Sunday, February 18, 2007

Stand Up for Jesus. And Up. And Up.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I love my church, so my grumbling is born out of affection. It’s still grumbling, but at least I’m qualifying it! (Smile)

Okay, so I’m going to start by berating myself.

How dare I complain about having to stand for a very long time during a very long prayer on Sunday morning!

Don’t I know what believers in foreign countries, in persecuted countries, have to go through in order to worship God in a congregational setting?

Don’t I know that, in the past, believers stood for the entire service while the pastor sat down to preach?

Don’t I know the important thing is the prayer and not my selfish reaction to having to stand up for an e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d amount of time?

Yes, I do. I DO, OKAY! I do.

It’s just that…we aren’t believers in a foreign country. As a church, we even went through a long debate on whether or not to purchase padded chairs over our beat-up metal folding ones. We decided to purchase the new chairs. This morning, except for the message, my bottom barely had the chance to graze the seat.

Our pastor is exceptionally gifted by God. He prays, preaches, and teaches to glorify God. His expositions are soul-stirring and heart rendering. And one of things we have enjoyed about our church is the sincerity, the dead-on doctrine, and the unapologetic approach to the Word of God.

Pastor can pray eloquently, brutally, or just cry out emotionally to God as he brings our gathering into congregation prayer on Sunday mornings. The result of this pouring out is often that the Sunday morning prayer can exceed up to fifteen minutes.

And somewhere, for some reason, it was decided that we, as a congregation, should stand for the entire prayer.

Sometimes, it’s not so bad. The prayer is a reasonable amount of time. But more often than not, I find myself distracted by the pain in my legs or feet or the rhythmic tapping of the Sunday shoe perched on the child in front of me.

But today’s prayer was l-o-n-g.

By the middle of the prayer, four older women had been forced to sit down. My own husband, suffering from labor intensive back strain, had to relent from the strain of standing up. The brand-new-to-our-church teenager standing next to me kept muttering, “Sheesh, when are we going to sit down?” She even asked her mother (in a not-so-low whisper) that very question mid-prayer.

I had started out the prayer in high spirits. Glad to be in church. Enjoying the prayer. By the middle, I found myself having to focus on each word, so as not to lose concentration. By the end, I had stepped out of my high heel shoes. I shifted from one numb leg to the other.

I found myself listening to the bordering-on-swearing muttering of the teenager at my side. The little kid in front of me was dancing back in forth in tappy Sunday shoes and staring intently at me. Three more people had succumbed to the lure of seats behind them.

I don’t remember what was said after the middle of the prayer. My mind had shifted, despite my best efforts, to other things, mainly the fact that my calves were on fire.

When Pastor finally sounded the Amen, there was a whoosh of relief as we all stumbled backwards to our seats in relief. The teenager, now my comrade-in-arms, muttered “Finally!” and expressed my very own emotion.

Not five minutes later, we were back on our feet for five sing-every-verse song. I didn’t dare look at my teenager, as I was afraid I might burst out laughing at her murderous expression.

Okay, so there I’ve said it.

Remember, I berated myself for being so very selfish to think of my physical being during such a sacred time. I know. I’m a horrible person.

Still, being berated, even it’s by myself, is infinitely more pleasant when I’m sitting down.


Heidi said...

I was one of those people who sat down. I physically cannot stand for long periods of time, especially after being on my feet for an hour and a half to serve breakfast. I find myself having contractions and back pain (for those who read this and don't know, I am 38 weeks pregnant today).
I am not complaining, as prayer is a very good and important aspect of worship, and it does make our church unique. It does however get difficult at times when my husband is ushering and I have to control 2 3 year olds who are also standing.

Anonymous said...

You know, I would have to say, sit down girl! It's no sin to sit and pray... kneel even; you've heard of that tradition right? =) But I hear you... You might consider that it would be better to sit and concentrate on the prayer without distraction than to stand and not be able to hear it.