For those of you who have already read the parish magazine you will have seen the two new ideas I’m opening up for us supporting each other in prayer as a church family.
What I’ve written in this month’s magazine is the “What” and the “How”.
What I hope to cover here is the “Why”.
Why is it important that we pray for each other, or rather why do I think it’s so important that we pray for each other more.
Put simply, I see prayer, praying is the best thing that we can do for each other whenever any of us have anything from a minor hiccup through to full blown crisis or long-term problem situation. We cannot all be there for each other physically all of the time as a church family. Some sometimes yes but all...no.
None of us are omnipresent (although some may expect Fr. Andrew to be), none of us have homes big enough to accommodate us all, and it would be rather claustrophobic if we did all work in that way. It just can’t be done in practical terms. But prayer can be. Prayer can and does work on that scale.
We can all pray for each other and there is room for all of our prayers in the kingdom of God, in the heart of God, without any of them getting crowded out or lost... which they don’t (just think of a human call centre trying to cope with the amount of calls God gets at say at 11am on a Sunday and not one call gets lost with Him).
Moreover by putting each other’s needs into the hands and the heart of God, we place them into the hands of the one who can help us and do something about every situation. Maybe we need to realize afresh that prayer does change things, because it does.
Prayer isn’t a nice but empty gesture we throw towards each other “Oh I’ll pray for you”, It’s not just a nice gesture of solidarity with each other in the situations we face. We have after all seen many gestures of solidarity in recent times, particularly with the string of terrorist attacks in France. We’ve heard the “Je suis” declarations, declaring that “standing together with the French people” starting with the meaningful “Je suis Charlie” and “Je suis Paris” through to it’s more trite use in “Je suis chien” when a police dog got shot in an “anti-terrorist operation”. We’ve seen landmarks all over the world (including our own tower) lit up in the colours of the French Tricolour. I’ve no doubt that the French people took heart in all of these gestures, that they took comfort and strength in them, but as for what those gestures have achieved in practical terms ,and what they will overachieve as they become overused...
Prayer on the other hand does achieve and cannot cannot cannot be overused (except where it is used as a substitute for practical help rather than a compliment). We can take comfort in knowing that people do care and are praying, and over and above that, we can know that prayer can change the actual details of the position we find ourselves in, or at least our perception of it and our ability to cope with them. If we let it...
Ah yes. If we let it.... that is the big proviso. Will we let it? Will we let other people pray for us ? It can be all too easy to see prayer as a last resort – something we try when all else fails or when nothing else looks like working. For us to move on from there to letting other people pray for us, or worse still actually asking them to pray for us can be a big step. It’s something which we really may see as being a last resort.
We can easily see it asking other people to pray for us as a negative, as sign of our own inadequacy, whereas really it’s to be seen as a positive, it is a sign of our own dependency upon, and trust in our fellow Christians. It is a way we can all support each other in our different needs and situations.
This is something the apostle Paul believed in fervently. Paul may give us the impression of being somewhat elitist, isolationlist and generally self-sufficient, at least as far as other Christians and churches were concerned, but his writings about prayer paint a different picture. If we were to look at Paul’s letters to the various churches in the New Testament, we’d find that to virtually every church he wrote to, both those he’d founded and those that he hadn’t, there is a call and commitment to “two-way” prayer.
To virtually every church, Paul reiterates his commitment to pray for them and he likewise asks them, or expects them to be praying for him. One verse in particular is worth considering
“...as you join in helping us by your prayers so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted up through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1.11).
These is no pride, elitism or isolationism here. Paul refers to the “prayers of many”. He knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He wanted as many people, as many Christians, as many churches praying for him as possible. ...even the Corinthian church!! It is clear from reading both Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that he wasn’t always impressed by the state of the church there, as regards their morality, their worship, their treatment of each other, or their spiritual pride. In any kind of hierarchy, they could have been seen as being well below Paul (at least in Paul’s mind), and yet there is no hesitation in his encouraging their prayer for him or from believing that their prayer, that even their prayer would make a difference
Your prayer, our prayer for each other will make a difference as well. None of us can get by on our own. We get by, by the grace of God, by the grace of God alone, and that grace so often comes to us through each other, through our actions and through our prayers. So let’s get praying for each other more. Je suis prest
Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christlight for you
in the night-time of your soul;
I will hold my hands out for you,
pray the peace you long to know.
ASV – Alternative Shepherd Version
With every blessing