Friday, May 11, 2012

Prayer: Concern for the One

“ . . . When one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community.  The woman or man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men or women might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men and women are one at the well-spring of pain and joy . . . forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership.”  
~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Prayer in its most general sense requires a relationship where you and I are most vulnerable.  When we come to God in prayer, we are invited to open up our hands and let go of what we cling to so tightly.  For some of us, it takes time to trust; others quickly release their fears and surrender to God in unashamed freedom.

When we think about it, prayer opens us up to God’s influence and Power which can lead us in ways we never wanted to go or never thought about going.  Christ is the one who revealed to us that praying, “Not my will but Yours be done,” frees us to pray for others.  Through His prayers, countless people received their sight, lost their chains, found their peace and held their loved ones close.

“Prayer,” says Walter Hilton, “is nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts.”   As the Apostle Paul so artistically writes, “For in him we live and move and have our being. . .” Acts 17:28a.  It’s easy for us to think God lavishes only a select few with the spiritual giftedness of prayer; yet, we are all filled with the Holy Spirit to pray at all times and on all occasions.

Praying for Another

Praying for another, then, is a way God cares for the one lost sheep.  It’s the capacity to be fully present with another where they are most vulnerable.  Spiritual women are distinguished by their commitment to hear God’s voice and as co-workers with Christ, we understand how to reach out in prayer, going to emotional places few are willing to go.  It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t want to pray with another. But our busy lives keep us from being available.  This makes us wonder: where do women go when they need prayer?  Do we just assume someone else has that covered or that it is her responsibility to find someone to pray for her?

Our willingness to pray for another opens us up to new realities as we don’t just say, “I will pray for you.”  Rather, we initiate and offer a place to meet opening ourselves up as a vessel of God’s deep love.  This approach to praying for another is challenging because it requires us to organize our lives in such a way that we create spaces to respond more deeply as we listen to God in prayer.  This does not discount the need for our own private prayer.  However, Scripture is clear that we are to “encourage one another daily. . . “ Hebrews 3:13.

The Challenge of Praying for Another

One of the challenges of initiating prayer for another is it can feel like boundaries are being crossed or that getting too involved risks being vulnerable ourselves.  We might feel burdened by someone’s circumstances or lack of support.  Yet, many people, especially women in leadership are longing for a way of getting into the Presence of God through prayer with someone who has spiritual commitment and guts.  Many would love the relief of prayer without the extra traveling to seek a spiritual advisor or financial expenses.  These women wonder, “Is there a person I can trust in prayer who will listen in the quiet as my pain and joy mingle?”

I believe you are that “yes!” to one woman this week or this month.  Last week, I was led to pray for a woman in our community who just lost her son to a car accident.  I could barely allow myself to think about looking into her eyes.  As she was standing before me outside her place of work, I drank in everything about her and just wept.  In those moments, I knew I was in the Presence of Christ as He stood close by her weeping for her, too.  For that moment, that was my prayer.