Before a sermon. At the end of a sermon. At the end of a worship service. At the beginning of a meeting. Before a meal.
I hear it all the time.
It happened twice last night at the worship service I attended. The pastor said, “Before we dive in/close/eat/you-fill-in-the-blank/ let me pray real quick.”
Why do you think that’s gotten to be a thing?
Are we afraid we might seem too Jesusy if we didn’t assure folks that it would be “real quick”?
Are we afraid God might get bored and stop listening?
Or are we afraid that people might get bored and leave before we get to the “main event”?
It reminds me of a doctor saying “Now this won’t hurt a bit. It will be over before you know it.”
We don’t want to cannonball into the deep end. Just a painless shallow dive before we get to the real fun.
When people say “Before we ______ let me pray real quick.” I feel like it’s more like they’re waving a fairy wand over the frog in front of us instead of being aware of talking to the Lord and Creator of the universe.
I had a professor in seminary who was different. He didn’t ever say he was going to pray “real quick”, but he also didn’t go on and on, enamored with the sound of his own voice and the importance of the words he chose.
Instead, when he prayed his whole countenance changed. His voice became soft and clearly in awe. We strained and leaned forward to get in on his child-like, tiptoeing into the presence of the Abba he clearly adored and revered.
Eugene Peterson writes about this:
One of the indignities to which pastors are routinely subjected is to be approached, as a group of people are gathering for a meeting or meal, with the request, “Reverend, get things started for us with a little prayer, will ya?”
It would be wonderful if we would counter by bellowing William McNamara’s fantasized response: “I will not! There are no LITTLE prayers! Prayer enters the lion’s den, brings us before the holy where it is uncertain whether we will come back alive or sane, ‘for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God’.”
My gifted professor, who never prayed “real quick”, or real loud, or thoughtlessly, died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 52.
As I picture him with Jesus now it’s with the posture of a grateful child. And neither of them are in a hurry to end the conversation.