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Reed column: A prayer partner is much needed

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name óthe name you gave me ó so that they may be one as we are one.”
ó John 17:11
Her name was Mary Ann. She was a member of a parish I served in South Carolina. Homebound because of health and alone due to the death of her husband, she shared her story with me upon my first visit with her to bring Holy Communion.
“I miss my church,” she said. “Do you know that I was a member of the Altar Guild for 50 years? Caring for the paraments and the altar cloths was such a privilege. And I always loved teaching the first-graders. You know, I can’t begin to count the children who came through my classroom. I even taught many of their parents in the old parish education building.”
After pausing for a moment, she added, “Pastor, I was so involved in the life of this church. But look at me now. I’m unable to take care of myself and I rarely leave the house.
“It hurts not being able to do something for my church.”
When we feel inadequate and lacking in gifts, God empowers us to lift up others through the ministry of prayer.
When I think of people like Mary Ann and other faithful servants in our congregations who cannot physically serve in the manner they have been accustomed to, I realize that their willingness to pray for all the baptized may be the most needed gift of all.
We need those who will pray for all who teach and lead, sing and cook, sew and clean. We need people who will pray for children and adults, the abused and sick, pastors and lay people.
Maybe, we simply need someone to lift up our ministries to God on our behalf.
“Mary Ann,” I responded, “There is a gift you can offer. The gift of prayer. There are people in this congregation who need prayers. People in this neighborhood need your prayers. Mary Ann, I need your prayers.
“Will you make that your new ministry?”
Thankfully, she said yes.
In his final prayer before the crucifixion, Jesus models for us in John chapter 17 the power of intercessory prayer. Acknowledging what God has done, Jesus intercedes beautifully on behalf of the disciples and asks for their unity and protection in the midst of a hostile world.
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus, who is on the road to his own crucifixion, takes time to pray for those who are his partners in ministry? The prayer ministry of Jesus is intentional and compassionate. That is a healthy model for our life with God and others.I thank God for the Mary Anns of the world who see it as their ministry to pray for others: people looking for jobs, struggling with health, wrestling with faith, or trying to mend a relationship. Truly, they are our prayer partners.
nnnThe Rev. Ken Reed is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, China Grove.

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