Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet

In a previous life, I took a course on how to start and run a house group, a fellowship group which was part of a larger, gathered congregation. You know the sort of thing, you meet for prayer and bible study (often studying the topic which will be preached in church a week or so later), and, well, fellowship – drinking copious draughts of bad coffee and tea, and scoffing cakes and biscuits.

During the course, the lecturer set a question, “How would you encourage a group member, who stayed silent during open prayer, to pray aloud?” I objected, “You don’t, it’s a fellowship group, not a public-speaking class.”

Some, perhaps most, Christians find it difficult to frame extemporaneous public prayer. They think that they have to say the “right” words, when of course there aren’t “right” words. There are only the same words which you would use praying silently by yourself, perhaps at your wits’ end. Jesus alluded to this in Matthew 6 “  But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you …”

But wait, it gets worse. Because many Christians have just as much difficulty articulating private prayer. Again, they think that they have to pray the “right” words, except this time it’s God they’re worrying about marking them instead of their sisters and brothers. St Paul tackles this, and puts at least my mind to rest, in Romans 8 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” 

Thank God for those wordless groans.


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