In my job as fundraiser for a children’s ministry I’m occasionally called upon to fill the pulpit in an area church. Trust me, this feels different from say, speaking at a Wednesday night supper or offering a five-minute Moment for Mission.
Typically, I just fill the sermon slot. An elder or sometimes even the pastor introduces me, I talk for fifteen minutes, and then hang around to chat with folks after the service. But sometimes I’m invited to tackle other parts of the service as well like the children’s sermon or benediction.
This past Sunday, I spoke from the pulpit in my home church and the elder (a friend) who was leading the service suggested that I could just take over from the sermon on. Sure I could. Speak, pray, do the praises and concerns of the church ending with the Lord’s Prayer, sing, offer the benediction, and we’re out. Easy peasy.
Until I got to the end of the sermon and with it the back wall of my comfort zone. I looked up and couldn’t remember how praises and concerns was supposed to work. Did I ask for them and then pray? Did I start the praying and let others jump in? We’d done it both ways. I chose the former and dove in.
There were a few concerns, I mentioned a couple, and then we all bowed our heads and I began to talk to God. Sometimes I get downright chatty with God. He’s SUCH a good listener. But people were waiting, so I thought I’d better wrap it up, and the pianist had slipped into her seat. So Amen and let’s sing.
Except I forgot the Lord’s Prayer. And instead of smoothly gliding over the omission, I blurted, “We forgot the Lord’s Prayer!” So we prayed in unison and then we sang and I don’t think anyone minded too much.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about my slip. The thing is, I was really focused on lifting the church up to God as I prayed over our concerns–illnesses, the life of the church, our need for transformation as individuals and as a body–and as beautiful as the Lord’s Prayer is, it wasn’t what I wanted to talk to God about right then.
While I love the rhythm and formality of praying those gorgeous words, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” together, I think that sometimes God likes it when we just speak our hearts. When we simply pour out what’s worrying us, what we need particular help handling, what our hearts long to speak.
And I suspect we don’t always need to wrap those prayers up with a familiar bit of ribbon.