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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

How's your prayer life these days?

For you who are now several months into your internship, has it changed any? I was thinking about you (a common occurrence) this week. It was Thanksgiving weekend, which quickly moves into the Advent-Christmas season. Last year, for most of you this season meant moving from one break to another. Family, friends, feasts, down-time from classes. This year? Well, your life is probably more like breakneck speed than break time.

A person with a gift for gross over-simplification once said that (despite the myriad variations on the themes) there are two varieties of prayer: "Thanks!" and "Help!" We've spent these past day focused on "Thanks!" And now things are speeding up toward Advent and Christmas and annual meetings and Lent, and it might feel more like "Help!" as you plunge into these wonderful but over-full days of ministry and life.

For a pastor or intern, the rhythms of this season are different from most folks. If you've been a student all your life, typically looking forward to a relaxing break with family over the holidays, these next few weeks might feel a bit overwhelming or disorienting. All the more reason to be constant in prayer.

How's your prayer life these days? Are you praying virtuoso variations on both the "Thanks!" and "Help!" themes?

You likely have no shortage of people, relationships, and ministry experiences in your life to trigger the prayers of "Thanks!" Have you noticed? There are mysterious, powerful ministry experiences in your own life for which you could be praying "Thanks!" In addition there are all sorts of new-to-you people to include in your prayers of thanks: people in the pews, colleagues in ministry, new friends and acquaintances, your internship committee, all incarnate catalysts for "Thanks!"

But it isn't only your "Thanks!" prayer life that has probably been expanded and enriched. Your "Help!" prayer life may be getting a workout, too. You are now praying formally for the list of parishioners each week who are hospitalized or struggling with life challenges. In various ways, you pray "Help!" on their behalf. You are surely including ministries in your community and around the world in your prayers, many of which you were blissfully unaware of until recently. Your intercessory "Help!" prayers have expanded, I trust. But then, as you look at the demands and opportunities of ministry, you're probably praying "Help!" more fervently on your own account, too. Ministry isn't easy.

I hope your "Help!" prayer life is expanding. It's only by the grace of God that any of us lives out the calling to serve as a pastor. But God will walk this journey with you, as promised. And as you experience that gracious presence, your "Thanks!" prayer life will expand as well.

"Help!" and "Thanks!" It's a wonderful rhythm. Blessings as you live it out.

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