The past few weeks and days, we have been asked to pray for the coming General Synod. And pray we shall!
As I’ve been praying the various prayers provided (click here), and extemporaneous prayers of my own, I’ve been reminded of a conversation I had with a Jewish friend a number of years ago.
We had been overheard having religious dialogue by some rather fervent Christians, who approached my friend, convinced they would convert her by their prayers. The prayers had been said in earnest, but had been more about the desire of the pray-ers to have my friend convert than about letting the Holy Spirit move and direct the spiritual life of my friend. The pray-ers were actually disappointed when their words did not instigate an immediate change of religion for the person standing in front of them. My friend graciously thanked them for their prayers, and they moved on.
Our conversation continued; I was impressed by her response to these two strangers who had not even wanted to learn her name, just to save her soul.
It was a beautiful learning moment for me; I know that not everyone would receive such an experience so gracefully. Since then, I try to remember to keep my own preferences and desires to a minimum, trying to engage the divine and discern God’s plan. It’s not always easy.
While the pray-ers that day did have the best intentions, their prayers were about fulfilling their own mission. The pray-ers trusted they were doing the right thing, but they had ignored some very basic realities; they had not engaged in any form of dialogue with us, they simply interrupted with their agenda. Their prayers were from their experience and understanding of how God worked, which was presumed to be the only right way, and it left little room for the movement of the Spirit to nourish and inspire us all. And their prayers focused on their personal actions directing the work of God as they understood it, instead of discerning what God was doing within the time and space and responding to the call.
So this conversation has permeated my prayers recently as I pray for General Synod. I pray that the experience of General Synod will not be about what any one person wants an outcome to be, but a faithful expression of what God is willing the church into. I pray that the movement of the Holy Spirit will be tangible, and regularly invoked. I pray that the discussions will be God-focused and grace-filled, a real expression of Christ’s love active among us all. I pray that everyone attending the Synod will feel God’s presence individually and corporately.
And I pray that all who are at General Synod will know and feel that they are being held in prayer by the rest of the church, during their travels and the synod; a gentle holding in the space of ourselves—prayers that are a movement of the heart, without agenda, with thanks for their service.