If you're part of a Christian community, you probably have a whole list of persons you are praying for right now. But let me ask you something: how many of those persons are you praying with?
It's just a simple word, but the subtle difference is actually huge.
I am blessed to have a great number of persons in my life who pray for me. Especially over the past almost-17 months as I have been dealing with an extremely difficult battle with Covid and its after-effects, I am constantly reminded by others that they are praying for me. I can reach out at any time and know that my tribe will step up and cover me in prayer. I can send a text and the word will go out and a group of persons who love me will spend time on their knees with our Father for me. And that is beautiful and amazing and incredible. And very much appreciated.
When I run into these persons in public, they'll ask me - earnestly, honestly - how I'm doing. They'll remind me that they're praying for me. They'll ask if I need anything. They will send text messages and direct messages and Facebook notes; I get cards in the mail on the days that somehow, I most need them, and I know that this group of persons is holding me in their prayer.
This encourages me. It lifts me up. It keeps me going through some really hard times. It helps me to feel my belovedness even while everything around it is falling apart. It reminds me in the times that I just can't pray any more, when I don't have the strength or the words or the heart, that God is still hearing my story because someone else is carrying it to Him for me. Having a group of persons praying for you is nothing short of beautiful.
And yet, there are some times when I still want someone to pray with me, too. Actually, I went forward during our invitation time this past Sunday and said this very thing to one of my elders. "Hey, brother. I know you have been praying for me, but will you pray with me?"
He, of course, was more than happy to do so.
There's something about us coming together in prayer. About me being there with you when you're praying for me - and about you being here with me. It is part of having this connection where I'm a real human being and not just a name on a prayer list. And it's more than that.
Jesus Himself said that where two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be. Praying together, then, allows us both to feel the presence of Christ in a way that we just don't when we are on our own. Something about being gathered, being two or more, changes the whole dynamic of prayer and of praying for one another and of being the one who is prayed for. It's so much more than what most of us get when we're just "on the list."
And there's something tremendously encouraging and overwhelming in all the best ways to actually hear someone loving you like that. To hear maybe even a whole group of someones loving you like that. To listen to someone else love you so much that they carry your name to Jesus. That they stand on the side of the road and cry out for Him so that He will turn and see you, not them. To listen to them believe out loud for God's goodness in your life.
That's the gift we give to one another when we hear each other pray. It's a gift that...a whole lot more of us could use.
It changes the way that we pray, too. Praying with someone forms a deeper connection with them for us. It bonds us more deeply to their struggle. It ties us together in a way that simply praying for them never can. As a chaplain who has prayed with others for a living, I can tell you - it changes things every time. It changes me every time.
So if you're praying for someone right now, thank you. Continue to do so. But if you ever have the chance to pray with that someone, take that, too. It will bless both of you.