By Pastor Stephen Cloud

O God of creation and re-creation, whose Son is the one who makes all things hold together, and Whose Spirit hovered over nothingness in the beginning, I pray to you that you would bless and enliven Your church, Your chosen and gathered ones.

Help Your people, O Lord, rediscover their calling as a kingdom of priests. Ours is a ministry to intercede. Teach us the great virtue of praying for each other, praying for needs not just our own, but for others. Give us eyes not just with greater insight, but with greater compassion — to see the hurts and pains of others, to respond in service and to hold up in prayer these hurts to the One Who is the source of all healing.

Give us a keen eye for those who are most vulnerable — unborn ones, little ones, poor ones, the fatherless, the orphaned, the widowed, the elderly and the sick. And may our prayers be more for them and less for us.

Teach Your church, O Lord, the splendor of true worship, that our gathered praises are Your special delight. Help us to long for the beauty of Your holiness, the foretaste of glory divine that is ours in worship. Help us see there is a new song in the old hymn that proclaims a fullness of who You are and what You have done. Teach us that true praise that befits your majesty must engage not just our emotions, but also our minds and our hearts. Help us to long for a greater fullness in our partial praises.

Cause us to have circumcised hearts and ears. Hearts set apart, ears cut loose from faint echoes of false voices. Make us attuned to the whole truth of Your word. Teach us to express our love through quiet listening. Give us set apart ears that long only for Your word — sung, prayed, and preached. Help us listen also to ones closest to us —our wives, our children, and hear what they are really saying to us.

Purge us of past resentments. Wash away the residue of subsided rage that so often is reignited within us. Breathe deep within us a greater longing for deep repentance and the respite of reconciliation. Help us to let it go, and move beyond our self-centered grievances. Strip us bare of our gaudy garments of pride. Clothe us in gospel fashion with humility, grace, and peace.

Help us embrace simplicity of life. Teach us that new is not always improved or better. Help us to learn the innovation of doing more with less. In the midst of our vast busy-ness, slow us down. Help us to reject the cult of speed that so often grips us. Help us to know that time is Your creation. Help us to embrace the gain of godly contentment. Whether abounding or abased, help us see that we are blessed.

We suffer from both ignorance and amnesia; Teach us that to look ahead we must first see behind us and peer within the portals of the past. Give us a greater appreciation for past monuments and a clearer vision of the paths of tomorrow in which You want us to walk. AMEN!

This is from Pastor Cloud's booklet Shepherd: Pastoral Reflections on Preaching, Worship, and Ministry which is available upon request from Pastor Cloud.

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