Being a dairy farmer can be tough: milking twice a day, poor seasons, low prices, government regulations, running a business, and the thousand and one complexities of modern farming.
I know several dairy farmers. I am the first to admit that I don’t really know what their life is like. So when I got a letter recently asking for special prayers for dairy farmers, it started me thinking. Surely, I thought, many people know better than I do what it’s like. They would know just the kind of prayers farmers need.
Have you ever thought about that as a reason for going to church – to make a difference through praying together?
I started thinking about prayer itself, particularly the prayer life of our congregations. Solidarity with the world in which we live, including the dairy farmers, is an essential part of Christian mission. Prayer expresses that solidarity. We care about the suffering of the world. We do not rise above the world in judgement, but we live within it, sharing in its pain, loss and agony of soul. We know its pain, and we cry to God for help, for ourselves, and for those who cannot cry out on their own.
The Christian congregation has the great responsibility to help others and many opportunities to do so. The ministry of public prayer is something we can all be part of every week. Have you ever thought about that as a reason for going to church – to make a difference through praying together?
The Prayer of the Church forms part of our worship services. It has a distinct structure, as we pray for the whole church, the spreading of the gospel, the people of God, government, society, people in need, the environment, human labour, and the needs of the local congregation. It begins and ends with the reason we pray: that our hope and faith is in God and we look forward to our eternal destiny in him.
Most of us are familiar with this way of praying from the service orders in our hymnbooks and LCA online worship resources. Our pastors have the task of helping the church to pray. We needn’t repeat the exact same words week in and week out, and petitions for local and other needs should be included.
The Prayer of the Church constantly reminds us that prayer is about more than our own needs. Like Abraham, who stood before God and pleaded for Sodom, we too plead for our world (Genesis 18:21-32). As God loves the world (John 3:16), through faith we join him in that love. As Jesus prayed for the whole people of God, we also remember to pray for all believers, joining him in his mission to the world.
I encourage all our congregations to pray for the world like this every week. It makes a real difference, since we know that God answers prayer (1 John 5:15). If you are a worship leader or serve on the prayer roster of your local congregation, you can help us all make that difference. Together, in the Prayer of the Church, we bring the needs of our world, including dairy farmers, refugees, oppressed people, and creation – wherever there is need of new life, hope and healing.