Through the Prayers of Many

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” - 2 Corinthians 1:11 (ESV).

 

I remember (with a twinge of pain) sitting in a seminary Greek class and struggling through the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 with five other classmates. Progress was slow - one step forward, two steps back. Finally, one classmate suggested that we just stop and pray, but we should do so in the manner of verse 11. In other words, five of us in the group should pray together for the sixth member - then rotate around the group and do the same for another member. In this way, each member of the group would be prayed for by five others. “Through the prayers of many,” so to speak. We gave it a go and, sure enough, we were able to make progress and finish the interpretation. What we were left with was more than a solution to an academic exercise, rather it was a potent reminder of the value and necessity of prayer.

The ESV translation of 2 Cor. 1:11 hints of a desperate plea – as though Paul is saying, “We can’t do this without you – we absolutely must have your prayers.” And as I look back over my pathway to ordination as a priest I see the importance of having been the recipient of the continual, sustaining prayers of so many.

As a young boy my great grandmother told me that she prayed for me to be “un parroco” (Italian, for a parish priest). In my early days as an Elder in a Presbyterian church, two retired pastors prayed that the Holy Spirit would make clear to me the call to pastoral ministry. Throughout my time in seminary, my family, pastors, professors, and fellow seminarians all prayed for me. Long-time friends emailed, texted and sent cards and letters to tell me they were praying for me. Local friends did the same, even laying hands on me in prayer, as did members of my church. I was prayed for before, during, and after my ordination exams by the Ordination Preparation Team. Throughout my year as a deacon I was greatly encouraged by several vocational deacons who exemplified their ministry of prayer. I was also continually held up in prayer by my family, my church, my rector, and my bishop, as well as the priests and deacons in my Anglican Missional Pastors clergy group.

“Through the prayers of many” - indeed!

The ordination service for a priest includes the Examination, in which vows are made with the response, “I will, the Lord being my helper.” How wonderfully often the tangible evidence of the Lord’s help comes through human agents who encourage, exhort, and guide us by their prayers to God on our behalf! I thank God that my pathway to priesthood has been so blessed and formed “through the prayers of many.”