I can distinctly remember the first time I cried while praying with anyone other than my family. I was 15 years old and praying for someone’s salvation; the next thing I knew I was crying. Coming from someone who tried hard not to be emotional in public, this was not what I had intended. Yet there I was, trying to pray, and mostly sobbing over something that I didn’t even expect to affect me so much. I remember the prayer clearly, but even more so, I remember how I felt afterwards: embarrassed.
Since sharing last week’s post, numerous people have expressed their similar struggles for heartfelt honesty when it comes to praying with others. One big question that I’ve asked myself is, “Why experience the difficulty of praying these prayers together?” It’s easier to pray things before God alone and separate my fellowship time from my prayer time. However, we’re given the example throughout Scripture of praying together.
Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” How better can we experience that sort of unity than by appealing to God together for the things that matter most in our lives? I’ve experienced the perseverance of praying certain prayers over and over, those continual comings to God that seem at times to be frustrating even to myself by their repetition (Luke 18:6). When I pray those prayers with my family in Christ, they have a deeper glimpse into my burdens.
As believers pray these prayers together, it is a two-way street: not only are we to share our burdens, but as Christians, we are to enter into the prayers of the saints and be unified in them. I’m sure many people have experienced the same feelings of embarrassment after praying truly honest prayers around other people. This often comes due to our self-consciousness about what people will think, yet the church can help ease the tension by showing unity and support. When we aren’t the ones saying the prayer, we have the ability to join in prayer and offer encouragement.
On the occasions when I’ve prayed honestly and perhaps ended in tears, I’ve been ministered to when someone comes up and offers me some encouragement in light of the prayer. “I noticed how much this matters to you- I want you to know I’m praying for that burden too.” This week, I witnessed a beautiful thing in a prayer meeting- when one sister couldn’t pray further through tears, another sister instantly joined in and continued praying for her request. There was unity and fellowship experienced through that prayer. By allowing us to experience so many of the same struggles, God has given us the ability to appropriately encourage one another. When someone shares a burden, it is our privilege to bear it with them.
As we make it our practice to pray honestly together, we can grow past the difficulty and experience fellowship– and God will make it worth all the struggle that may be involved.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:2
(I hope it would be unnecessary to say this, but for clarity’s sake I’m not saying we need to pray every personal pray in front of others. Some prayers I only ought to pray with other sisters in Christ. Some prayers ought to stay between myself and God. Other honest prayers can be shared with my entire church family or any other believer. With a desire to share fellowship through prayer, we can trust God will give us all wisdom in what prayers to pray.)