Recently, the senior pastor of the church I serve was going to be absent on a Sunday morning. So, I was preaching, but I wanted to hand over as many of the other pieces of worship as possible because:
- Lay persons, that is everyone who is not clergy, are fully capable and called by God to ministry (just look at our baptismal vows), which can include leading portions of worship
- I get tired of my own voice, so I can’t image how other folks would deal with a whole of hour of so much me.
I invited our lay leader, a gifted woman with a beautiful soul, to share the prayers of the people, offer her own prayer, and then guide us into the Lord’s Prayer. I entrusted her with this portion of our worship together.
That Sunday came, and she and I were working out the logistics together – did she want to use a headset microphone or a handheld one – how would she receive the little slips of paper with the prayers of the people on them – where should she stand as she prayed? She seemed a little confused as to why I asked her to do this at all and I confided this – it is a gift to me to be able to entrust my soul to someone else as we pray. And I felt safe in her prayers.
That is how I imagine corporate prayer. When I was new to church, I remember the prayers led by a retired clergyman who served there. His deep voice seemed to handle each prayer like a full-blown flower, gently lifting it, tracing its beauty, and commending it to God. I imagined all the souls gathered in the sanctuary like water droplets in a rising tide – so small alone and yet so mighty together. And when he prayed, I could fully entrust my soul to his steering.
Unfortunately, there have been many times when I have withheld my soul from a corporate prayer. It may have been that I could not, in good conscience, agree to or with the one praying. It may have been that there was some fracture in the relationship between us, such that I could not entrust myself to their care or leadership. In those moments, I dutifully assume the posture of prayer, but I clearly feel the deep chasm that separated my soul from the other souls gathered in the moment.
A couple of years ago, I had the humbling honor to midwife an open adoption. At that time, the two families and I worked on an entrustment ceremony that would surround the bare reality of the baby’s birth and raising with ritual. And while we never enacted that service, there were moments of grace all around as we put language on what it was that we were doing as two families became one through the life of one precious soul.
In this current climate, I wonder how often and where we entrust ourselves to another. We are hard-wired for connection, we crave the gifts of community, but it’s hard to put down our defenses and allow others to see and care for the broken, beautiful, vulnerable core of who we are. We have to find others who are worthy of our hearing our stories.
In those moments, when we can entrust ourselves to another, we catch a glimpse of the indwelling life of God – God whose own being is mutual love within the Trinity. It’s a fleeting reminder that God’s reign can come on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that we all might experience those entrusting moments.