Monday, August 31, 2009

Prayer in Perspective, Introduction-Part 1

This begins a series centered on what has traditionally been called, "The Lord's Prayer" but which, as many have pointed out, should more accurately be referred to a the disciples' prayer.

This introduction to my first Plumbline series is an appropriate place to let my readers--both of you--know what my "credentials" are and what authority, if any, I bring to this blogging space. I have been seeking to know God and follow the Lord Jesus since 1972. That, in itself, gives me no claim to any special insight, but it does mean that I have been trying for these past 37 years to understand the ways of God more clearly and to apply his Truth to my life as I am able and as I grow in knowledge, love and obedience.

I began my life of Christian discipleship in a very new non-denominational congregation which was an outreach of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was greatly influenced by the teachings of Chuck Smith. I began leading a home Bible study in Corona, CA in about 1975 and have been teaching small group studies ever since. I left Calvary Chapel Riverside to start Calvary Chapel of Chino CA and was pastor there from 1977 to 1984. In addition to pastoring a small congregation of about 80 members, I was a police and prison chaplain. Shortly after leaving the ministry at Chino, I worked for about a year-and-a-half for Gene Scott in Glendale CA. From there I moved to San Diego where I worked as a security guard for the next thirteen years (I interpret this as a period "in the wilderness"). In about 1990 I served for a year as a full-time staff chaplain in the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation program. In the summer of 2000, I was hired by First Presbyterian Church of San Diego to be director of their charity program called Ladle Fellowship. This is a soup-kitchen style ministry to the homeless and poor in downtown San Diego. I have worked there in this capacity for the past nine years.

As far as "official" ministry credentials, mine are sketchy, skimpy and of little merit. I was first ordained as a pastor by Maranatha Evangelical Association (MEA) in 1977. At that time MEA had no formal academic criteria for ordination. Their ministry philosophy mirrored that of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa which, at that time was that, if one were pastoring and a community of believers was following that person's teaching, then MEA would recognize that person as being gifted as a pastor/teacher and so would issue a certificate and little wallet card which identified on as a Maranatha ordained minister. Thirty-two years later, although I still have the little wallet card, I cannot find that this organization is still in existence and so do not know where my MEA Ordination really stands as of today. With my Ladle Fellowship ministry responsibilities, which occasionally require me to make hospital visits to homeless people and others, I saw the need for ordination with some group currently in existence. From a ministry friend I heard about American Evangelical Christian Churches. They ordain independent chaplains and others who don't fit in any of the usual formal categories of ministry in mainline churches and para-church ministries. I applied online, explaining my background and current ministry and, after some back-and-forth correspondence, they granted me an ordination as chaplain. The most use I get from this designation is that, when I go to visit someone at UCSD Medical Center, I can park in one of the spaces marked, "reserved for clergy" and so don't have to pay to park. It is a nice and convenient perk which I am grateful to be able to use. I also conduct weddings and funerals from time to time.

Well, in this post I had hoped to jump right into the depth of the first word, "Our" which launches and colors all that follows in the prayer the Lord Jesus gave his disciples as the pattern for all true and effective praying. But I see I have used all my available time for this blogging session. It is 9:50p.m. and so I must go get the rest I need as I prepare for my work week. At my very next opportunity I will begin to share some thoughts on the meaning of "our" as Jesus used it in his famous prayer.