Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To persevere

I have served as the pastor of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church for just over one year.  Something I have learned about the people I serve is that when it comes to prayer and the desires of their hearts, they persevere. 

In my Webster's Dictionary the word "persevere" is defined like this: To persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition or discouragement. 

Here is what I mean.  Each Sunday as we gather for worship there are three ways that people share the things that they would like prayer for.  One is healing prayer.  We invite anyone who feels a need for healing to come forward, be anointed and prayed over in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

On any given Sunday between four and ten people come forward.  I bless and anoint each person by name and then we invite anyone else to come forward and lay hands on the group as I lead a prayer for them.  No one ever shares what it is that they desire healing for.  If I know the reason it is something I have only learned incidentally. 

The second way prayer is shared is through verbal requests.  Before beginning our congregational prayer I ask if anyone has anything they desire to be lifted up in prayer.  This past Sunday there were 16 different requests.  Some are very broad and others are specific.  They can be about situations in the world or our community.  Most frequently they involve friends and family members.  It is common to ask merely that a particular person's name be brought to God, trusting God to provide whatever it might be that is needed in the situation.

And the third way prayer is sought is by private request.  We always have some slips of paper available and people write down the people and situations they desire prayer for.  They put the requests in the offering basket or pass them to me after worship.

Each of these various ways of seeking prayer shapes the way I pray for my congregation during the week.  I have the things that were shared publicly and the private requests, and I try to remember who came for healing prayer. 

Here is where perseverance comes in.  As a congregation we have prayed, and as their pastor I have prayed, for a number of people and their same requests, for as long as I can remember.  To apply the dictionary definition, we have persisted in prayer in spite of counter influences, opposition and discouragement.

I serve among a people who know that God isn't some kind of overly generous grandparent, who always gives us what we want whenever we ask. 

I serve among a people who know instead that God is God, and that God acts in ways that we don't always understand, but in ways that are always good.

And I serve among a people whose receive answers to prayer.  For one person the counter influence of alcohol may be at bay for the day.  For another there is respite from opposition during the time we gather for worship.  And another may know encouragement as they feel the hands of others laid on their shoulder as prayer is lifted up. 

On the reservation I see the struggles of people's lives differently than I would if I served a congregation back in the Midwest, where we came from.  And I see a different way of people persevering, in prayer, with faith that God hears them and will one day answer them.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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