I wish that every seat in our church had been full on Sunday.
No, this isn’t one of those “everyone should be in church on Sunday morning” things. I don’t think that, anyway. You should be in church if you want - or need - to be, when you want - or need - to be. I hope you want to be there as much as you can, but there’s more to “church” than Sunday mornings.
And it’s not like we take attendance, anyway. You won’t get a gold star if you’re there and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you weren’t. You’re always welcome and we’ll miss you if you’re not there. Just as important, you might miss something. Really.
And that’s just it this week: it was something awesome.
Last Sunday, a few teenagers and a bunch of children led our church service. Let me say that again: teenagers and a bunch of children led our church service. They had some help and support, but they weren’t directed or told what to do. They picked their own songs, did their own prayers, read a story one of them chose and taught a lesson about prayer.
They did great. It was everything leadership should be: authentic, sincere, meaningful. They were also sometimes a little hesitant, a little shy and a little “this is my first time.” There were some great videos, a couple of new songs (with some actions!) and a familiar one. It was informal but engaging, fun and inspiring.
That should be enough right there, but that’s not why the church should have been full. It was their lesson.
The scripture passage was Luke 11:1-13, the story that begins with one of the disciples asking Jesus “teach us to pray.” Jesus then shows them how to pray with the words we know as The Lord’s Prayer of The Prayer of Jesus, that formal prayer we all say together each week. Jesus goes on to talk about the need to be persistent in prayer and how important it is to remember that God answers our prayers, though the answer is God’s wisdom rather than our own. And God knows us like no one else.
The theme of the morning was “a letter to God.” Each of the children had written a letter to God, a prayer which expressed what they were thankful for and shared needs and concerns that they had. Many of the children read their own letters, all of which also appeared on the big screen behind them. All the adults were invited to write letters, too, if they wanted to, and they had paper to hand out.
It was the same paper they had used, that cheap, lined, three-hole paper like you might put in a binder for school. Somebody had some spare. And when they wrote their letters, they used pencil or crayon or pen, whatever was handy. Some had little drawings as well as words. The writing or printing might not have been the neatest, they didn’t always stay in the lines, the grammar wasn’t always good and the spelling was interesting. Some signed their name at the top and some at the bottom. Maybe even twice. They’re kids.
But God knows what they meant.
And that’s just it.
|The Prayer Tree in the lobby of our church|
- every ribbon is a prayer.
For anyone who struggles to pray because they’re not sure what to say or how to say it, don’t worry. Or if maybe you wonder if there’s a proper form or a special way to address God. Don’t worry. God knows what you mean. God reads - and hears - what’s in our hearts. Just talk to God.
The “church” the children led us in last Sunday mirrored their letters. It wasn’t traditional or formal and it certainly wasn’t perfect. And yet it was. It was personal, authentic and sincere. Just what prayer needs to be.