"Prayers of the People: a Prayer for the General Assembly"

Richard C. Powers

from the pulpit of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas

June 8, 1997

[Moderator's Note: Westminster Presbyterian Church, Dallas, is the church in which I learned the riches of the Reformed Tradition and the wanderings and reconciliations - through the Grace of God - of Presbyterian History, and in which I found new and wonderful insights into Biblical teachings and the joy of Christian love among Christian friends. It was there that I was ordained. It will always hold a special place in my heart. We did not always agree there, but we did always show love and respect for one another in the Spirit of Christ. It seems fitting, therefore, that a special prayer for the General Assembly flow forth from its pulpit in these times of anticipation.]

Jesus was inside the house teaching, and (Mark 3:32) "a crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.'" And so we are, as the people of God, seemingly always on the outside asking for You, the Christ, who is on the inside where we are excluded.

Perhaps we romanticize you, Jesus, making you someone and placing you somewhere we cannot be admitted. You are the man of faith, and we are children lost in the wilderness of urban life. You are the strong son of God, and we are students of this philosophy and that - thrown about from pillar to post, not knowing where we stand. You are the chosen One at baptism and in Resurrection to sit on the Father's right hand, and we are the sheep of the pasture who are afraid of running water and roaming wolves. Why are you always on the inside, and we are always outside?

So we bring ourselves in prayer this day to knock on the door you are behind in order to ask for the way, the truth, and the life. For you are the Shepherd, and without your direction, we do not know where we are heading. We visit the doctor and are reminded of our age and infirmities. We play with our children, only to realize that we are now the parents. We save for our grandchildren's education, and it dawns on us that much of our own life has been consumed. We are no longer young with an endless future before us, like the pioneers who once thought the American forest and clear streams would go on forever westward. Lay your staff upon us this moment as we pray - and lead us in the way which is everlasting.

For we lay before you the work of our lives. We lay before you the work of the General Assembly as it meets June 14 to further the kingdom as best it knows how. As it is challenged from all fronts, give grace to the commissioners steadily and repeatedly to knock on the door you are behind and petition for entry into a life which is Life indeed - into smart decisions which come from a wisdom beyond their wilderness - and for a maturity of vision which emanates from inside where You are. Bring Your church in from the cold and give us a life and ministry which is absorbent of the warmth of the hearth and not the icy chill of estrangement and exclusion.

Then at last we pray, Lord Jesus, for the day to come quickly when You walk out of the house we call religion, and into the sunshine of a bright new day, and there gather around You all who would join You in the fields and pastures where we do live and do serve the Creator of opennness and light, and every fig tree rises up straight to honor You, and every domestic animal lumbers home in the evening to partake of the Master's comfort and protection. If we cannot come into the house, then You leave it and come to us where we are today: in sick beds and troubled homes, in stressed offices and small churches where we live under your grace and care, You the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Lord of the church, and ultimate Judge of faithfulness and truth.

Come now Lord Jesus for we pray as you taught... Our Father,...


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