At church this morning, the pastor made an interesting statement during the prayer part of the service. Our bulletin lists people to pray for, and our church was on the list. The pastor said that it is acceptable for a church to pray for itself, since it needs prayer. The pastor then said that he does not want to see our church become a place that looks like him, and yet God is not a part of it.
By “looks like him,” he probably means that the vast majority of the church is white. I think one implication of what he was saying is that he does not want the church to become complacent, or in its own little world. To avoid that, it needs to pray. Prayer is a place where it can remind itself of its mission. It is also a place to focus on God and to draw on God for strength for the mission.
Similarly, in my own spiritual life, I find that I need to be vigilant, and prayer is one way in which I try to do that. I do not naturally love God and my neighbor. My mind often does not go in a spiritually-appropriate direction. Prayer is a way for me to remind myself of how I should be. More importantly, it is a way for me to draw strength from God when I feel, and am, spiritually helpless.
But there is another implication to what the pastor is saying. The church can try to do a lot of good things, but what if God is not a part of it? One could argue that God is already a part of things, and we do not need to conjure up God’s presence through prayer, for God is already present. There is something to that. The pastor himself has said similar things. At the same time, I think of the Christian cliche that God is a gentleman: God does not go where God is not wanted. Maybe God can work with some mindsets or attitudes better than others. God wants the church to work with God, not independently of God.