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Beware The Prayer Simplifiers

Church leaders can't diminish the complexities of prayer; they can only be companions to those engaged in its difficulty.

When pastors leave the pulpit on Sunday, we don't, overnight, turn into humanists on Monday. Our Sunday prayers and preaching don't recede into serving as only a vague and wispy background for the "real" work of helping people.

Nor do we, during the week, collar all the people we meet and lead them to the altar to "get right with God."

There are some, of course, who do go to one of these extremes; who apart from their pulpits, having left all biblical ballast behind, plunge with great good will into the sea of human need; or who apart from their pulpits are incapacitated for any work at all except that of repeating snatches of their Sunday sermon to whomever they might meet. Biblical pastoral work, though, is not permitted to disfigure ministry with such extremes.

Pastoral work refuses to specialize in earthly or heavenly, human or divine. The pastor is given a catholic cosmos to work in, not a sectarian back-forty. But how do we build a smooth, coherent bridge from Sunday at eleven o'clock ...

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