The other day I stepped out of my office, headed for the kitchen in the church. There at the one of the tables in our coffee area were two of the women on our prayer team deep in prayer. One of the privileges of being a pastor is opportunities like that – to observe and hear about the spiritual lives of others.
As I walked by the women that day, I was struck by the intimacy the prayer caused – sitting across a small table, sharing their words and emotions. It was fantastic. Unseen there was even more going on. The circle of intimacy expanded as I thought about how the prayer cards on the table represented those in need of love and support. That circle expands even farther as the members of the team invite the triune God – the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – into each of their lives.
As I reflect on this moment of prayer, I am mindful of the “cloud of witnesses” the author of Hebrews (chapters 11-12) writes are cheering us on as we “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1 NRSV). It is a circle of intimacy of which we can be a part.
I have experienced that as I have held the hand of one in a hospital bed or in the other chair in my office and we have prayed together. A deep connection is recognized – in ways I can explain and in ways I cannot.
(An aside to my fellow pastors: Somewhere I learned not to save the prayer for the end of a pastoral visit. Conversations shift from the weather and sports to what is really in our hearts after we’ve invited God into them.)
We often feel alone in our struggles; no one knows exactly how we feel. We don’t want to burden others. We want to be strong and not show our weakness. We cannot find words to express the depth of our sorrow, or the level of anxiety we are experiencing. We believe we are doomed to go it alone, only to re-enter relationship with God and the church when this season passes. How misguided those thoughts are. When we find ourselves feeling alone, we need to seek out the community of faith. That can be as simple as asking someone to pray with you or for you.
And if you would like to really help a friend, offer to pray with him/her. It will change the conversation.
Like they say, there is strength in numbers.