Church · community · Prayer · Worship

A Great Many People Praying

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).

During the time Herod ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, married to Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and were without fault in keeping his law. But they had no children, because Elizabeth could not have a baby, and both of them were very old.

One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, because his group was on duty. 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.

2 thoughts on “A Great Many People Praying

  1. Perhaps three thoughts. Firstly, a lot of us need the discipline of attending church. God asks us to worship Him and if we don’t attend church the danger is we don’t “fully” worship.
    Secondly, we are herd animals and we like the warmth, protection and love which being together gives us.
    And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we have a responsibility to our friends and loved ones to be available to them. Attending church for group worship gives us that opportunity, albeit not as “satisfying” as we would like. Love.

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  2. Thanks for this. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I agree with all of what you’re saying. Being a Christian means joining your lives in some way with other Christians on the journey. Isolation is not the way forward. The Christian understanding of God is that God is Trinity. We believe in a ‘Three Personed God.’ who by God’s very nature exists in community. Three-in-One and One-in-Three. So commiting to others is central to our faith. I think I’m just reflecting the struggle that many of us have with finding new ways to be church in these times. This shouldn’t mean ignoring the importance of discipline, or the responsibility that we have to our fellow Christians, but to use this time when everything is being upended to discover more, and hopfefully deeper ways, to be fully present to God and to one another. Thanks again for reading, and taking the time to comment.

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