31 December, 2006

Engaging God: Praying Together

Have you ever played with fire? Literally?

It is very hard to keep a lone piece of wood burning. If you light the end of a piece of wood, like you would a torch, and then pull it out of the fire to wave it around like a happy adventurer, it will likely go out. It grows much cooler and dimmer without its brothers.

Christians pray best when surrounded by other Christians praying hot and heavy.

There are so many subjects for prayer, and all of them appropriate. Praying for healing, for the government, for our boys to come home (thank you, KB and Milly) or for growth in the church. Any one of these can be prayed, but all of them are prayed much hotter when each saint's heart is sparked by another's prayer.

It hurts my feelings when only one person prays for each need. If we are praying for Jane Doe's healing, and Jim Smith prays, that's good. But if Jim prays, and his prayer sparks Linda to pray more specifically, or Mark to pray more passionately, and that spark works its way around the room, it is a tremendous boon to the whole body. If our prayers are like incense, the whole body praying the same thing is like a whole censer being flung around.

We pray to demonstrate to God our desire, but we also pray to remind ourselves of our God. We pray to demonstrate our faith, but we also pray to build our faith up. When one of us prays a prayer big on faith, another can pray one big on remembering Him in Whom we place our faith. A third can pray on how the granting of this request is for the good of the kingdom, and the lifting up of the King's Name. A fourth can pray about the dearness of this child to God, and the sweet love and compassion He feels toward each child. Before long, the whole body has been lifted up.

"Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" is more than just one person emptying his or her heart.

Just like that stick of firewood, one person praying, even with the silent support of the rest of the body, is weak. We need each other. We need to hear each other's support and encouragement.

And there is one kind of prayer in which this encouragement is most necessary.

Praise.

No praise should be allowed to fall to the earth alone. It should be joined with an echo or an addition or a response. The fire of admiration for God should be kindled and banked and fanned at every opportunity. Even when nothing comes to mind, something should be declared.

If I have a small fire, maybe 3 pieces of wood, and I put 5 pieces of wood on top of it, they will not burn. But if I blow on it a little bit, shield it, and stir it up just a little bit, those sticks will eventually smoulder and light. It's a little work, but it is work well spent.

If I leave those 5 pieces of wood off the fire, and save myself that work, the fire dies and those sticks never are consumed.

We should not walk out of a prayer time with wood unburnt. (As a corollary, we should not burn more wood than we brought, either - but let's wait until we have that problem to address it.) It seems hard some times to add something to a prayer, but it really isn't. You an always lend an EAR.

Echo, Add, Respond.


Echo
David Letterman has made an entire career out of repeating failed punchlines. He tells a joke, and it falls flat. You can count on hearing the punchline to that joke 10 more times. By the 10th time, the audience is in stitches every time he says it.

There is power in significant repetition.

If there was a line in the prayer that caught you up a little, repeat it. That repetition will encourage the first person, and maybe encourage someone else, too. Show the angels listening that these things matter enough to say again. The hearer of these words was moved with love to God by them. One day, you may be lucky enough to hear one phrase repeated 10 times by 10 people, each time with more meaning and depth. It can be holy.

Add
This one is the riskiest, and it pays great rewards.

A brother prays about the love of God, and mentions sacrifice. In your heart, you see the Lamb sacrificing Himself, so you praise the Lamb for laying Himself down. Another sister remembers that the Lamb was empowered by His sacrifice to take up the scroll, and to master all things. Each brother adds something to the beauty of the prayer that came before. Eventually, you will make it to the throne room with Isaiah.

If something inside you is sparked when a brother or sister prays, share that spark. We can spark and inspire each other to remember God's greatness, and to declare it together back to Him.

What is the risk, you ask? Sometimes, an addition is just a distraction. Sometimes, an addition is a bad idea. Who cares? Someone just bring the prayer back to the original focus with a fresh Echo of the last "on-point" prayer, and let's get back to it.

Take a chance, and try adding something.

Respond
This is really, really cool.

If someone has prayed about God's love to the church, respond with the church's love back to Him. If someone has declared the love the church for her King, respond back with praise for the King's love to His church.

By completing a cycle like this, you remind yourselves that prayer is a part of the massive two-way relationship between God and man. You praise God by reminding yourselves of the awesomeness of His love, and You praise God by reminding yourselves of His immense worthiness of our love. Complete the cycle, and either way you will declare the loveliness of God.

Take a Chance On Praise
It seems hard to pray these things out loud, especially at the beginning. We fear praying something, "wrong," but you aren't taking a chance that you might say something wrong. You are taking a chance that you might move God's heart. You might encourage another saint to take a chance, too. And that's the kind of gamble we need more of.

I hear a lot of people say that prayer should be about us coming to God as we are, and I agree, but even when we come to God as we are, we should not leave Him as we were. Pour yourself, just as you are, into a prayer. It can change you. There is something real and rich and eternal about declaring to God, in the presence of men and angels, His worth. We don't have to wait for Revelation 4. We can surround His throne now, and tell Him the Truth about Himself.

This is never easy, but it is vastly harder alone. Sure, we start out afraid of saying anything in front of the group, but it's always hard to start a fire. Once the fire starts, though, the more wood the better. The more saints risking, and pouring their hearts into prayer, the better each of us can declare God's worthiness.

Conclusion
I know that you will let me know what you think, and I treasure that about all of you saints who read and share here. But this time, I would like to hear the answer to two questions in addition to all the other thoughts you may offer.

1) Have you ever been in a church that practiced this? It seems rare to me, and I wonder whether it's just me.

2) Does the idea of trying this on the Timeless Prayer site appeal to you?

10 comments:

Patchouli said...

Actually, I do like playing with fire. It's a family thing...

Great post, reminds me that one of my committments this year is to listen to God as He leads us to a spiritual community.

DugALug said...

CP,

Thanks for the good stuff to ponder. I really want to take some of this to heart.

God Bless
Doug

Kansas Bob said...

Mostly when I pray with people they pray LONG prayers. One goal I have for my small group this year is to experiment with the idea of conversational prayer. When I do I will use your EAR approach ... it is a great way to dialog with God and others as we pray together.

Don't know what the timeless prayer site is but it doesn't appeal to me ... I already spend too much time online :)

codepoke said...

Thanks for the kind words.

FWIW, the Timeless Prayer site is a new blog devoted to being a simple collection of prayers written by "us." I hold out the hope that someday it will be a place to exercise the ideas behind EAR. Maybe even a place for non-bloggers. We'll see.

Milly said...

I think that at time we forget to say praises in a group. That was one thing that my ladies class did, we prayed and praised God. I have noticed that my minister picks out the praises in the responses. I also go to a church that has a history of being a bit more upbeat, I hope to hear more good news sermons but we do have to hear other stuff. (You know the knock it off and be good stuff)

I like the idea of a less structured Timeless Prayer are you thinking that with the Psalms? Am I way off track?

codepoke said...

There is no track for Timeless Prayer. We are laying it as we go.

I am always open to less structure. Lead on.

Kansas Bob said...

I've gotta be gettin old - I have commented at Timeless Prayer :(

Milly said...

KB,
Heh!

karen said...

1) Yes, I've been part of many groups that do this...as KB says, though, sometimes the prayers get longgggg, and the meaning and spirit gets lost, eyes glaze over, bladders start bursting, you know...
2) I coordinate an email prayer chain...about 60 or 50 people or so. Don't know how many of them PRAY actually, but I hear from many of them on requests that mean something in particular to them, something that resonates. I'll check out your other site.

I think group prayer is wonderful. Solitary prayer is very important and powerful. Jesus said to go to a quiet place and pray. When my tinnitus was terrorizing me the most..He sent me to my closet of all places...quiet, dark, and small...I'm claustrophobic...so I know He wants just us to Himself as well.

codepoke said...

Karen,

Thank you for your answers. :-)

I hope I didn't come off as implying that solitary prayer is of lesser importance. It's an easy mistake to make, though, so I probably did. Solitary prayer is the anchor for all other prayers. Glowing public prayer without the embers of private prayer is hype without heat.