“There can be no doubt that this ministry of intercession certainly involves prayer, but prayer without diakonia is not true prayer, even as diakonia without prayer is not true diakonia. Authentic intercession also involves a struggle against evil, identification with those who are estranged and alienated, and an ‘argument’ with God on behalf of those who have become disenfranchised from God, from human community and from creation.” (The Service of Intercession – posted by Jason Goroncy)
This quote reminded me of the engagement so vital to the work of elder. We pray. The spiritual life of others whom we are called to serve is lived in the context of experiences. When we are asked to pray for others it is precisely because of their experiences and desires. Often troubling. Sickness. Natural calamities. Money woes. Risky adventures. Concern for children. Our dreams and requests are often pleas for shalom to come - for people to experience well-being and blessing in the context of their lives.
But what good is it to say (paraphrasing James 2:16) “I will pray for you” when we do not provide the support which is within our means. Sometimes we are the answer to the prayer. Service and prayer are joined. Work against evil is joined with prayer against evil. Prayer support is joined with other supports. Concern for the spiritual well-being of others joins prayer and service together.
We know this. Yet it seems to me we need to be reminded. Elders are called to a life of prayer. But prayer invites us into a life of engagement – a struggle against evil, support for those in particular struggles, hospitality to the estranged, tangible encouragement to the disappointed. In other words, building the kingdom of God, by the spirit of God, in the lives of people and communities with the resources God has provided.
As we prepare for a new season of work in the community, our prayers need to be support by a workplan that supports our prayers. Our deepest wishes for the mission of God in our community needs actions that accompany our prayers. Just answering the question: how can we be the answer to our prayers may stimulate us in the right direction.
The rest we leave to God who hears the groaning of our hearts.