Paul’s characterizations of the Church of God as a body — many different parts, many different gifts, one body — are dead on. Of course. We notice Church as Body theology in almost everything we do together. From singing in four-part harmony or celebrating the Lord’s Supper to pulling off a Give Away Day or a congregational potluck dinner, it takes many people with many different talents to form the Body.
But aren’t there some things that, as disciples of the Christ, are required of us all? Regardless of talent, regardless of ability, despite natural aversions or conditioned reluctance, aren’t there some things that must be an everyday part of the life of every child of God?
Prayer comes to mind.
I’m currently studying the Gospel with a young couple up here at the church building on Tuesday nights. They have almost no Bible background. They have very little, if any, knowledge of what God has done for them through Christ. But they’re hungry. They’re wide-eyed and curious. Responsive. They’re reading the Bible to each other, out loud, every evening. He reads two chapters to her, she reads two chapters to him. It’s beautiful. Powerful. And last night I asked them to begin and end every session in the Scriptures with prayer.
As we talked about the importance of prayer — the communion with God, the relationship, the speaking and listening — I struggled to articulate how huge it is. How vital. How demanding, yet how satisfying. How around-the-clock our prayers must be. It’s hard talking about prayer with someone who’s never done it. I was reminded of the words of Eugene Peterson from his latest book Tell It Slant.
“Prayer is not a subject of its own. Prayer is not a specialist activity. In a symphony orchestra some play the clarinet, some play the oboe, some play the violin, and some play the trombone. But in the Christian life it is not that way: we don’t have some who visit the sick, some who sing the hymns, some who read Scripture, some who give money, and some who pray. In the Christian life we do not choose aspects, get some instruction and training, and then specialize in what we like or feel we are good at (or avoid because we have no aptitude for it).
Prayer is not something we pull out of the web of revelation and incarnation and then sign on to be ‘prayer warriors.’ It is more along the analogy of breathing: if we are to live, we all have to do it. Although there are illnesses connected with breathing, there are no excellences. We don’t single out individuals and say, ‘She (or he) is a great breather.'”
Take a bunch of deep breaths today. Pray.