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March 20, 2009

Praying Together



I admit: I love girl-talk. Add a comfy booth and coffee and I'm in heaven. When I head out the door to meet a friend for coffee, I know I'm really heading out for a couple of hours of encouragement, sharing, and the give and take of conversation. Good stuff!

But not too long ago, I began wondering about these "gab-fests." What do I really hope to gain from all these? A sympathetic ear? Womenly advice? Shared wisdom? Yes, all of that. And yet, beyond the temporary relief of getting it all off my chest, something is lacking.

Maybe it's not really something, maybe it's Someone.

You see, for all the talk-talk-talking, we do, my friends and I don't pray together. Oh, we share prayer requests, and I have no doubt that we do pray for each other, but we don't sit side-by-side, joined by the power of the Holy Spirit, in prayer. I wonder why.

Scripture certainly encourages it: Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20). Personally, I long for it; but even in the 13 years I've been part of a small group of women leaders, this is an area that remains blocked. We make the occasional forays into the intimacy of shared prayer, but never has it been sustained.

Could it be we've turned this conversation with our Lord into something it's not meant to be? Abundantly able to express our thoughts through the spoken word, do we stumble to express our thoughts in prayer because we're worried about whether or not we "do it right?" I know I've fallen into "prayer envy" on occasion, impressed with the eloquence of another's words, or her ability to pepper her petitions with scripture.

Maybe our lack of praying together has something to do with our emotions. Huddled in that booth with my friends, I can laugh out loud and create quite a commotion sharing good news; or I can hang my head while tears stream down my face over sorrows. So, why do I feel inhibited sharing those same emotions with my Lord in the presence of my believing friends?

Something in me wants more than just an assurance that my friends are praying for me - I want the words! I want to know what is being prayed. I don't think I'm alone in this.

I've sent my words of prayer to friends through cards and e-mails, and those prayers always elicit grateful responses. Friends have told me they've cried, felt encouraged and loved, and been prompted to add their own prayers. How much more powerful might our prayers be if we would take that vulnerable step toward one another, clasp hands, and pray?

What about you? Have you found that circle of praying friends? Or maybe you think talking through requests and private prayer is enough. I'd love to hear your comments.

Comments

Hi Karen,

I read anything I can get my hands on about prayer. It has become my passion. I did not start out that way either, though. It took coming to a point in my life with circomstances in my family that were in trouble and I could do nothing on my own to change any of it. I felt totally helpless. I also felt I had access to a way of hope that I could either use or give up. I took a giant step and talked to my Pastor about it. He was willing to give me a chance since I had been so tenacious about it. I have been leading our Wednesday eve. Prayer Group ever since. It has been 2 1/2 years and I have set up the Prayer Room in sections. We first come to Adoration, Confession, T, and Supplication. Then we have boards for Friends & Family, Church's, City, Military, United States, Nations of the World. It is alot to take in, but it covers all concerns and we have spent time focusing on many different aspects within the realm. God has been so gracious and has answered many prayers. Some not the way we expected, but it is his will not ours. I am not in the services due to the fact I am also the nursery attendant, but I can listen to the services online during the week and keep up. What is happening is a renewed spirit in our church and I believe a revival is coming. We are praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 and are praying it will spread throughout our nation. I want to encourage anyone, especially right now in todays economy that God is Still in Control and we all need to continually look to Him for help.

So, God may be calling you to a deeper level in Him, and I just want to encourage you to seek Him with all your heart for what He is whispering to you. It changed my life and my daughters and my new grandsons especially. God Bless,
Debbie

A few years ago, I began to realize that God has given me a heart to pray to Him and for others. When friends, family, or others reach out to me I always encourage us to pray. God wants us to pray about everything in our lives.

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your article on prayer. I think it pleases God when we take advantage of every opportunity to share one another's burdens by bringing our requests to Him in prayer. It's sort of like parenting - we want our children to make their needs known to us. Granted, we don't give our children everything they ask for because we know some things would not be good for them. But we like to "do good" for them, and we like them to ask. And God likes to "do good" for His children, and He like for us to ask!

A couple of years ago a friend of mine called with a prayer request. I assured her my husband and I would pray for this request. That's a good thing to do, provided we follow up. But as I was talking to her, the Holy Spirit seemed to impress upon me that instead of talking about the situation I should pray with her then and there. I was timid at first, but I obeyedy the Spirit's prompting. She was so encouraged and her faith was strengthened as a result. I was glad I obeyed.

That was a turning point for me in how I respond to a friend's need. I decided to do less assuring friends that I would pray for them and more "May I pray with you about that right now?" or "Can we pray together about that right now?'

I have been on the receiving end of this response to my own needs, and have found it very reassuring and uplifting.

When we pray aloud for each other, it produces a bonding of relationship that is unequaled, both with the individual and with God, our Father.

One reason people don't pray together is fear, at least from my experience. Some folks are wonderful prayer warriors but just not in front of others. Praying aloud takes practice. It feels uncomfortable in the beginning, but once you start, just keeping doing it. Each time relying on the Spirit to provide the words.

Hi Karen,

I have a couple of very good friends that I have known for years, one of them for over twenty years. I value their friendship very much. They are the ones I call for prayer when I have a problem, and they also call me when they need prayer. We all have our own families, but sometimes we need to get together if only over the phone and pray for each other. I don't know how I could have coped otherwise. Perhaps you will be the one to begin this with your friends. They will value it especially when there is a crisis, if you start now. Sometimes it isn't as personal when we pray in a coffee shop as in one anothers homes or even over the phone. Perhaps you simply need to follow up one of your coffee shop get togethers with a phone call and a short prayer over the phone and see how it goes. I will be praying for you that the Holy Spirit will guide you in this. God Bless You.

Elizabeth

I love a little book by Michael Leunig called A Common Prayer. It has prayers for all kinds of things, but mostly about the little people, the overlooked people he draws in his cartoons. I quoted him on my blog recently in a poignant prayer for women.

http://conversationsatintersections.blogspot.com/2009/02/difficult-birth.html

I'm so encouraged to hear such enthusiasm for prayer! Thank you ladies, you have challenged me to be more intentional about putting my desire into action. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we would all replace the words, "I'll pray for you," with the request, "May I pray with you now?" Think of the bonds that would be formed, the spirits refreshed, and the praise lifted to our Father!

Praying with other moms has been a gift from God to me, and Moms In Touch Int'l has been the tool He used to really draw me into it. Though we spend our hour in prayer for our children and their schools--now mine are college and career--we know we have each other as prayer partners when we have personal needs--cancer, caring for elderlies, unsaved husbands,etc. We've learned prayer is powerful, especially coorporate prayer, which is so different than giving a prayer request. Besides, how often do we forget to pray if we don't do it on the spot?

But, I think one thing about being vulnerable in prayer is you are not only vulnerable then to another person, you are making yourself more open to God and what He wants to do, experiencing Him in a deeper, more intimate way. I find myself wanting what the early church had, then, in other situations, too--my family, my church, my Bible study. So, that circle of prayer is something precious. Nothing could be more desirable than setting at the feet of Jesus with a fellow believer in fellowship with Him together. It increases your awareness that you are part of His body--you are not alone. Being vulnerable is worth it.

I was so thrilled to come across this and I thank you for being so open about what God has laid on your heart. I have had the same burden about starting a prayer group in my church. It is encouraging to know that others are feeling this same thing and putting it into action. I ask for your prayers as I try follow your lead and do the same.
Debbie, 2 Chronicles 7:14 has really been on my heart too. We can make a difference. It is encourging to know that others all over the country are praying this verse too.

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