Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
St. Augustine once wrote, “There are three types of life: the contemplative, the active, and the contemplative-active. People can live the life of faith in any of these but everyone must make time both to seek the truth through contemplation and perform the actions that charity demands” (City of God, 19.19) I would slightly change Augustine’s language to say that there are three types of life for Christians: the prayerful, the server, and the prayerful-server. It is a tremendous element of our faith that we get to be in communion with God not only through our prayer, but also in our service of others.
Even with this threefold understanding of faithful living there is a temptation to elevate one over the other without seeking a balance of both. No one should be so totally committed to prayer that they neglect the needs of the community and no one should be so absorbed in serving others that he/she gives up praying to the Lord.
Both serving and prayer are intimately connected in the life of discipleship. Throughout my years of faith I have met delightful prayer-warriors that are committed to bring their joy and concerns to the Lord but as soon as they are asked to serve those in need they quickly receded into the shadows. Likewise I have had the pleasure of going on a number of mission trips with young and old Christians alike who worked tremendously hard for the kingdom but as soon as they were asked to pray about their experience they also quickly receded into the shadows.
It is a difficult challenge to keep both types of life together in such a way that we can be prayerful-servers. A balance of the two allows us to avoid burnout, on the one hand, and self-indulgence on the other. It is through the love and commitment of prayerful-servers that the kingdom of God becomes real and experiential for Christians.
When the psalmist calls for God to shine upon the servant and teach the statues they are calling for God to help them with their life of prayer (face shining) and service (teach me your statutes). It is a difficult challenge, but one worthy of our focus.
As the St. John’s mission team spends this week in Raleigh County, West Virginia it is my hope and prayer that we can balance both of these callings in all that we do. Moreover I hope that we can continue to keep both of these in tandem when we return back to Staunton.
As you embark on a new week I ask you to consider whether you are more attracted to a life of prayer, or a life of service. What could you to do to start living as a prayerful-server?