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The following was written in support of Church Alive, a focus of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, that explores the meaning and possibilities of awakening to the spiritual basis and impact of Church.
Prayer for the congregation
For me, prayer for the congregation is the core reason we come to church services. It’s obvious that on Sundays we could all read the Christian Science Bible Lesson at home, and even research hymns, Scriptural citations, and benedictions (but praise the Lord for our willing Readers who do that work!). Yet, the church service gives us the opportunity to listen to the Word of God together. What brings church services alive is committing to Mary Baker Eddy’s directive that “the prayers in Christian Science churches shall be offered for the congregations collectively and exclusively” (Church Manual, p. 42).
It’s such a holy thing when you feel the impetus to join church and be part of the outreaching work of sharing Christian Science with the community. But to me what authenticates that outreach is the willingness to love those who are already connecting with our services. One might say that learning to love those among us is a way of preparing us to reach beyond our borders.
That said, I have to admit I find praying for the congregation one of the hardest disciplines because it’s so easy to get distracted in ways that are self-centered. The malicious influence of animal magnetism would have us preoccupied with our own needs, the demands of the day, and fussing about things in the future. But, Aha! Prayer for the congregation is a rescue from self-absorption—that indeed is a most precious gift of our commitment to church services.
I have to admit I find praying for the congregation one of the hardest disciplines because it’s so easy to get distracted in ways that are self-centered.
The key for me to pray for the congregation is starting before I get there. Remember in Bible days how the folks had to bring a sacrifice to the temple in order to enter into the sanctuary? What if we thought of our contribution as something more than the money we put in the collection bag? Could our most vital gift to the congregation be an inspiration from our own prayer and study that week? It could be a Bible verse, or an absolute statement of Truth found in our study, or when giving a treatment, or just a Christly quality that we are yearning to cultivate in our character.
Whatever important inspiration I’ve had each week, I use it to lavish love on the congregation. This is another gift from committing to church services—you pay even more attention to what angel messages you’ve had that have been important to you.
I’m eager to learn from my fellow church attendees and would like to hear from our wide church family on how they’ve been working to nurture their congregations through prayer at church services.
About the author
Lois Carlson is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Chicago, Illinois.
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