I’ve tried to make a habit of walking and praying for our “parish,” the neighborhoods around the church. Our parish is pretty unique. My walk takes me through Wofford College, government subsidized housing, abandoned properties occupied by the homeless, VCOM med school, the county courthouse and offices, newly renovated and rehabilitated homes, and several ministries and churches serving the needs of the community. On one of my walks I stopped to pray with folks at a ministry that provides fresh produce at reduced costs to people with limited access to grocery stores. I thought I would stop, spend a few minutes in prayer, and head on my way. But when I walked in the door, there were about ten people packing boxes of food. When I announced that I was there to pray, my friend Rabbi Andy from the Messianic Jewish Synagogue, handed me a produce bag and said, “Here. Pray with your hands.”
That phrase has stuck with me. I confess that I often opt to pray from a distance rather than taking the time to engage with the people for whom I’m praying. But as John says, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). It’s how Jesus loves us, not just with words but all the way to the cross. Love enters in. Word made flesh. And so for us to be the body of Christ as his Church, we must love as he has loved. We must pray with our hands.
I took the bag from Rabbi Andy, and we spent the next hour packing six apples to a bag while praying for the people who would receive them. It felt inconvenient at first, but there was a joy and sense of community among the people serving together. I was privileged to share that time praying and laboring with them.
I feel the Lord’s invitation to us as a church to pray with our hands. It means that we have to let go of our agendas at times in order to be present. Sometimes we do the behind the scenes, unappreciated work. Sometimes we may go places where we’re uncomfortable. But it is our privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s our privilege to pray with our hands.