July 25, 2018

Prayer Builds Community

By Karen Harwell

When I think back on graduate school, it’s not my aerospace engineering courses or the days spent in the computer lab on my research that I recall initially. It is the formational and meaningful times of fellowship and study in the single adult ministry at Forest Hills Baptist Church that come to mind. In particular, I remember the Wednesday evenings when our Sunday School teacher, Donna Nye, welcomed our young adult class into her home for times of prayer. We would talk about the ministries of the church, friends and loved ones who were ill or facing challenges, our country and world and even the car repair bill! Then, we would sit around the floor in the living room—sometimes spilling into the dining room, we had so many—and pray. Some prayers were eloquent, born from a lifetime in the church. Others were short and stinted as newer Christians found the courage to join in. During those evenings of prayer, we began to develop deeper relationships facilitated by the sharing of our concerns with each other. Friendships created during those times are ones that remain today. Several of the people in that group still pray for me and when we meet in person (which is unfortunately rare), it’s like we were never apart.

When I moved away, I’ll confess that my prayer life suffered. It took time to find a new community of believers with whom I could interact in the same way. As the years went by, I realized that this was a piece of my Christian practice that I needed to revive. So, as a seminary class project, I convened a new group of women who were interested in learning how to pray in new ways. The group met every other week to practice new prayer postures and types—silence, lectio divina, praying in color, written prayers, breath prayers, etc. I found that as we prayed and shared our personal concerns of family, vocation and the church, we immediately developed deeper relationships. When the class project ended, we continued to meet. Our times together were vital to each of our personal spiritual lives. We began to enjoy being together for fun times as well, sharing meals in our homes and going on little trips. These are the types of friends one could call at 3 a.m. in an emergency.

More recently, I was invited to gather with a small group of SPdL members whose main goal was to pray specifically for the church family and its ministries. We used the prayer list, Signal and the newsletter as our guide. As we continued to gather, we shared more with each other and our prayers took on new life. We began to pray more boldly for the church’s direction. Again, I found relationships through this ministry that encouraged me and supported me in ways that I do not believe would be possible if we had not bowed before the Lord together in prayer.

Presbyterian pastor and leader during the Second Great Awakening in the United States, Charles Finney, summarized it well: “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer”.

I urge you to try a prayer group. As you continue to meet, I expect that you begin to feel more comfortable with prayer and form new and meaningful friendships. The veneer of our jobs, style, upbringing and the attitude that “everything is ok” are stripped away. Look for new groups forming this fall at Second-Ponce or form your own with a handful from your Sunday school class, other parents or those that share similar stages in life or interests. Jesus prayed with his disciples and I’m convinced it created a bond of shared ministry that could not be created in any other way. The relationships between those disciples continued following Jesus’ resurrection and lit a fire for Christ that continues today.