Balancing Service with Prayer (Teachings of the Orthodox Church) Christianity. Orthodoxy. Catholicism. Sense of life. Articles for Christians.
“I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.                “You shall have no other gods before me.                “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.                “You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.                “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.                “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.                “You shall not murder.                “You shall not commit adultery.                “You shall not steal.                “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.                “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
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Balancing Service with Prayer (Teachings of the Orthodox Church)


Recently, a couple of members of our parish council asked if I was interested in being a council member or in serving on the Stewardship committee. I feel a little guilty for saying no, but I feel pulled toward prayer and meditation and learning about a deeper faith. In light of this, I'm not sure how to best serve the Church and, in particular, my parish at this time in my life. How is one to balance serving in the Church with prayer and meditation and learning?


It is only my personal opinion, but sometimes we are made to feel guilty -- and sometimes we make ourselves feel guilty -- if we are not engaging in all sorts of "activities" and "busy-ness" around parish communities, implying in some way that if we're not teaching Sunday School or counting the collection or slicing bagels or cutting the lawn that we are not "serving" the Church.

Implicit in this is the incorrect notion that praying, studying, meditating, struggling for "growth in life and faith and spiritual understanding" and "working out our salvation" are somehow secondary pursuits, or that those who merely pray and meditate and study are not "active" in the community or are not "pulling their weight."

What is unfortunate in such instances is that, while indeed there are those who are called to teach Sunday School or count collections or slice bagels or cut lawns, there are also those who are called to pray -- for the community, for the Church at large, for the growth of the parish, for those who teach and slice and mow lawns, for the clergy, for those who do not pray, and for those who have no one to pray for them. It is only my opinion, but there are those who are called to this "ministry" -- as opposed to "activity" or "busy-ness" for the sake of keeping busy or merely looking busy.

Saint Paul clearly teaches that there are many ways to serve God and others, that God has blessed each individual with particular gifts and talents "for the building up of the Body of Christ," and "so that in all things, God might be glorified." Some are called to teach; some are gifted to preach; others are blessed with musical talents, financial acumen, organizational skills -- all of which are important in the life of any parish community.

And I believe that there are those who are especially gifted to pray, to sit at the feet of the Lord, as did Mary, the sister of Lazarus, while others, using their gifts and talents, pursue teaching and slicing and mowing.

So, it is only my opinion, but we need to not only consider praying and studying and reflecting as a genuine ministry of the Church -- of even greater importance than collecting food for the needy -- as, without prayer, all of the other things are simply reduced to "busy-ness" for its own sake and "activity" for the sake of anything other than praising the Lord. The trick is to transform activity into ministry -- to slice the bagels for the sake of the other and as a way of "washing one another's feet" or to teach Sunday School not for the sake of "keeping busy" but for the sake of planting the heart of the Gospel -- a Gospel that hinges on prayer -- in the hearts and souls of others.

What I might suggest is that you engage in those things which are expected of everyone else in the parish community while using whatever talents and gifts God has given you to support those who have other talents and gifts and who fulfill other functions that help to make the faith community "whole, complete, and lacking in nothing."

Published - January 2011

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