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The Central Work of Prayer

Prayer is the first thing we talk about but the last thing we do.

The great baseball catcher Yogi Berra was involved in a ball game in which the score was tied, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The batter from the opposing team stepped into the batting box and made the sign of the cross on home plate with his bat. Berra was a Catholic too, but he wiped off the plate with his glove and said to the pious batter, ''Why don' t we let God just watch this game?" That is good theology when applied to the outcome of a baseball game. It is terrible theology when applied to the way we live our lives and carry out the work of the church. Worse than that, it is fatal.

But too often that is precisely the outlook we bring to our vocation as Christian elders, deacons, and pastors. God is in attendance at the game, but only as our honored spectator. Our prayers are merely ceremonial functions: tips of the hat, verbal recognition over the loudspeaker between innings, or requests to throw out the game ball. He even may have the best seat in the stadium, ...

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