Sometimes silence is the best you can do. Maybe you want to pray and just don’t know how. Maybe the press of life is so bad that you’re not even sure you want to pray. Either way, the prayers won’t come. You’re stuck. Now what?
According to Alan Torrance, this is where we need to understand the priesthood of Christ. That’s the core argument of a paper he recently presented at the first Los Angeles Theology Conference. Torrance argues that we focus too much on the priesthood of all believers, shifting attention away from Christ as the one mediator between humans and God, and placing the individual at the center of his/her own spiritual life. As he says early in the paper:
The priesthood of Christ was replaced by a quasi-democratic focus on the priesthood of all believers. The impact of this on the shape of evangelical worship…has been immense. As a result, the focus in the practice of worship and in our understanding of prayer was transferred to the individual, to the self. I become my own priest, the sole mediator of my own worship.
In other words, when I am my own priest, I am solely responsible for making sure that my offering of worship is adequate, leaving me wracked with questions about the quality of my own spirituality: did I pray earnestly enough? did I worship sincerely enough? did I repent contritely enough? And what about those times when I’m not even sure how to pray and worship, those times when I’m overwhelmed by the tragic realities of living in a broken world, shattered and unable to serve as my own priest. What then?