Eugene Peterson on teaching how to Pray

he writes in his book The Pastor…. (142):

Up until then I had concluded that prayer was not something for which there was much of a market.  Wanting to serve my congregation on their terms, I kept my prayers to myself and did what I was asked.  Marilyn’s “Would you teach me to pray?” was a breakthrough.  I reflected on the irony: the work that I was most equipped for, that I most wanted to do, what most pastors for most of our twenty centuries of working in congregations expected to do and did, was not expected of me.  Until Marilyn asked.

An inner resolve began forming within me: I was not going to wait to be asked anymore.  In the secularizing times in which I am living, God is not taken seriously.  God is peripheral.  God is nice (or maybe not so nice) but not at the center.  When people want to help with their parents or children or emotions, they do not ordinarily see themselves as wanting help with God.  But if I am going to stay true to my vocation as a pastor, I can’t let the “market” determine what I do.  I will find ways to pray with and for people and teach then to pray usually quietly and often subversively when they don’t know I am doing it.  But I’m not going to wait to be asked. I am a pastor.

Last I checked this is called intentional discipleship (or perhaps a kind of spiritual direction) and it is the responsibility of pastors (and probably most Christians) to engage their congregations and or brothers and sisters in the Lord in this action of intentional discipleship (it is part of loving one another), which is not on their terms, but in the leading of the Spirit and with an eye to what is needed to help people grow in their relationship and understanding of God.   Obviously intentional discipleship is a process that takes time as does anything else and of course we should operate in grace and mercy but at the same time should be done with some degree of purpose and intentionality!

Thanks Eugene Peterson for this memoir!

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