Have you ever experienced the power of what someone’s prayer life can do for your own? I have! I’ve been in a handful of seasons where I really struggled to pray. I didn’t know what to say to God. I felt defeated or tired of praying the same things. I felt doubtful and needed someone else to remind me of why I trusted God in the first place. I felt distracted and needed other people to remind me of what was really important in my time with God.
The prayers of our friends can greatly impact our lives. And I’m grateful to have seen that so alive in my own life.
But as I was reading A Praying Church by Paul E. Miller, he shared some thoughts that flung open the doors for how we could foster spiritual growth in others through our prayers.
“Become what you are” is a radically different perspective from “Stop being what you are.” Even when Paul goes negative, he tends to say “Stop being what you aren’t.” He reorients how we see ourselves as saints. That reorientation needs to begin with how we see one another. What does this have to do with prayer? In our prayer meetings, I often connect people’s seemingly mundane requests with their sainthood. So when Melissa asked for prayer for her dysfunctional family at Christmas, I cheered her on, telling her that she isn’t just unloading another prayer request, but she is a saint on the cutting edge of the kingdom. When I do this, the saints light up. With a little encouragement and a lot of prayer, saints blossom. The Spirit has imprinted our souls with the image of Jesus. Consequently, we really and truly are saints. The only way we can sustain superhuman love is by asking our Father to keep doing what he did at Jesus’s resurrection, and now has done permanently at the core of our being. So when we pray, we are asking the Father to give us the spirit yet once again, in order to bring us Christ so that he will resurrect something broken in our lives.
A few pages later he says:
The modern church’s therapeutic bent emphasizes the sufferer or victim, so when Allison groans about being with her broken family at Thanksgiving dinner, instinctively we see her as a suffering person who might benefit from counseling. The therapist might tell her to give herself a break. There is a time for that, but such counsel can blind us to recognizing Alison as a saint on a mission of love. Maybe all Alison needs is her faith tank filled up by friends who enjoy her sainthood and pray with her; so when Uncle Bill dominates the conversation and complains about the food, she can smile, knowing she’s a saint, reflecting Christ’s beauty with the virtue of patience.
Whew! That’s a lot to digest! And we can get bogged down by different views on saints and therapy but I don’t want us to miss the main point here.
When we pray for someone else and how we pray for someone else can impact how they live out their faith and gospel mission. When a friend asks me to pray for a seemingly mundane request in her life, how is it connected to her life in Christ? Right now I have a friend who’s prayer has been for an investment to go through. And I’ve prayed simply about this but I haven’t encouraged her as a saint. She’s one of the most generous people I know. This investment could provide opportunities for greater generosity. How do I pray to remind her that God gave her that generous heart and is making an eternal impact through it. And if it doesn’t go through as we hope, how do I prayerfully encourage her that her generous spirit will find a way to continue in more creative ways in this season?
And what about the friend who’s really struggling with fear? What if we reminded her of who she is in Christ. That death is defeated. That as she rejects the old life, she brings glory to God and gets to experience a joy that comes from life in His presence. That as she walks in the freedom of Christ, everyone who sees it gets to see how God took her from dead to alive. That He changed her in ways she couldn’t possibly do on her own.
This is so far beyond “I’ll pray for you to not worry anymore.” I’m not critiquing those prayers but I’m reminded they miss the power that comes as we pray. And maybe that’s why we’re bored in our prayer life or praying for our friends feels like a burden?
Y’all, I am giddy excited about the possibilities that this brings for me as I ask friends for their biggest requests each month when I fill out my prayer journal.
How can I reach their hearts beyond “I’m praying!”
How can my prayers remind them of who they are in Christ and their great mission for God’s kingdom?
This summer, I’ve been walking with some friends through Jennie Allen’s Find Your People bible study and we all keep talking about how we long for accountability. We want friends who will keep pointing us to Christ. And here we are with another opportunity to do that. Through prayer.
Proverbs 27:17 says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Who knew prayer offered another way we could be sharpening each other?
If you’ve been using our prayer journals for long, my hunch (ok, based on y’alls overwhelming feedback) is that your friendships are growing as you get to pray for each other each month and share the honest, hard things going on.
What if we took it a step further this year? What if we started thinking about their sainthood as we pray for them? Let’s ask ourselves a few simple questions as they share their deepest needs:
1. How does this request connect to eternity?
2. How does this request connect to who God made them to be?
3. How does this request connect to their mission?
These are not merely human beings we’re praying for. These are children of God, called for a purpose, to bring glory to His name, to go and make disciples. We aren’t just trying to get through life on earth unscathed. And too often, our prayers for our friends can sure sound like that.
So today, as we think of how we can support our friends and encourage them, I can’t think of a better way than fueling them for our life’s purpose – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
And we thought prayer was boring. 😉