I was reading in Luke chapter 1 this morning. It’s about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, as they longed for a child. (Who would turn out to be John the Baptist).
5 During the time Herod ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, married to Elizabeth. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and were without fault in keeping his law. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth could not have a baby, and both of them were very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, because his group was on duty. 9 According to the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 There were a great many people outside praying at the time the incense was offered. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing on the right side of the incense table. 12 When he saw the angel, Zechariah was startled and frightened. 13 But the angel said to him, “Zechariah, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son, and you will name him John.
The phrase that struck me was this: There were a great many people outside praying
As Zechariah is doing his work of leading God’s people in prayer, “A multitude of people are faithfully gathered at the temple to back Zechariah in prayer. Prayer is the context in which God acts most creatively, the environment in which his promises are announced and his work of salvation begins.”
Eugene Peterson in Praying with the Early Christians
In these days of Covid, I am struggling to work out what being part of a congregation means. We have our small group of Christian friends, and are working at mutual encouragement and support, but the congregational aspect of church life is hard.
I have been to a few of our services in church, and experienced that socially distanced, mask wearing, non singing way of being church together, which is ok up to a point.
I have watched pre-recorded services online, some of which have been very creative, using technology to involve members of a congregation in readings, leading prayers, singing at home etc
I have watched live services online at home, which at least has the benefit of being live.
But the sense of participation in worship, and the sense of being a part of a community in worship has been largely absent. I think this has resulted in me praying much less for our worship, and those who lead, even whilst my disciplines of prayer, reading of scripture and study at home have increased.
I’m challenged today to wrestle with this, to try and see a way to make congregational worship more a part of my life in these days.
Grace and peace.