A former worship professor of mine wrote a great (if slightly ranting) blog post the other day about the theological and practical difference between “Will you join me in prayer?” and “Let us pray.” That post sparked a lot of Facebook discussion, which prompted her to post three other really good blog posts. If you’re like me, you’ll like a lot of what she writes (or at least it will make you think), so you should just check her blog out.
That whole discussion has stayed with me. Some of those who mentioned not liking “Let us pray” noted that it is a command. Although the language technically is one of invitation, I can see why people experience it as more command-like. But it has me thinking about authority.
This morning, as I was doing yoga, my online video teacher repeatedly said things like, “please go into warrior pose” or “if you want to, join me in this pose.”
This evening in German class, my teacher asked us about every 10 minutes what we wanted to do in the class or if we liked the exercise we were doing or if we would rather do something different and what we would rather do.
And all that has me thinking again about authority.
There are times when I want (dare I say, we want?) to have someone lead me (us?) with a firm (though not tyrannical) hand. There are times when I voluntarily give authority to my yoga instructor and my German teacher, and I want them to tell me what to do next.
Sometimes I think we in certain segments of the church shoot ourselves in the foot by shying away from taking authority or allowing others to have that kind of authority.
Don’t get me wrong — I know of many ways that power has been and continues to be abused, inside the church and outside of it. But we do ourselves and other church members a disservice, I think, if we allow that abuse of power to be our only example of leadership and power — if we give up understandings of authoritative speech altogether, leaving them only to those who pervert those understandings for selfish ends.
I am convinced that there is place for loving direction and voluntary submission.
So maybe… maybe “Let us pray,” is an expression among many possible expressions of that kind of loving direction, exercised for a particular time, granted by the calling of God and the assent of the people, voluntarily submitted to by others, and held accountable to Christ and Christ’s body.