments by which You select for us our leader, and of our own strength, we, being turned in ourselves through sin, cannot help but to look to those who will tickle our itching ears, who will serve us in our own needs, and who will reward us for doing what is right in our own eyes. Pour Your Holy Spirit upon us, O Father, and deliver to us the merits of Your only Son, Jesus Christ, that, being regarded in Your eyes as those who have already fulfilled all righteousness through Christ, we may work our good deeds not for self but for neighbor. Give us voice to plead the case of the fatherless and the widow, the pre-born and the aged, those in our own neighborhoods and those in far distant lands. Give us strength and wisdom in being the instruments of Your will to elect the leader of Your own choosing, who will punish true evil and reward true good, who will establish Your civil righteousness in our land, and who will serve our every neighbor. We are Your people, O Lord. Hear us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
When we pray in the presence of others, our prayer is a witness to them. Do not take anything for granted or presume that everyone knows something. (The major flaw of my prayer above is that I presumed everyone at the gathering to be a Christian.) By being clear in your prayer who God is and what God has done that You know you can ask this of Him, you bear witness to the work of God in the lives of all people. Or, more simply put, when you pray the Word of God, God works through that Word to accomplish His purpose in that Word – that all hearts (even your own) would believe.
Pastor Michael Mohr
Newsletter, April 2012
Grace Lutheran Church