I'm currently reading a book by Samuel Wells and Abigail Kocher entitled
Shaping the Prayers of the People: The Art of Intercession.
It's a book about the different types of prayers offered within a liturgical service, their purpose, and ways to enhance their meaningfulness to the members of the congregation.
In the book, Wells points out that when we bring needs to God through intercession, we are asking God to intervene in our lives in a miraculous way. We may be expecting the Creator to collapse the space between the present moment and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, and we may not receive the answer we're pursuing. Wells says that
"the fact that Creation is deeply good, despite the fall, and the truth that mundane, ordinary existence is profoundly valuable and suffused with God's glory: this is what holds the Father back, because this abiding and wondrous creation is what will be swallowed up in the final coming of the kingdom, where God will be all and in all."
But that doesn't mean we are to hold back from praying or that God won't answer our prayers. Rather, it points to intercession as being about God's transfiguration of our circumstances so that they become "integral to the story of salvation" and a blessing to the world. It's about transforming despair into hope.
In other words, the Prayers of the People not about presenting a "laundry list" of needs to God. It's instead about entering into a process by which God works within our circumstances to bring about a taste of redemption. The Holy Spirit enters into this moment of dialogue and inspires our words, so that God's responsive actions usher in a sacramental hope.
As I lead my congregation through their weekly "Prayers of the People," I hope I am mindful of the process we are engaging in, that I pause long enough to recognize what is happening in the moment, and that I am able to point to the work of God in our lives. Perhaps that is your hope too as you bring your personal or congregation's needs, pain, and desires before the Creator who loves and redeems us.
Rev. Jenni Bales
Director of Communications
Presbytery of San Jose