Manuscript Preacher

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: you always resist the Holy Spirit!” – Acts 7:51-52a

“I hate the Prayers of the People,” I confessed to my co-pastor. 

To be clear, I didn’t hate people’s prayers. I hated leading that part of the service. Each week I’d write what I thought was a decent prayer and work in the joys and concerns folks raised. But it always felt disconnected. My words sounded wooden.

“Why don’t you try it without something written down,” she suggested.

Extemporaneous public prayer. The thought made me want to puke. I know, your ministers do it regularly and with ease. Good for them! I like to have my script in front of me. I want to choose my words carefully, get my thoughts clear, edit and revise. That’s why I write for the Daily Devotional!

The next Sunday, as I descended the chancel stairs, I looked around for the closest vessel to hurl into. What stupid things was I about to say? How awkward would my pauses be? Would I find words at all?

And of course I did. Find words. And pause awkwardly. And say stupid things.

I also listened harder than I had been and connected more deeply to my neighbors and to God. And stopped hating the Prayers of the People.

The Holy Spirit is a famous supplier of words, especially when we think we have none. She’s always been good to me. But I have to listen. I have to connect.

Each week, as the nausea overtakes me, I hope I’m practicing my nonresistance. I hope to be ready when the Spirit speaks in me.


Hey there God, uh…um, a little help here?

dd-vinceamlin.jpgAbout the Author
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.