Prayer Makes Community
I heard a story recently about a woman who wanted to share Christ at the local farmer’s market. She rented a stand, and made a big, impressive sign inviting people to talk to her about God. No one came. Discouraged, she talked to a friend, who said, “Why don’t you invite people into prayer instead?” So she ditched the impressive sign for a smaller, handwritten one that said, “What can I pray for you?” People flooded to her stand. Most people who came said they didn’t belong to a church, but would appreciate the prayers nonetheless. She returned week after week, and became the unofficial farmer’s market chaplain. Turned out that the offer for prayer was just as nourishing for people as homegrown tomatoes and berries, and fresh baked bread.
So simple. And yet, how often do we not only pray for people, but actually ask them what prayers they would like? One Sunday a couple years ago, someone came out of worship and as she shook my hand, she asked, “Is there something I can be praying for you this week?” I was taken aback – I didn’t recall ever having been asked this question. As it turned out, that there was something on my mind that could use some extra prayers, and I told her so. I felt a significant relief just for having shared it with her.
Encouraged by these two stories, I decided to try it myself – if I appreciated it so much, why not others? So I began calling members of my congregation, people I am specifically called to pray for regularly, and asked them what I can be praying for on their behalf. I call people whom I see all the time, and people who are in the directory but whom I have never met. I talk to people directly, and I leave messages. I receive calls back and emails back. I hear prayer requests for thanksgivings, and requests for deep needs.
Turns out, on the whole, people want to be prayed for, and appreciate being asked. What is so remarkable to me is how often someone says to me, “I really needed this call today, pastor. Thank you.” Or, I hear a story I never would have heard at coffee hour or after a council meeting. Or, I connect with someone who says, “You know, I’ve been thinking I should get back to church,” and the next Sunday, there they are. These quick phone calls have turned into 20-minute phone calls, time when I have been able to connect in a meaningful way with God’s beloved children.
It has been pure joy, a true reflection of the kingdom of God at work. I take these prayer requests and these personal connections, and I use the “praying in color” method of praying that we learned during Lent (learn how at prayingincolor.com, and/or buy the book by the same name), or I pray on my morning walk, or while I’m driving, or whenever it pops into my mind. But because I have made the personal connection, these prayer needs go with me everywhere I go. I feel closer to the people, and closer to God.
What if we all tried that now and then? Tried asking people whom we see every day if there is something we could pray for them? I wonder what would happen? I wonder what relationships would form? I wonder how community might change? What do you think, people of God? Are you willing to try?
In grace and peace,