By LINDA M. LINONIS
The power of prayer and its pivotal role in Christianity are the focus of midweek Lenten services being conducted by Pastor Bill Wessner at New Life Lutheran Church.
“Exercising Your Right to Pray” is theme of noon and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday services at the church at 1181 Church Hill-Hubbard Road. The theme was introduced Ash Wednesday; each succeeding Wednesday has focused on another theme.
Pastor Wessner said he selected the topic because prayer is so powerful but the right to pray has been challenged. For example, decades ago, prayer started the school day but legislation has eliminated school-approved prayer. The pastor noted students can exercise their right to pray at school on their own time.
Pastor Wessner said the midweek services examine different ways of prayer. The services are basically the same except that the evening one includes hymns.
On March 12, the prayer of the day, some of which are ancient, was discussed. It often relates to Scripture of the day.
Private-time prayer was the avenue explored on March 19. This is one-on-one with God.
This week, prayers related to the Eucharist. The service included a multi-petition prayer, asking “for the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord” and also “for public servants, the government, and those who protect us; for those who work to bring peace, justice.”
Pastor Wessner said the prayer may prompt participants to think about what “they’re grateful for” and change their list of “gimmes.”
The Eucharist is a gift from God. The pastor said since people received that from God, we should examine whether “we’re doing enough of the right thing.” “Are we silent when we should speak up?” he asked.
Pastor Wessner said he read a survey about three top phrases — “I love you” was first followed by “I forgive you” and “let’s eat.”
“People want most to hear ‘I love you,’” the pastor said. “‘I forgive you’ is the second phrase that people need to hear. “‘Let’s eat’ brings people together.
“The Eucharist is the heart of our faith,” he said. “It’s the prayer that God answered with Jesus.”
Pastor Wessner said the Last Supper was the first communion. “That meal transformed us into a community,” he said. “It shows how great God’s love is.”
Next Wednesday, the focus will be prayer with two or more people. “This is a spiritual exchange ... maybe a couple prays together or friends,” he said.
April 9 will conclude the series with prayers of the church. These prayers, the pastor said, usually involve a leader and responses by congregants. The petition might ask for protection of soldiers and for civilians to have “increased gratitude.”
Betty Stewart of Niles, a church member, said the midweek service “helps me get through the week.” “This is teaching me about different ways to pray,” she said. “It helps me to connect to prayer.”
Her friend, Lois Ferkan of Brookfield, also was in attendance. She worships at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Warren, part of Hope Parish. “This service is beneficial because you’re learning something.”
The services showcase avenues of prayer. “Lent is a time of preparation,” Pastor Wessner said. “In the early church, it was a time when converts learned about the faith and then were baptized at Easter. It’s not for a moment but for a lifetime.”