Monday, March 20, 2006

Public v. private

At my church the prayer petitions for the congregational prayers are printed in the bulletin and if anything new comes in after they're printed, they're announced before prayers are offered. The petitions go on for pages (and are lifted up silently during worship) and I'm of at least two minds aobut the whole thing -- it's an amazing witness to how people feel about prayer and the sense of collective community that shares one another's burdens; however, it's a fine line between "community information" and community "concerns."

That being said, I rarely list prayer petitions.

Late this past week my grandmother had a severe stroke. She's almost 97 and before this has been remarkably healthy. I don't know if she'll recover and if she does, what her life will be like.

Sunday morning came and I didn't list her or my family in the prayers (my dear colleague was doing the pray-ing).

I thought about it a lot, but for some reason I didn't want everyone asking and expressing their concern -- I guess I did it partially out of self-preservation and partially out of the need to be private somehow.

While I have a fairly realistic perspective on the end of her life, she's still my grandma, and when she dies it will be hard. At the core of my actions (or in-action) was the sense that I didn't need/want to be repeatedly reminded of that reality by well-meaning parishioners on a Sunday morning.

So much of our lives as pastor are public that I sometimes unnecessarily cling to or make things private that maybe don't need to be or shouldn't be.

Do I need to open myself up to their (my congregation's) care and concern? I could hardly list a prayer concern with the asterisk "she really doesn't want to talk about this; please pray quietly for her from far away," although that's what I would want to do.



Katherine said...

First, I am so sorry that your grandmother is struggling. You are in my prayers, even if that prayer request isn't on a list.

And second, I think your instincts about this might be more important than whether you "need" to open yourself to their care and concern.

Kathryn said...

I'm with your instincts on this. Here, we don't have such a comprehensive prayer list, clearly, but are discussing changing the system so that the same 23 names are not read out each and every week. We'll still pray by name in the Daily Office, and of course give people space and time to pray from their hearts silently on the same time, though, we are considering moving over to a Christian name only list, which would be some sort of protection in your situation. After all, you and God know who is being prayed for.
And I'm praying too.

Pink Shoes said...

Thank you, I do appreciate the prayers!
I like the idea of using Christian names only... during the baptismal rite (at least historically/liturgically) in the Lutheran church we use only their given name after the presentation -- using only the Christian name during prayeres makes a nice connection between being a child of God and one cared for by the community.

jledmiston said...

I'm so sorry about your grandmother too.

I think we hesitate to share our sorrows because we don't want people to give us that look: "I feel so sorry for you." We become our prayer concerns.

Nevertheless, tell them. Or tell a trusted few. Let us know how your GM is doing.

Songbird said...

I guess it depends, too, on whether the prayers are for us/me, or for my family, and the extent to which I feel exposed by the request. When my children's step-greatgrandmother was in the hospital, we prayed for her, but when a beloved cousin died last week at 79 after throwing herself off a parking garage, I did not mention it or ask for prayers. It felt too controversial and too sharp and too attention-drawing.
Anyway, I agree with Katherine. Share this with whoever you feel can help you (not necessarily the congregation) and don't let this become a "should" situation for you.
I'm sorry about your grandmother. It doesn't really matter how old they are, it's still hard to think of losing them.

cheesehead said...

In this community, where serious surgeries have come and gone, and strokes have been partially recovered from without so much as a whisper to the pastor (me), I'm trying to model healthy sharing of concerns with the body of Christ. I want them to see that if one shares such concerns with others in the context of our worship, the sky will not fall in.

In that spirit, I told my congregation this past Sunday that my mother is facing a very serious surgery this coming Friday and that I coveted their prayers. Nobody looked at me with pity, and I know that at least a few will pray for her, and for me. I find that enormously comforting.


I'll pray for your grandma, and for you.

juniper68 said...

Hey There,
Our practice is it to ask for prayers from the congregation which people share verbally right in the service, after which I offer the pastoral prayer, which kind of wraps up all we have heard, and I ask for prayers for the rest of the world, too. In a year and a half, I have prayed about personal things only a couple of times, and regretted it every time. Mostly because it seems like the one time that the members of the congregation really get to have a voice, and to help create the mood of the service. And also, most of the time, I would rather pray about stuff about my life with peer groups or friends or blogpals- my own informal "personal church."
FYI, one time I DID hear a woman ask for a prayer and say "this is something I cant really talk about right now, but wanted you to know that I'm carrying it..." but not sure how to translate that into print.
Ooof, this is getting long. You gave me lots of food for thought! And prayers for you and your grandma.

Pink Shoes said...

Thanks all for the prayers and the thoughts about when you present your prayer concerns before the community... I think it's an interesting facet of a larger conversation about leadership and the role of the leader within the congregation.
My grandmother has been transferred from ICU to a regular medical room and will go to a "swing" room tomorrow. According to my mom she managed to swallow some Jell-o and liquids today (Tuesday), which people are taking as a good sign -- to what end I'm not sure.
So, the waiting continues.

Revem said...


I am split as to whether open diclosure is good or not.
I am trying to model honesty and openess to my congregation, in order that people develop authentic meaningful relationships of mutual trust, love and respect and did so when taking time off recently.

Having said that there are other things which I would share with a select few and not church generally.

I am being no help!! Splinters in my butt from sitting on the fence

In relation to leadership and disclosure. I recently saw an interview with Bono (U2)he was asked about why he always wears his glasses. His answer was something I related to. He said apart from the prescription, he kept them on as a guard between him and the world. So much of who he is public property that the glasses help him maintain some privacy.
I really related to this in relation to my exposure in ministry.

Don't know if this helps,

Blessings and prayers for you and your family