In my last blog post, I told of my journey in personal prayer. Today I’m sharing about my journey in praying with others. I would say this one has been harder for me. It takes planning, a significant time commitment, and overcoming hurdles that always seem to interfere with the time that I set aside.
Many people seem to have hang ups when it comes to praying together in groups. Maybe the church you grew up in only allowed a priest to pray so you never learned how, or you only prayed the Lord’s Prayer out loud. Maybe you did not even grow up attending church and the whole prayer thing is new to you. Some people feel awkward and just don’t like to talk in front of others, let alone pray. I mean, what if you don’t know what to pray for, or how to do it right, or if you sound stupid?
God grabbed hold of me in 1985 at age 19, while a freshman at Luther College. I had the benefit of immediately having other believers who were willing to pray with me. The Christian group that I was involved in had us find another person each week to get together with and pray. These very small groups at the beginning of my Christian life provided a safe place for me to pray out loud with another person, and to learn from them as I listened to their prayers.
From 1988-1992, my husband and I lived in Minneapolis. We had no children until the end of our time there, so it was easy to jump at every opportunity to be involved in our church that we could. We had prayer with the youth leaders, all night prayer on New Year’s Eve, and we were even involved in a couple city-wide concerts of prayer. The amazing answers to prayer that we saw fueled the fire to pray more. Praying with others for things that were clearly God’s will, such as marriages being strong and missionaries to reach lost people, knit our hearts together as we were united in seeing God’s purposes accomplished.
This experience helped me realize that a big part of being truly connected to a community of believers is prayer. Jesus commands it over and over in the gospels. In verses such as Luke 10:2, And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” When we pray as Jesus commands us, we align desires with God’s desires. After Jesus ascended into heaven, we are given many accounts of the early church praying together. For example, Acts 12:12, “When he (Peter) realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” I am sure that with all the persecution going on in the early church, prayer seemed like a necessity. Yet we should feel the same urgency for the things God cares about, whether or not we are facing persecution.
After grad school, God led us to Michigan for a brief time, and then to our second church back home in Iowa, where we were for almost 18 years. There were many times that we prayed with people, and we had some mighty prayer warriors in that church, but for reasons unknown to us it was very hard to get people to gather to pray. I don’t think this is all that unusual. It often goes back to those things I mentioned at the beginning. It’s just plain hard to get people to commit.
So now on to our time at Valley Church. We started attending Valley in August of 2013. I didn’t go looking for any groups to pray with. We came at a time when we were hurting, and many were willing to pray with us for our needs. But I had very little to offer. Until January, 2016. The events of that weekend are forever seared in my memory. Mike was gone, it was a Saturday night, and I started getting some strange prayer requests. So I asked our daughter if anything troubling was happening on social media. It was. I was so grieved to learn that a high school senior from our very own church, the brother of our daughters’ friend, was clinging to life after trying to take his own. In the end, the efforts to save his life did not work. A family was left heart-broken. A church youth group was shocked. A school and community were stunned. A young man with a bright future had a weak moment. On any given day, that could be any other kid. It could even be my kid. He had been at church earlier in the evening on the day this happened. But no one knew what was coming.
Our student ministry director is also one of the preaching pastors, and with our lead pastor gone he had to preach. After the last service I went up to him and told him that God had laid on my heart to really pray for the youth of our church, and if there was a way that could happen on Wednesday night when other activities were going on, I would love to organize that. Sherri Anfinson went one step further. Having the same sense of conviction, she just did it. So the next week we started praying together on Wednesday nights.
Since then we have prayed pretty much every time there are Wednesday night activities going on. If you go to Valley Church, you have been prayed for! Yes, we have prayed a lot that God would protect our kids from the lies of the enemy. Our kids, our pastors and staff and their families, our missionaries, our single people, our marriages, our leaders, our wayward children, our ministries, our country… OUR is the key word here. We are all in this together as the body of Christ. Our prayers are not the “please give me” kind of prayers. More than anything else we want to align ourselves with God and what his plans our for us and for the people of Valley Church. Our prayers have been that Satan would be pulled back and disarmed and that God would be glorified. Our prayers have been that people would be saved and prayers would be answered in such a way that all that could be said is, “Look what God has done!!!”
Over time, our small group has gotten close enough that we can share those extremely personal needs, some that are nearly impossible to even utter. We all have each other’s backs no matter what happens. We don’t agree on everything, but we do know the sincerity of each of our hearts to passionately pursue God. Christ is what unites us, and that bond is enough to keep us coming back each week.
So now my plea to you, my exhortation really. Can I do that even if you don’t know me? Well I’m going to. My exhortation is for you to find some other people here at church to pray with. Are you already doing that? Great! Our team would actually love to hear about groups who are already meeting that we don’t know about! If you are, please send me a note at the email address below. We would love to encourage you and get you connected with more ways to pray as we kick off Good News for All (GN4A)!
If you are not meeting with someone, start your own group. If you would like help starting contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org Not wanting to do that? Then do I have an offer for you! There are 5 ladies in the Valley Community Center kitchen from 6:30-7:45 every Wednesday night when children’s ministry is going on. We know a lot of people are serving elsewhere, but if you aren’t you are welcome to pray with us! We would love to have enough people show up that we have to find someplace much bigger to meet!
The young man from our church has a name. Drew Lienemann. I was not able to attend his memorial service, but I watched a video of it. Much of the message was from his very own prayer journal. He had a heart for God and for others. He had a bad moment with life changing consequences for many people. He also left a legacy. He left a testimony of his faith in Christ in his prayer journal. As an organ donor he helped over 100 people’s physical lives, which is amazing, but how many more people could he have impacted had he lived a long life. As one of our own, I believe his greater legacy may be that many people’s spiritual lives were affected, because a few of us were prompted to pray. Do not wait for a health crisis or a marriage crisis or a death to be moved to join with others in prayer. 2018 is the year! Get a group and get praying! I can’t wait to see what God does!!
Karla Evans has been the wife of Mike for almost 31 years, and is the mother of 5 children, ages 12 to 25. God has used the circumstances in her life to give her a heart to minister to others, especially women in hard circumstances. Karla serves on the Good News For All Prayer Team. If you are interested in forming or joining a Prayer Group, please contact Karla at email@example.com