Year of Prayer June Prayer Practice: Community Prayer
While most the of the prayer practices we have explored thus far focus on individual spirituality, the church is at its essence a community. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, literally means assembly or gathering. This month we are going to focus on prayer practices that support community. In this case we are not talking about communal prayers, or those prayers that we say together in assembly, but about practices and attitudes that lead us to deepen and strengthen our identity as a community of God.
Daniel Wolpert in Creating a Life with God
uses St. Benedict as a model for creating a community of prayer. Benedict set up rules for his order of monks. In his community, prayer infused everything, from individual contemplative prayer to scrubbing the kitchen floor. He identifies a number of qualities that cultivate community. These include humility, obedience, empowerment, listening, prayer, relationship, stability, work, and poverty. Some of the qualities are particularly relevant in a monastic community, but each of them can be instructive for creating community in our own church.
Each week we will focus on a particular attribute that will involve self-examination and practice. The lectionary readings from John in the month of May focused on creating a community of love and service to one another. Jesus’ commandment to love one another requires intentional obedience, as our human natures often lead us toward resentment and division. Humility is necessary to overcome our egos that often get in the way of relationships. To be in genuine relationship with one another, we must be honest, both speaking and listening in love. A relationship requires commitment and stability—the willingness to continue to be there for each other when things become tense. Working together side by side for a common cause helps people to overcome differences of demographics and ideology. The monastic vow of poverty reminds us that God calls us away from attachment to material goods and focusing on the values of the kingdom of God.
A loving, serving, honest, and humble community is an empowered community. It is a community that embodies the values that Jesus impressed upon his followers. A life of prayer shapes our efforts to live out that community and to grow as disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Lord, make us who you want us to be.
Susan Haddox, Lay Leader