Esprit de Corps

Photo by Paulo Mu00e1rcio Dos Santos on Pexels.com

It is important to spend time alone with God, but it is also necessary that we spend time with others. This may not always be possible in a physical sense. This past year of pandemic and lockdowns has kept many of us apart. Even church services, Bible study groups, and “fellowship” events have been limited or suspended. But we have other ways of being “together.” Phones, internet, and letters are just a few of the ways we can stay in touch. And prayer is another. This is nothing new, but I’ve been reminded recently that prayer is more than just a personal pursuit. It is also a corporate pursuit. We do not live alone, and we do not pray in a vacuum.

It can be tempting to feel isolated and even apathetic when we are forced by circumstances to spend more time alone. We often succumb to the lure of “escapism”– binge-watching, gaming, or other forms of mindless entertainment to pass the lonely hours. It is not “wrong” to relax or be entertained for a time, but we can lose sight of our purpose and “sleep-walk” through our days, losing opportunities to connect with others and be a blessing (and be blessed in return)!

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

The term, “esprit de corps” is used by tight-knit groups– military units, dance and theatre groups, etc.–to describe their unity, devotion, and camaraderie. It should be natural for us to apply this same phrase to Christ-followers. After all, we are the “corps”– the body– of Christ! To pray for and with one another should be a given, and a “core” feature of the Church. To stay in touch, to build up and encourage one another, to forgive, accept, and protect one another, to defend the honor of the Church and ALL its members– this should go without saying. But I’m saying it here, because I see so many examples of division, in-fighting, finger-pointing, shaming, and other nonsense. And I’m saying it because I see so many examples of people like me, who withdraw, stay silent, and allow ourselves to become weary and jaded, instead of reaching out and pulling together. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I pray everyday for people from around the world– but am I willing to pray for those down the street who hurt my feelings last week? Am I willing to risk reaching out to call or write to someone who may be discouraged, or having doubts and struggles? Do I pray with gusto; eager to lift others up and bring blessing to them, even in difficult times? Do I cheer on fellow believers, even if we disagree about politics or music? Do I champion the Church, even when some believers or even congregations bring momentary shame to the name of Christ?

“Esprit de corps” is not a phrase of apathy, or discouragement. It is not just an idealistic motto. It is not a phrase of grudging duty to a group or idea. It is bold, and forward-looking. It is united and strong. Just as the Body of Christ must be in the days ahead.
For more info on corporate/group prayer, see https://www.compellingtruth.org/corporate-prayer.html

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

BTW– There are several terrific prayer groups online–Groups that pray for your requests; groups that share requests locally; groups that pray globally for healing or intercession; groups that will connect you to local churches or Bible studies.
*As with any online activity, please be careful. Not every group that calls itself “Christian” or talks about prayer is legitimate. Avoid sites that seek to get personal identifying information, or ask you to send a fee to join their group. Many local churches will be happy to add you to their “prayer chain” to pray for (and/or encourage or visit) people in your own community. Other church groups may have “Zoom” or “Skype” prayer meetings, or other corporate prayer opportunities.

This Little Light..

Just a couple of quick thoughts about how prayer is like a candle:

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Even a small candle can provide enough light to make a real difference in the darkness. Sometimes, we feel our prayers are small and ineffective, like a single candle in a dark room. But a single candle can pierce the darkness and offer hope and focus and even warmth where there was none before. We are in the season of Advent, and we light candles to mark the weeks of waiting for the One who is the Light of the World to come into the darkness. His light was enough to save the world from the darkness of Sin and Death. And it is This Light who hears our prayers, and intercedes for us. It is This Light who empowers us to share hope and love where it is most needed right now, right where we are.

Photo by Zac Frith on Pexels.com

We are never a single candle! Not only do we have Christ living in us, and His Holy Spirit empowering us; God’s people around the world, through all places and times, are praying. Imagine seeing a single candle at the end of darkened room. Now, imagine how much brighter to see a long table lined with a row of candles, or a room lit by chandeliers and wall sconces with dozens of candles. Even if they are spread out– especially if they are spread out– they will fill every corner of the room with light and warmth. This is one of the reasons it is so important to pray for believers around the world, and to pray with other believers, through prayer nets, prayer meetings, prayer lists and blogs, and prayer journals.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Our prayers are powerful. Not because of our “candle”, but because of the light God provides when we pray

The Company We Keep

Do your friends pray? Do you pray for your friends and neighbors? Do you pray with your friends? Prayer is often seen as a private and very isolated activity– just you talking to God. But prayer is much more. Prayer can bind people together in a common purpose. It can encourage and embolden others as we pray together, share burdens and blessings, and seek God’s wisdom on their behalf.

Conversely, when our friends don’t pray, or discourage us from spending time in prayer, we can become weak and lose the fullness of joy that comes from a rich prayer life. When Jesus walked among us, He spent time with people– sinners, self-righteous religious leaders, friends, and strangers alike. And He often went away and alone to spend time in prayer. But He also made a habit of taking a few key friends with Him; friends who would “watch and pray” when others might have distracted Him with their questions or doubts. Throughout the Bible, there are numerous examples of others who sought out friends and companions to join them in prayer.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

There is a lot more I could write about this concept today, but I think it is more important to act on it. I have a journal full of names, places, and situations that require prayerful attention– people battling cancer or depression; cities facing riots and economic upheaval; families in the midst of divorce or other crises. And I have friends who share my concerns and who can join me in praying (even remotely) for them.

Photo by HARSH KUSHWAHA on Pexels.com

If you have friends who pray– connect with them and pray for and/or with them today. If you don’t– pray that you will find companions who will come alongside you as you make this journey to pursue a life of prayer. Look for opportunities to join a group– in person, or on-line–that shares prayer requests (and answers to prayer!) Best of all, pray to and with Our Father, who will never leave us or forsake us, who always listens, and who has given us the constant companion of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and encourage each of us.

Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com

For on-line prayer groups, check here ( https://www.google.com/search?q=online+prayer+groups+free&rlz=1C1GYPO_enUS768US769&oq=online+prayer+groups&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.7234j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 ) and elsewhere.

Just a Minute…

I stumbled upon a site that promotes a concerted minute of prayer for our nation.  In the light of upcoming mid-term elections, recent violent outbreaks in some of our cities, and other urgent issues, there are movements afoot to unite American Christians in our prayer efforts.

silhouette of people beside usa flag
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

National Minute of Prayer Home

The National Minute of Prayer is based on an effort carried out in England during World War II.  I want to be careful in promoting this idea– I DO NOT believe that God is swayed solely by people praying to Him in large numbers or at certain times– God sees our hearts and knows our minds.  He wants hearts that are sincere, humble, and attuned to His will, and He will act, not on our desires, but on His own knowledge of what is truly best for our individual lives, for our nation(s), and for our world.

Still, I think this is a good idea, even though I don’t necessarily agree with all the ideas and aspects of the blog.  I don’t believe there is anything magical or super spiritual about any given minute or hour of the day, so if the chosen hour of 9 p.m. (ET/8 p.m.CT, etc.) doesn’t work for you, or you can’t commit to a single minute during the day, just commit to pray for a solid minute at least once each day.  I think the value of a project like this is in the commitment and the community–even as individuals search for a closet or a quiet corner to seek God’s face, the knowledge that others are doing the same adds to our commitment and our courage.

four men seated on rocks facing mountain
Photo by Jan Krnc on Pexels.com

There are dozens of websites, blogs, and videos with similar programs and suggestions.  Find one and consider following or joining!

And this doesn’t just apply to a particular nation facing a particular time of crisis.  Christians living in Australia, Bolivia, Cambodia, Djibouti, Estonia, Fiji, Greenland, Haiti… you get the idea– can set aside one minute every day to pray for their nation and its leaders.

beige analog gauge
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Think what it would mean to the heart of God to hear His children praying in unison for healing and justice to be done around the world in our home nations!  Think what would happen if we set aside just one more minute to pray for the Church universal!

prayermotherdaughter

Persistent Prayer

BethelchurchI grew up attending a tiny country church numbering only a few families.  Church was not just a place to visit for coffee and a sermon on Sunday morning.  There were no large screens, no light shows, no bands, no padded theater seats.  What we didn’t have in the way of amenities, we made up for with fellowship– pot lucks,  church-wide outings, bake sales to raise money for missionaries, and community-wide Christmas caroling every December.  We didn’t have a big budget or slick publications.  There was no website or gym; no trendy decor in the entryway, or sound system.  But there was prayer– lots of it!  Prayer to open Sunday School; prayer to open the service; prayer at the end of Sunday service; and Wednesday Evening Prayer Meeting.  This was, for the children, an evening of games, singing, stories, and socializing with our friends, all in the church basement (painted cinder block walls, industrial fluorescent lights hanging down from beams to light up folding tables and metal folding chairs on the bare cement floor, which was sometimes home to spiders, toads and even the occasional salamander).  But upstairs, it was all business.  An hour of adults in the community coming together to pour their hearts out to God.

As I became a teen, I “graduated” to the upstairs–to a young teen it seemed an interminably long and slow process of sharing requests, sharing praises, and taking turns mumbling and rambling and regurgitating all that had come before, this time with eyes closed, and some of the old-timers on their knees instead sitting in the un-padded and creaky wooden pews.  Sometimes, there would be two or three hymns or a short devotional to round out the hour-long service.

I know there are churches that still have mid-week (usually Wednesday night) services, and some of them are devoted to corporate prayer  (my current church has one, in fact).  But most of these services have died out– due, I suspect, to the view I described above.  Very few of us are devoted to getting out one night every week to spend an hour kneeling on a hard floor “sharing” needs with others, only to repeat them to God.  But I think somewhere we missed the point, and the value, of these gatherings.  In going to Prayer Meeting, I got to hear the hearts of three generations of people across our community– farmers, construction workers, teachers, retired grandfathers, teens like me, pastors, recovering alcoholics, homemakers, business men and women–people with wildly different struggles, triumphs, and needs, and in different stages of their Christian walk.  I heard the exuberance of new converts, and the steady faith of aging saints; the struggles of the brokenhearted widower, and the needs of new parents.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson from Prayer Meeting was about persistent prayer.  Week after week we reported answered prayers, but other requests seemed to linger.  Some who desired healing never found it (in this life).  Some relationships were never restored.  Some faced the same struggles with anger, or job loss, or loneliness over a period of months.  Was our prayer ineffective, or our faith deficient?  Did God not hear?  Didn’t he care?

I believe God heard every word; every groan, every sigh.  I believe he ached with every burden we brought before his throne.  I believe he was (and is) in the midst of every gathering.  And I believe that prayer is often like those conversations we have with our oldest and dearest friends about those same persistent problems.  God has the power to deliver us without the struggle, without the wait.  We don’t know why he allows some struggles to play out over years while others end in timely triumph.  But I believe that for every situation that challenges our faith and endurance, he is there for every tear, every question, every ‘SMH’ moment, every stumbling step forward.  And when we come together to share the burden with our neighbors, family, friends in fervent prayer– God is present, not just as the Father on his throne, but as the Son who cried out on his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Spirit who interprets our groaning when words are not enough.

I say a lot of quick prayers; sometimes urgent, and often simplistic and even easy prayers.  I am slowly rediscovering the value of persistent  and corporate prayer.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑