The Kentucky Baptist Fellowship held its annual Spring Gathering in the small town of Stanford, Ky., on April 23-24. I gathered with other Baptists from around the state to learn, network, encourage and worship.
What stands out most as I reflect on the gathering was the congregational recitation of the Lord’s Prayer as part of the invocation during the final worship service.
I’ve never been able to concentrate while praying with my eyes closed, so I typically focus my attention on some point on the wall or floor in front of me. As the congregation began to pray, I gazed intently at the baptistery artwork. However, by the time we began to pray “Thy kingdom come,” I found myself noticing that each member of the choir knew the Lord’s Prayer.
What struck me was not that the choir knew the Lord’s Prayer, but that the choir members joining in the Lord’s Prayer were all youth in the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship Youth Choir.
Baptists and Baptist churches, for all our shortcomings, are working to hand on that which we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. This youth choir was a testimony to our hard work. As I watched this choir of Baptist adolescents pray the Lord’s Prayer along with me, I was proud. We are teaching our children how to pray; our worship is nurturing them. As we all prayed to our Father, the worship of God was shaping our character and virtue and forming ethical habits and practices within us.
Numerous current statistical models suggest that the vast majority of children currently in our Baptist congregations will walk away from worship and church life by the time they are in their 20s. Yet, as I watched this choir of Baptist adolescents pray the Lord’s Prayer along with me, I was encouraged. If our children and youth continue to live into and out of the Lord’s Prayer, we have reason to be hopeful about the church’s future.
As we prayed together, I was also challenged. Granted, repeating the Lord’s Prayer and praying the Lord’s Prayer are not the same practice, but the Christian habits of hallowing God’s name, recognizing God’s kingdom, sensing God’s will and forgiving others will only grow by God’s grace and our humble persistence.
It is good to see and hear that Baptists are teaching our children to pray as we have been taught. May it continue to be so among us.
John Essick is assistant professor of church history at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.