The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
They can be found earlier in the order of service as well, these back and forth words of blessing. The Lord be with you, says the worship leader. And also with you, says everyone else. On many Sundays, in many churches, they are rushed through, as if there isn’t enough time for giving and receiving blessings. In some places, the leader speaks them in a slow, dull, monotone; the congregation barely mumbles the response, as if somehow their part isn’t particularly necessary or welcome. They are words thrown away, as if they have outlived their usefulness or might be an embarrassment to everyone involved in their exchange. How important can these words be if they are read every week, and if anyone can say them?
The Lord be with you. Someone is praying that God will accompany me wherever I go. Every week, asking for the grace of God to be with me, present to me. I may know the person asking this favor, I may not. If I wander into a random church on almost any given Sunday, some complete stranger will pray for Holy God to walk with me. In these words, I am wished a blessed life, a brush with the sacred in every moment I breathe. The same is true for you. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you go: The Lord be with you. Walk in holiness and peace. Know that God holds you fast. You are not alone.
It’s a terrible thing, throwing away such a profound request. And it goes both ways. When I say the response without thought or intention, I’m missing out on a sacred truth: My prayer for God to be with another is a bold and holy request. The least I can do is say them like I mean them: And also with you.
How else will I live like I mean them?
(for complete prayer, click “PrayerC” above)