– by Leila Ortiz

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, I learned that prayer was my true con­nection to the Divine. I learned this in community. Every Tuesday evening the church lights would dim. As musicians played softly in the background, my friends and I would quietly enter the room, spreading out to find personal spaces to pray. We’d whisper our confessions to Jesus, ask for the Spirit’s presence on our faith journeys and worship God for being God.

After an hour or so, we would gather for communal prayer led by a pastor or a lay leader. We’d pray collectively, boldly and aloud for local and global issues in need of God’s touch: poverty, addiction, gang violence, gun violence, the lost and afraid, the country and the church. We would claim healing and restoration, rescue and liberation and provision and spiritual rest for all who were enduring the sting of sin. Together we’d re­buke evil and injustice, declaring that no weapon formed against us, our community or our world would prosper. It was powerful!

When I became a Lutheran, I learned that these powerful, prayerful moments were not limited to charismatic settings. Yet these moments are often missed by those accustomed to the beauty and rhythm of liturgy.

Today I serve as an ELCA pastor and theologian, and both my spirited formation and my encounter with grace are interwo­ven in my faith and discipleship. I self-identify as a Luthercostal, someone who is at home discuss­ing the beauty and holiness of order and liturgy, the movement of the Holy Spirit and spiritual warfare. Yet I am most at home in intimacy with God in prayer.


During the Confession, it is my role as a pastor to present a time of silence during which we can wrestle with our sins against God and our neighbor. As a Luthercos­tal, I struggle to come back from those moments precisely because they allow us to meditate on our brokenness, name our sins, and be heard and forgiven. These moments needn’t be rushed. They should be embraced.

I’ve often thought we should give a loud cheer of praise when we hear: “I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins…” Sometimes I need more than five seconds (a minute or two would be nice) with this liturgical moment where we con­fess and celebrate.

In the prayers of intercession, we lift up the prayers of the people. Where are the places that need God’s healing touch? What needs to be rebuked, destroyed or mended for the sake of God’s beloved creation? While written prayers are powerful, so, too, are voices from the pew. Sometimes our prayers are silent or solemn. Sometimes we need permission and space to fall on our knees and sob for the pain in the world. The Holy Spirit gives us permission to pray in whatever form brings healing and courage to our souls.

When we come to the table for Holy Communion, this is everything. The Eucharist is more than a time to follow our neighbor in orderly fashion, kneel at the rail and wait. Jesus is at the table! Jesus greets us and becomes a part of our very being. Why not sit with this reality in silent rev­erence and awe, or let tears flow as we whisper prayers of disbelief and gratitude? Here is the mo­ment when we can bask in God’s grace and greet our incarnate God, whose love is overflowing. This is another moment we don’t want to miss.

After the table, the Sending is the moment I most treasure and fear. We are entrusted to go in peace and serve the Lord, remember the poor and share the good news. This challenge, when taken seriously, elicits our reali­zation that we cannot do any of this without God’s Spirit. In our sending, we are encouraged to daily live the freedom we receive in confession, the courage we receive through prayers of inter­cession and the unity with Christ that is affirmed at God’s table.

May we each reimagine our beloved liturgy to see the gift of grace and God’s Holy Spirit not only during worship, but in our lives. And may we pray without ceasing for the sake of God’s broken and beloved creation, in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

This article is from the September 2018 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.