Priorities – Word and…?

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25/10/2013 by Chris Green

prioritiesI got it wrong again this week.  In public, which was a touch embarrassing. 
I was speaking to a group of pastors in training, looking at the priorities of ministry from Acts 6.  You know the story – the needy widows were being overlooked in the food pantry, so the apostles arrange for a few responsible Christians to take care of them, freeing the apostles themselves to focus on what they should properly be doing.
There isn’t a hint of status games here. Luke records that Peter uses the same word for the activity of the apostles (v4) and of the responsible Christians (v2): serve (the Greek word is diakonia, from which we get the word Deacon, though the title isn’t used here). It’s as though Peter says, “You deacon the pizza, and we’ll deacon the preaching.”
Except that he doesn’t, quite.
I was banging home to the students that Peter has a double focus: ministry of the Word, and prayer. And I was explaining (i.e., going off on one) about how often I hear the phrase, ‘Word ministry’, but rarely ‘Word and prayer’. Word and Spirit, yes.  Word and Sacrament, yes.  But surely, I pleaded, we should be known as people of ‘Word and prayer.
And then someone stuck up a hand.
“Chris, in Acts 6:4, Peter doesn’t say their priorities are ‘Ministry of the Word and prayer’.  He says they are ‘prayer and ministry of the Word.'”
Does that mean that there’s a priority between the priorities?  Could be. But I was very struck that my instinct was still to remember the order wrong.
So. If you tend to miss the fact that prayer is to be one of your priorities, alongside ministry of the Word, how do you think you should be adjusting your diary?
And if, like me, you shift slightly awkwardly in your seat because even though we do both, we might not be as obedient as we’d like to think, the same question: how does your diary reflect the priority of the priority of prayer?

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