I've written a blog post for "Opening the Bible" at i.ucc about Mark 12:38-44. It's the one we usually use to focus on giving not for show -- but out of love. I've focused on the first part -- Jesus disdain for the scribe's behavior when it comes to demanding respect and praying useless long prayers.
How many things do you think about during the 5+ minute "sermon prayers" that you often hear in church?
I'm definitely guilty of long praying. I'm a pastor. In case you didn't know it, we love to hear ourselves talk out loud (OK -- I can't speak for all pastors, but it is certainly true of me!) Sometimes . . . OK, often we get on a roll during those pastoral prayers and we turn it into a sermon meant to direct the people into what to think and do instead of talking to God.
I can rationalize it all I want. "There are so many prayer requests!" "The people want to hear their request in the pastoral prayer!" and other similar statements. But what is it about me that makes me think that me saying it is better than anyone else saying it -- out loud or silently?
Jesus spoke with disdain, in this week's reading from Mark 12:38-44, about the scribes who walk around with long robes (Bible trivia time! Joseph -- you know -- the "amazing technicolor dreamcoat" one -- really had a "long robe with sleeves". It was the same kind of robe the scribes wore to demand respect. I guess it's the same kind of robe pastors wear now. I hope we put them on with humility instead of pride!) and demand respect in the marketplace and then pray long prayers just to hear themselves speak.
Jesus then talked about a widow who, out of her poverty, offered all she had to the temple treasury. She did nothing for appearance. Instead she offered what she had out of love.
I think next week at church, instead of praying out loud, I'll ask the congregation to spend time praying silently. I know God hears our prayers no matter what form they take. And at least for one week, nobody will have to listen to me.