Last Sunday morning I was in Stockholm, Sweden, visiting a church, Elimkyrkan. The pastor was finishing a sermon on love in the Christian community. In the application, he emphasized how small groups can create and sustain a sense of community. That's when a thought popped into my head: You should definitely start the home Bible study you've been thinking about for months. This fall.

I took that as a Spirit-inspired thought, and resolved to do that when I returned to the States.

After the sermon, the pastor explained that, during the next hymn, prayer ministers would stand at the front of the sanctuary to pray for anyone who came forward. And then as the hymn began, another thought popped into my head: You should go up for prayer for the home Bible study you want to start.

That's when the wrestling began.

At my home church, I have availed myself of a prayer minister during worship. Every Sunday, many in our parish do the same. So it would not have been out of character of me to do so in this at Elimkyrkan.

Neither was language a barrier. The service was in Swedish, yes, but it was translated through headphones into English. And every Swede I met on this trip could converse in English. So I assumed that the prayer ministers would be able to communicate with me.

The problem was that no one in the congregation stepped forward. When I saw six prayer ministers walk to the front,  I figured that a slew of people would step up, but no such thing happened. I surmised that either no one felt moved to do so this morning, or that this was a new custom the pastoral staff was trying to introduce to the congregation.

In any event, I now squirmed. On the one hand, the urging to go forward for prayer was just as strong as the urge to start a ...

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In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is former editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
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