Walking Our Faith: Why we need to pray together
Walking Our Faith
At the end of our daily phone conversation, Mom will say, “Now let me pray for you Suzie,” and though we are 2000 miles apart I find myself bowing my head.
And when she feels in need of prayer herself, she will not hesitate to say, “Okay Suzie, now you pray for me.” She will end by reminding me of the Bible verse which says when two or more are gathered together in God‘s presence, he hears our prayers and will act on our behalf (Matthew 18:19-20).
Speaking our prayers serves important needs in the life of the church community and in our own spiritual walk with God.
On Wednesdays, they hold a 30 minute prayer service at St. John’s. Here’s how the Rev. Charlie Brumbaugh describes it, “We gather for a simple, traditional service of Evening Prayer every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Near the end of the service, we invite the thanksgiving and intercessions of all present, for ourselves and for others, either silently or aloud.
“The people come forward to a small table with a bowl of sand on it and a lighted candle standing in the center symbolizing the Presence of Christ. As each prayer is offered, worshipers place a stone or a shell in the sand as a tangible expression of their intention. Sometimes we light a candle for each intention. In some mysterious way the placement of each stone or shell serves as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. And when all the prayers have been offered, we can visually see a host of petitions brought before Jesus, the Light of the world.”
When we pray together, we acknowledge being individuals coming together as family. We share our walk of faith with others because in community, we become stronger.
Corporate prayer (praying together as a church) can unite a church that is seeking a spiritual renewal or God’s direction for a new undertaking. The pastor may ask the congregation to devote a month to a specific prayer focus. This type of prayer can unite a congregation in purpose and awaken new spiritual strengths. Or as Mom would suggest, it can cause a stirring of the Holy Spirit that fortifies and inspires the church community.
Conversely, when praying for individual needs, we are asking for the strength of our spiritual community to hold us in prayer and share our burden.
Even if there is nothing more than consolation to be offered, we know we are heard; not only by God, but by others. In our very busy lives, it’s easy to feel invisible when we are hurting.
On Wednesday evening after Latin Mass and Bible Study at St. Mary’s, I asked Father Emmanuel about this. He enthusiastically replied, “Yes! When we pray together those who are strong, lift up those who are weak, like a chain holding us together.
“For instance, when we say the rosary together, if there are five of us, it’s as if we are saying the five decades twenty-five times, since we are reciting them together. The strength of our prayers is compounded.”
Last Sunday, I sat next to my friend Deborah during Mass. When the congregation stood to recite the Our Father, I raised my hands with others, and Deborah gently took my left hand in her right and we held hands as we recited the prayer, as did many others.
When we hold hands as we pray or when we gently place a hand on the shoulder of one in need of consolation, we share our essential need for touch and transmit the unspoken message that we are not alone.
To be fully present with one another during prayer asks a lot from us. It asks that we listen when we’d rather speak. It asks that we put ourselves, if only for a moment, in the shoes of someone who may be very different from us. And then it asks that we love that person, even after they have confessed a need for our prayers for something we might not understand, or conversely, represents a burden we’ve hidden in our own hearts. And of course, this is exactly why God encourages us to gather in prayer.
When we stand with our brother or sister in prayer, we are fulfilling the second of God’s most important commandments. The first being that we love God with all our hearts, souls, and strength. The second being that we love our neighbor, as we love for ourselves.
When we pray together, speaking aloud our needs, gently holding a hand, or placing our hand on another’s shoulder, we are saying, I hear you, I see you, I share with you the burdens and the joys of your heart before God, and I stand with you.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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