I spent a significant amount of the decade after graduating college on planes. On average, I was probably on a flight a week….and most of them were international….which meant really, really, really long flights. And, I almost always flew by myself.
When you are on a plane, you are surrounded by other people. But, if you don’t know anyone on your flight, it’s typically a pretty lonely event. Over time, I came to really enjoy flying alone. This was the time before there was internet in the sky, so no one from work or home could get in touch with me. I was truly ‘unplugged’. I used the time to watch movies, read and often, pray. I have a box full of prayer journals. Most of the journaling was done while I was flying from one place to the other. I wrote the location where I was headed on the top of the page with the date so that I could keep track of all of my prayers and travels.
Since moving back to the US a few years ago, my travel on planes has slowed down. Significantly. Last year was the first year I didn’t achieve some sort of status with an airline. And now with coronavirus, I doubt I’ll be on a plane anytime soon.
Given the trends of how and where I prayed, I would have expected that my prayer life would have waxed and waned. But it didn’t. Because I started praying with other people. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, this is how God instructs us to pray….with other people.
Prayer is not a lonely event. It’s meant to be done in every situation and in community. And to be led by the Father.
I recently read through James 5:13-20 preparing for a class and it got me thinking more about my own prayer life and how it has evolved over the years.
The first thing James tells us to do is to pray in EVERY situation. When we are suffering, joyful, sick….. To talk to Him. About EVERYTHING.
I’ve always been pretty good at praying….when I NEEDED something. But I haven’t always been as good at talking to God when I felt I didn’t need Him. But those prayer journals got me into the rhythm of telling God everything. All about my day. My heartbreak. (oh the many many heartbreaks….) And my joy. I didn’t have anyone to talk to on the plane….so I talked to God. And wrote Him long letters about my life.
Then James tells us: pray with and for other people. Find the elder of your church and ask them to pray for you. Confess your sins to each other. Forgive each other. Live obediently. And help others get back up and do the same.
I kind of feel like I’m reading a Brene Brown book or watching her speak as I write those words. Be vulnerable. Forgive. Trust. Be brave and courageous. Create accountability and belonging.
Social researchers are affirming the guidance that God gives us in His Word. God intends for us to be in community and do real life with them….including praying for and with each other.
When I started writing in those journals, I would have melted into the ground if I was asked to pray out loud in a group setting. I did not feel adequate enough. It made me super anxious. What if I messed up? Or said something wrong?
Since my move back to the US, I have been surrounded by people who pray out loud, in all kinds of settings. My mother is chief among them. She has long been a beacon of prayer in a group setting. I’ve watched others pray for people over the phone. And I heard about prayer meetings that were going on in the city.
Slowly, after watching others model prayer in community, I started doing it too. I started praying out loud in LifeGroup, praying for people on the phone and attending regular prayer meetings. But y’all, that didn’t happen over night. It was a slow burn to get that fire lit in me.
What I’ve come to realize is that there is power in numbers. Not that God doesn’t hear our prayers when we don’t engage others, but God wants us living in community, sharing our lives and working with Him in/through all of it. Probably not the best analogy, but it’s like a big group project. [just thinking back to some group projects during grad school gives me anxiety.] God is the group leader instructing us all in our parts and together it’s much better than if we were doing it alone.
A little more on that…..God is the leader…including in prayer. He speaks to our hearts and directs us on what and who to pray for.
Matthew writes what Jesus says about prayer in 18:19-20. Jesus says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus says it. There is power in numbers. And, those things that we are agreeing about on earth must align to the will of the Father. A new house just because two or more of us agree that it’s what we need may not align to the will of the Father.
This is why it’s so important that we be in tune with the heart of the Father and not have one-way conversations with Him. We have to hear His voice. And yeah, I get this is hard for many people.
One way to hear His voice is to read your bible. Not a bible study, but the actual books of the bible. Pick it up, flip to a book/chapter and just start reading. It’s called the living word for a reason. Read it and start to find out why.
Another way is to seek counsel from other [wise] Christians. That whole living in community thing and being vulnerable with others? Maybe one of those people has a Word for you from God.
And, y’all…find your prayer rhythm. Maybe it’s journaling. Maybe it’s praying with others over the phone. Maybe it’s getting on your knees every morning. Find what works for you. But also know that as you grow in your faith and your relationship with the Father, your prayer rhythms might also grow and change. Don’t expect your prayer life to remain the same.
Just start praying. Find a community. Be vulnerable. Create trust. And talk to God. Together.