Friday, August 27, 2010

Prayer and the Church

Recently I received an email inviting me to an event called PRAYER2010. The note states that this event is "designed to invite the gifted intercessors from around the Lu­theran Church–Missouri Synod to come together in one place for a time of prayer and intercession for the advancement of the Kingdom of God on earth, the blessing of our LCMS and her leaders, the provision for our mis­sionaries to the nations, and to ask the Father’s blessing on LCMS congrega­tions, pastors and people as we pray 'Come Holy Spirit' to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify us in your truth. (Daniel 9-10)." It was sent by the Rev. Dr. Victor Belton, a member of the LCMS Board of Directors. According to the website of the LCMS he is a 1986 graduate of our St. Louis seminary, although the directory fails to list any doctorate, honorary or earned. A website devoted to Dr. Belton supplies a short biography, with scant reference to his education and again any reference to his doctoral accomplishments (although he is shown there in full academic apparel, doctoral robe and hood.) Apparently he and his church are active supporters of mission work in Africa, specifically the Sudan. Also, according to "LinkedIn" Pastor Belton involves himself in other business activities, such as being an area representative of "PewsPlus of Georgia," specializing in selling interior furnishings to churches, and "ID Theft Georgia" where he consults with companies who need to be compliant with FTC guidelines regarding identity theft in the workplace. He is a busy man for a parish pastor.

However, my interest involves more than Dr. Belton at this point. What concerns me regards the nature of prayer and the church, upon which perhaps readers of this blog may wish to comment. Now I am certainly not opposed to prayer, and most certainly not in the church. Prayer remains the very substance of our worship. Yet that contains a major point of my concern. For many years I have watched a variety of events rally for the express purpose of prayer alone, such as the one referenced above. Here they especially endeavor to gather together "gifted intercessors" to call upon God for his blessings. The event is limited to the first 25 who sign up.

Gifted intercessors? This expression confuses me. How is one "gifted" in prayer? Can some people pray more effectively than others? Does "giftedness" contribute to the nature of prayer? Where do we find this in Holy Scripture? Last night I gathered with around 20 people for our weekly Thursday service at my congregation for Vespers. Naturally the service, which was structured on prayer, concluded with the prayers of the church where we interceded for those in need. It never occurred to me whether I needed to be "gifted" to carry out this responsibility, or whether that would change the outcome or direction of our prayer. Why should we not simply call upon the Synod to remember its leaders in the prayers of their various corporate services where they naturally would intercede for those in need?

I may be mistaken, but doing a little searching on his sight led me to a link of a man who is decidedly charismatic/pentecostal. This man is referred to as an "apostle" and "a friend" of their ministry at Peace. I suspect that the above PRAYER2010 is another "renewal" event, similar to the many we used to see in "Renewal in Missouri" movement some years ago and now defunct.


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