I have a confession to make. I really messed up the other day. A friend of mine had called me to talk about a difficult and painful situation that he was facing. I listened as he poured out his heart. I gave my thoughts on the situation when asked. I listened some more. And then I told him I would pray for him and his family in the days and weeks to come. I wasn’t just saying it, I meant it. And have been praying for the whole situation daily.
So do you see where I messed up? I will give you a second to reread the story. Got it? I didn’t pray with him in the moment. I know I said I would pray for him. But I didn’t pray with him – and that was wrong.
I get this one wrong a lot. I am not good at praying with people. Even when I was a pastor I would sometimes walk out of visits in people’s homes or finish off appointments in my office without praying with folks. Now, some of you may be thinking, “No big deal. You pray for people. That’s good enough.” But I don’t think it is good enough. And there are others that agree with me.
I wrote in an earlier blog that from time to time I would revisit Thom Rainer’s thought provoking little book Autopsy of a Deceased Church. And that book connects directly with my story above. In the book Rainer sites ten “symptoms” that churches that died exhibited before they closed. And one of the “symptoms” was the fact that churches stopped praying together. I don’t think Rainer was simply referring to the midweek prayer meeting here – not that prayer meetings are unimportant. They are. But I think Rainer means we need to learn to avoid the mistake I made with my friend.
If our churches are going to be healthy and vibrant, we need to learn to pray together. Not just to open or close meetings or study groups or one person praying and everyone else listening on Sunday mornings but as we do life together. For example, when we have people over we should pray with them. Games are fine and coffee is good but if we are going to be family together we need to be in the habit of discussing what God is up to in our lives and then praying together. Imagine what would happen.
So let me challenge all of us as we are still early in the year. This isn’t something that the pastor should do for us. This isn’t something only for the super spiritual people (whoever they are). This is for all of us. Let’s learn to pray together as we journey together as followers of Jesus. We will be better for it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a call to make.
Director of Church Health, FMCIC