The Rev had a weekend off and finding it exhausting to be in his own congregation when he’s not working, planned to visit the congregation of a minister he met in one of his many minister’s conferences, the Reverend Display.
The Reverend Display is outwardly a good man, he certainly knows how to talk the talk and is a friend and confidant to many in the minister’s circles that the Rev dips his toes into, albeit begrudgingly. Sadly, from the Rev’s perspective that is, the Reverend Display has no follow through. It appeared on this visit and previous interactions with him that he is just talk and putting on an appearance. There is little action or anything of any substance that marks the Reverend Display’s ministry as anything more than a show. The congregation volume is thanks only to his wife who actually does anything; that and his lovable personality and use of long words which means he must be clever.
In the service, the Reverend Display began to pray.
As organised as the Rev’s systematic filing, the prayer consisted of all that one would expect to here in a prayer. Respect for God’s position, confession of sin (not anything specific, just that the congregation is made up of sinners), the government (that they would make wise decisions; the Rev applies Jeremiah 11:14 here because the government never makes wise decisions), missionary partners out in the field, evangelism in the church (i.e. that through chance, not based on any evangelism the church did as they did none, someone would become a Christian) and finally for the sick, especially the Reverend Retired’s wife.
After the service, the Rev happened to overhear a conversation between the Reverend Display and the Reverend Retired, the former minister of the church. The Reverend Retired enjoys his retirement by looking after his wife who has advanced dementia while he himself copes with a dodgy hip.
The Reverend Retired thanked the Reverend Display for the prayer for his wife. He went on with a request, “I would like to ask if you would be able to come and pray with us at home sometime.” “I would love to help you but I don’t feel that my gifts are best used for this” responded the Reverend Display. “I have been called to teach, not to pastor and so I think someone else in the church (without naming anybody specifically, because he doesn’t know) would be better placed to pray with you both. Make sure you put it in the church bulletin if God answers your prayers though.”
It brought to the Rev’s mind the passage from Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” The Rev has a tendency to see tenuous links between a version and a situation. This is one of them. It is a poor application of the text, but the Rev wondered whether praying for something you have no interest in attempting to do yourself is akin to the inconsistency of a hypocrite.
The Rev left the church a little depressed by what he witnessed. But he learnt that he will resolve to never ask God for anything he is blatantly unwilling to try to do himself. And he will continue to ask for grace to change his heart so that he would want to do more.