"It's me, it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer." Tonight (Wednesday, February 25) at 7:00 the Pastoral Care Team has organized a prayer meeting, particularly to pray for me, in advance of Friday's bypass surgery. I am happy in so many ways.
- I'm joyful because St. Andrew's are a people of prayer: Probably in part because of Neil and Lise Baxter who taught the church for 16 years between 1984 and 2000, and still lead in prayer today. St Andrew's was gathering to pray for special needs when I first met them as a supply preacher in the early 2000s. We'd gather at the end of a worship service, join hands and lift up someone facing illness, difficulty, or grief. And people were helped.
- I'm joyful because the shoe's on the other foot. Last year Neil fell critically ill in the middle of summer and with only an evening's notice 2/3rds of the congregation showed up on a Monday morning to intercede for him as he lay in a coma. And Lord, did we pray! Love poured forth from our lips, the love from God to which Neil had led so many of us. When a congregation prays for its ministers, stands in the gap for their servants, it is a beautiful thing. Let the separation between ministers and ministers, servants and servants disappear. We are all in this together, Standing in the need of prayer.
I'm joyful because I didn't do this. That is, I didn't do any of this, and in particular I didn't organize this call to prayer. I mentioned to the bible study group that meets on Wednesdays that I'd appreciate prayer, and Jean Normand, one of* our pastoral Care team went above and beyond, as usual, and got the word out.
*one of the pastoral care team! How many congregations under 50 members can speak of a pastoral care team? or of Bible study teachers (plural)? We prayed for Pastoral Care workers, and our cup overflows. we prayed for musicians, and God provided, we prayed for workers in the harvest, and God called people to us, and called people among us. Praise to the Name of the Lord!
- I'm joyful, because I am already buoyed up by prayer. In the need of prayer, but standing! Prayer isn't just words spoken to God. It's love poured out to God, and that's why St Andrew's prays. There is a love that God has poured into our hearts. Everyone has been so encouraging- sharing their 'war' stories about stents, sternotomies, and singing the praises of the Heart Institute, the hands of surgeons and the hands of God. I've been bouyed up by this love. People come up and say they are praying for me, even when I am healthy! And I pray for them, and they pray for each other, like we were a family or somenthing. And the family is so much bigger than St Andrew's: Facebook friends, choristers, fellow servants, brothers and sisters. Dare I say that the 'family' goes beyond the family of faith? Friends sending me 'good vibrations,' 'thinking of me.' I am pretty sure our Father in heaven is pleased whenever anybody loves anybody else, and hears as prayers these unaddressed petitions. (I once read that in the height of his popularity Albert Einstein received a letter addressed "Albert Einstein, Europe." If the post office managed that one, I'm pretty sure that the Almighty Lord of Grace can figure what "sending good vibrations your way" means.)
- I'm joyful because God answers prayer. It's really not about my health. I must assure you that I am not worried about the operation, or even whether I live or die (one can't avoid that thought, however unlikely). It's about my prayer that I could be part of a community that lives out the Gospel, shares God's love, bears one another's burdens. And here I am, in a congregation that I love, and that shows its love for me, as we dwell in the love of God.
"It's the pastor, and the sinner, yes it's me, O Lord, standing in the midst of prayer." And without mentioning any more names, there are very many people within and beyond our congregation that are always held in such prayer and love as I am at this time, and I hope you come into our midst, and come to know it.