Humble Pie Prayer

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.


An Answer to Prayer

Sometimes it’s the people who feel they aren’t heard who make the loudest noise.

Today, December 14, 2012, one of the worst school shootings in history occurred. As of now, 27 are dead by the hands of Adam Lanza, including school children, his own mother, and Lanza himself. These aren’t abstract people. These are children whose parents had bought them their Christmas presents already. I am sure every parent’s heart has been wrung thinking of today’s event.

I am seeing Facebook and Twitter being littered with heartfelt sympathies and political indecencies. Many of my Christian friends are posting that their prayers are going out to the families of the victims and all involved. Some (though fewer) are also sending their prayers to Adam Lanza and his family.

Prayer is a funny thing. Prayer is talking to God – simplest definition. And though I have heard many sermons on prayer, I still don’t fully understand the complexities of it.

How often should I pray?

Is listening and meditating also a part of prayer?

Should I talk to God as if He were a friend or as if He were royalty?

Should action follow certain prayers?

As much as we pray for things, I am sure there is a time where God in turn wants us to be the answer to someone’s prayers. Whether it’s a simple compliment, or a sum of money, or a prayer in itself strung with encouragement, I think that God uses humans to answer prayers. It shows our obedience as much as it shows His sovereignty. God has used even an ass to answer a prayer (Numbers 22:22-41).

I think it would be a foolish thing to think that Adam Lanza had never said a prayer. And it’s humbling for me to think that maybe there is someone like Adam whose prayer I am supposed to answer. I know it might sound far-fetched or unrealistic, but we as Christians are to be a light to the world. And maybe someone had been a light that he resisted (as there is free will). But I feel like someone who is willing to make such a loud commotion is someone who feels like he has never been heard.

I don’t think it’s an excuse.

I don’t think what he did was excusable.

But are we willing to be a light in the darkness? Are we willing to realize that we might be part of the blame, because we are so focused on ourselves that we don’t realize the people who are shouting for hope, shouting for love…

Shouting for an answer to prayer?