When at 5:30 Saturday, my phone shows a missed call from our senior pastor who is on confirmation retreat, I get nervous. I quickly step out of my conversation to call him back–fearful of what is to come! Wallace answers and says, “We’ve got some boys here who want to pray for you. For Revive”. I only hear half of what they say, but my soul is warmed. I am so grateful that they prayed for me. For us. For God to move in worship. I am so grateful my heart is overflowing.
I get home exhausted about 10:00. I plop myself in front of the TV to veg, and my phone rings again from confirmation retreat. Nervous, I answer before the second ring. Our children’s director proceeds to ask me how Revive went and say that the girls were jealous the boys had gotten to pray with me. So, we prayed together. I prayed for them, and they prayed. For me. For the youth candidate. For their trip and their learning and their lives. Again, I only heard bits and pieces, but that didn’t dampen the Spirit’s flame! It was powerful and life-giving.
I caught the tail end of choir practice. I’ve not gotten to sing in the choir for more than a year, and I miss that great group of people. I miss the music. Singing isn’t something I do well, and singing in harmony is hard for me. But I love the challenge. The challenge that my attempt to squeak out a notes can somehow be part of something beautiful. Because we all offer it to God together. They were singing a hard piece, but one I’d practiced with them. One I knew. I held back singing, because I didn’t have music or remember the notes, but as I mouthed the words, my heart sang. In the moment of beauty, I realized we were praying. Together. Note by note. Facial expression by facial expression. Cue by cue. Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Basses, and conductor. All offering our praises and our mistakes and our hearts to God. My heart soared.
What is your prayer life like? When was the last time you got lost in prayer. Maybe you do it while you brush your teeth or while you grit them. Maybe while you listen to music or while its silent as you drift off. Maybe you do it in the morning before you check your facebook page or as you scroll through what happened while you were sleeping. What is prayer in your life?
I know so many people who are scared of prayer or feel inadequate. “Emily, I fall asleep while I pray at night before I sleep.” I grin, remember Miss Lanora who always told me, “Girl, prayer is the best way to fall asleep. The Devil hates it when his people pray, so he puts them right to sleep”. I always wished it was true in my life–but even prayer hasn’t been a cure to my lifetime battle with insomnia. But, its a phrase I love to repeat, because it gives me comfort and has given so many more comfort.
Others feel inadequate because they don’t know the “right” words. “Emily, I can’t pray outloud,” he says sheepishly, “I don’t speak as pretty as you”. “But God doesn’t need pretty. God needs Honest. Tell God the truth. Speak one, two, three true things. Tell Jesus your fears and your failures. Tell him your hopes and your joys. Tell him your successes and short comings. ” “Plus,” I say sheepishly, “Maybe we need more shaky voices to teach us to pray”.
I learned to pray as a little girl. My mom taught me to pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep” was a fixture at bed time. And “Komm Herr Jesu”, was our dinner prayer in German most nights. It was prayers repeated over and over. I held onto that as I grew and my prayers always began and ended the same, “Thank you for all you’ve done” “and Keeps us safe until we are together again”. I repeated what I learned over and over. “Our Father who art in heaven”. The words were like a blanket that covered me. Gave me words when I had none. I still repeat them sometimes. When I have no words. I repeat them and they cover me. Or I sing, “O Lord my God”. Or “Lord prepare me, to be a Sanctuary.” Or “Oh, how he loves us so”. or “Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me”. Over and over.
But I never realized the real power of prayer until I was an adult. I could put pretty words together to sound good, but the real power of prayer I learned around an dining room table holding sweaty hands. In the fall of 2003, I was going through a tough breakup. I wasn’t sure exactly who I was or how God even fit into the picture, but I was faithfully attending church. I stopped by a Sunday School class one day to ask a friend a question, and somehow left having agreed to be in a small group. I went to the first meeting, the only twenty something in a room of older women. One in her thirties, one in her forties, one in her fifties and one in her sixties. We didn’t know what we were doing. We talked and read scripture, and then we prayed. We held hands and prayed. As they prayed the wisdom of their words, and the moving of the Spirit stayed heavy in the air. We prayed for each other. For our families. For the world. I remember the first week reciting the words I’d always recited felt contrived. Not wrong, just contrived.
I went home and began to pray. First mimicking their words, then slowly finding ones of my own. No matter what else we did, every Monday we met and talked, and prayed. The prayer time was the best. The power in our clasped hands. The strength in the words. The way the prayers seemed to last–I finally understood praying without ceasing. I saw things differently. I changed my mind. My world changed. They reminded me of my call, and helped me accept it. They prayed over me, again, and again, and again. And I prayed over them. Over the next decade we laughed together. Loved. And Prayed. I started timidly. And now they ask me to pray. We don’t meet as often any more. But when we do, we pray. And its powerful.
I am who I am because they prayed for me. Because my grandmother prays for me every day. Because my mother prays for me. Because You, my congregation, my friends, my partners in ministry pray for me. Sometimes we pray together on the phone. Sometimes in person. Sometimes I’ll never know it. But I am who I am because of their prayers.
Who are you praying for? Maybe its not eloquent or perfect. But its powerful. Who needs you to call them up and pray for them? Who do you need to take aside and pray for? Who do you need to pray over? Prayer is powerful. Life changing, but too often, we let our worries and insecurities block us from entering God’s presence! Don’t let your fear stop you. Pray for them. Pray with them. Pray. Whether its recited or on the spot or written down. Pray. I need you to pray. They need you to pray, we need you to pray. Call someone on the phone and pray with them. Clasp someone’s hand at dinner and pray. Pray until you fall asleep. I don’t know how you’ll do it, but find a way to pray, and enter the presence of God.
I am praying for you. Will you pray for me? For someone else?
Because of Christ–