“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Which of the following describes your church?
Pray for each other? Right here at church in front of God and everybody? What will I say? What should I pray about? What will people think of my prayer?
Those were my thoughts the first time I heard a pastor tell us to break up into small groups and pray for each other. I was always shy as a child and at the time the pastor told us to pray for each other I was a teenager with all the insecurities and false bravado that comes with youth. So there I was, trying to make friends in a new neighborhood at a new church and the pastor tells me to turn to people I had never met and share my prayer requests and pray out loud for the people around me. It was more than intimidating; my knees were shaking and I was downright scared!
You see, even though I grew up in a Christian home and had placed my faith in Jesus, prayer was something that we did privately in our own hearts or at church when we stood up and read the liturgical prayer. Sure, one of the pastors or church leaders would lead in prayer for the people, but the idea of me actually praying for someone sitting next to me or in the pew behind me was foreign to me. It just wasn’t something that people did.
Now, looking back, I wonder, “Why not?” The Bible is full of examples of prayer and we are clearly commanded to pray for one another. Why is it that in many churches we seldom take the time to pray for one another? We tell each other that we will pray for them, and sometimes we do, but often it is just our way of wishing them the best with whatever they are facing. It is a good thing to do but it lacks the power that comes from taking someone’s hand and saying, “Let’s pray about that. Let’s ask God to intervene and help you in that situation. Father, I pray for my sister that you would…”
Taking the time to pray, to invite God into a situation and into a person’s life, is time well spent. And yet, the lack of time is one of the main reasons church leaders give for not leading people into praying for one another. They feel the pressure to have the meeting end at the appointed time. Prayer groups, altar ministry, or whatever method they use to get the people praying for one another takes time. Things can easily spiral out of their control as the Holy Spirit leads people to minister to each other and share one another’s burdens.
"Think about it this way: if people don’t learn how to pray in church, where will they learn how to pray?"
Some people may have emotional responses to what God is doing, and that makes it even harder on those leading the service. How do you continue on with the service when one group is crying and hugging while another group is shouting and praising the Lord? What do you do when one group is still praying but everyone else is done and looking bored? And what about the worship leader who let it all happen? He will get an earful from the senior pastor because the worship time went too long and used up some of the time set aside for the sermon.
So it is a complicated issue, and when a leader allows people to pray for one another he needs to do it with skill and with an ear to what the Holy Spirit is saying, but it is worth it! Talking to God and inviting Him into our lives is what church is all about!
And sure, some people may be too intimidated to pray and some might even go to another church, but many other people will be genuinely touched by God and connected to other brothers and sisters in Christ during that prayer time. They will be strengthened in their faith and develop ministry skills that will make them comfortable praying not only in church but also in their workplace, school, and neighborhood.
Think about it this way: if people don’t learn how to pray in church, where will they learn how to pray? If they are uncomfortable praying for people in the church, how will they gather up the courage or develop the ministry skills to pray for a sick neighbor or a troubled co-worker?
We must get over our reluctance to release people to pray for one another in our weekly gatherings and we have to help people get over the discomfort of praying for others. If we don’t, if people aren’t comfortable praying for others, they will not be the ambassadors of Christ they are called to be nor will they be functioning as vital members of His body.
Let’s Pray Together: Lord, help me to trust You when it comes time to reach out and pray for someone. Help me to get over the discomfort of praying for others and help me to lead people into being comfortable and confident in their ability to pray and minister. I pray for our church leaders and the whole congregation that we would be able to make time to pray for one another during our weekly meetings. I pray for the following people as you bring them to my mind… (Continue praying as you feel led…)
Real Life Examples and Testimonies Rethinking Church Part 1 -- In this video former Pastor Luke Bell speaks from his heart about what church really is and how we must do the “one-anothers” such as praying for one another and confessing our sin to one another.