I am not a huge fan of “prayer groups.”
If you have ever been to one, you probably understand some of my concerns. People’s prayer requests are often longer than the prayers themselves. There is always an “unspoken” prayer that is awkwardly placed among the requests. Sometimes people use prayer groups as a platform from which to gossip and slander others.
And then when the prayer starts that is awkward too. If more than one person prays, the transitions have awkward pauses. If everyone is supposed to hold hands, that is another wrench in the mix. Some people have clammy or cold hands. Sometimes one is stuck having a switched grip and feels uncomfortable. If hands are to be put on shoulders, then there is that awkward point where a person’s arm gets tired, and they are then more focused on keeping their arm raised rather than on the prayer they are praying.
My biggest problem with prayer groups is usually an internal one. I always feel like I have a need, but when the time comes for prayer requests, I always feel as though my request isn’t good enough. It’s not that my prayer request isn’t good enough, but it isn’t important “enough” to mention and “burden” others. For me, I used to think this problem came from humility; that I was thinking of others and their needs before my own.
But, the more that I think of this suppression of concerns, the more that I realize that I grounded my silence in pride rather than humility.
I started studying some of the letters Paul wrote to the early church. There were some things that I noticed about Paul’s letters. He usually started them with prayer. He would pray for the people without them asking, showing concerns for some cities that he had never visited before. He would hear of their prayers and their faith, and praise them for it with ample enthusiasm!
Then Paul did something that I would have been too prideful to do. Paul asked for prayer from his readers. Paul, THE missionary to the Gentiles, would ask his readers (who he was usually writing in order to correct some misunderstanding in theology) for prayer.
At the birth of Paul’s prayers was humility. He knew that the mission he was sent on could only be accomplished with the strength that God provided. He was not afraid to make himself be seen as vulnerable or dependent. He knew he had to be vulnerable and dependent if he was going to complete the mission God sent him on! He knew he needed God.
Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. Have the humility to tell someone when you need them to carry a burden with you. As the church we are called to be a community, and praying for others is a way we connect with one another as we are connecting with God. Praying for others is just another way we are perfecting the Greatest Commandments. It reminds us of our dependence in God as well as the love and care of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pray for others without asking.
Ask for prayer unashamedly.
And maybe we can break this stigma of pride that comes with prayer.