I attend a mid-week prayer meeting. Sometimes we have a dozen or two in attendance. The other day, we had just five. But God shows up every week! There is a mystical, spiritual quality in communal prayer– voices raised in praise, thanksgiving, and intercession; voices raised in agreement, in harmony, and in support. We spend nearly an hour in prayer; some stay after to pray longer, some stay silent for most or all of the hour, just listening and giving spiritual support by their presence. We also spend some time reading scripture, sharing updates on missionaries and community outreach programs, or updates on requests from previous weeks. And, in listening to others pray, we can “hear” their hearts and get to know them a little better. But this is not meant as a social hour. We are there for one purpose– to pray. It is a commitment to pray faithfully, to pray consistently, and to pray humbly and gratefully.
We are blessed to have the opportunity to gather publicly and freely to pray. But what about those who cannot? Not everyone has the freedom in their weekly schedule to attend our prayer meeting (or other meetings that might be scheduled throughout the community). Not everyone lives in an area where public prayer is safe and encouraged. Some people are shut in. Some face persecution for their faith– public gatherings increase the risk of violence and arrest.
Most prayers happen in seclusion and isolation. And sometimes, this can lead us to believe that personal prayer is a small thing. One silent prayer in a room somewhere in Michigan may seem tiny and frail. It can seem puny and ineffective. And praying in isolation or under threat can feel even smaller and lonelier. We trust that God hears us, but we can feel so weak, so ineffectual. We long for support and communion. Praying in a group “feels” stronger, and more “important,” surrounded by fellow believers and hearing the voices chiming in with praise and heartfelt requests.
I value and appreciate meeting and praying with other believers, but most of my prayers are personal– said in silence in my own home. I pray by myself, often with my Prayer Journal in front of me; sometimes, just lying in bed, or sitting at my workspace. Yet, I never pray alone! Jesus, in The Lord’s Prayer, taught His disciples to pray to “Our Father.” But He must have known that they would also pray personal prayers. He did not teach them to say “My Father,” or “My God.” Surely, when we are alone, we can use those terms (as Jesus Himself did in the Garden of Gethsemane). But I think Jesus was acknowledging that God “inhabits the praise of His people” (Psalm 22:3)– and that when we pray, we are mystically and spiritually joined with God– Father, Son, and Spirit– and also with the family of other believers. And their prayers join with ours. When I pray, alone in a darkened room or closet, I may be physically separated from believers in Pakistan or Colombia, but I am spiritually linked with them (and they with me) in ways I don’t fully comprehend. I can’t hear their prayers; I can’t understand their language, and I don’t know their needs. Nor do they know mine. But God knows them all, and knits them all together in ways that bring Glory and Honor to Him! Praying with our Wednesday group (or any time I pray with other believers) helps me better feel this connection, but it goes beyond what we experience in corporate prayer. None of my “puny” prayers is lost in the fugue of a hundred thousand other prayers prayed in that moment– instead, they blend in with other silent cries and unspoken expressions of praise from all over the globe. They rise up like the notes of a never-ending symphony!
Prayer is so much more powerful and deeper than we imagine! Today, let’s pray–together–knowing that whatever our situation or circumstance, we will never pray alone!