What is The Gathering? Part III: Praying People

Lance Marshall3Few things are more intimate than in-person conversations. In a day dominated by screen time and digitally mediated communication, sitting in the presence of others to speak and to listen is a radically counter-cultural act. Inviting God into the conversation is even more outrageous. Yet we do this every Sunday in The Gathering during one of our most ancient and reverent practices: Prayers of the People.

You may not recognize the intentional structure and flow of this portion of the service. We always begin our time with a prayer of confession, together acknowledging the ways in which we all struggle to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. But remember, confession is about self-awareness, not self-recrimination. Before we can take the next steps with God, we need to take an honest assessment of where we are today. We confess so that we can repent and return, re-aligning our lives back to God and God’s purposes.

After confession, we speak to God through a Trinitarian prayer, engaging the mystery of God’s work as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This has two functions; first, it’s theologically informative, drawing us to reflect on the fullness of God’s beautiful self-relationship as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Second, it challenges us to rethink whatever “boxes” we have placed God into — the Trinity refuses to be contained by simple images or pat metaphors, and our prayers shape how we envision God in our lives. Our Trinitarian prayers draw us more deeply into the mystery of God and God’s faithful relationship with all of creation.

Finally, Prayers of the People ends with us lifting up the names of the people with whom we share our lives. These people may need extra doses of God’s mercy in times of trouble or they may bring joys to God in praise. They may simply be the names of people on our hearts and in our minds. As we speak, we speak together, our words running together and over each other, a perfect display of the living and breathing church. At every moment, millions around the world pour out their hearts in earnest prayer to God, and Prayers of the People joins us to that worldwide communion of saints.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Lance

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