praying WITH strangers

In May, I wrote a post called “praying for strangers” and shared my experience of visiting a church prayer meeting and what it was like joining in prayer for a group of people that I did not know.  It was quite edifying to drop in to a church during my travels and share the prayers, praises, and presence of Jesus with a congregation in a strange city.

Tonight, I am writing about the act of praying WITH strangers.  We all get used to our own congregational or corporate prayer life with our Sunday worship, or weekly Men’s Groups, but the experience of praying WITH strangers opens us to a new spiritual growth opportunity.

I often give presentations to groups of sales reps or customers, so maybe I’m a little more experienced at walking in to a new place and being able to adapt quickly to my surroundings and communicate with those around me.  But here we are talking about prayer, and sometimes prayer doesn’t come easy, or maybe we are uneasy about whether our prayer will resonate in such a setting.  But that’s not really for us to worry about, is it?  God will make a way where there is no way.  Proverbs 3:6 tells us, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).

So I walked into that church this week. Although it was one I had been to before, I hadn’t been there in about six years, since I don’t travel to Atlanta very often any more.  And I do not recall having met any of the people in this small prayer group.  I am not so young any more, but I was by far the youngest in this small room of only five members of the congregation that were the regulars.  Even their names were from a different era, Hildria, Ione, and Hazel, to name a few.  But there was a lot to learn from the strength and the simplicity of their faith in Jesus, and their determination to lift up those who needed their prayer; church faithful, family, friends, missionaries, and (as I presume they do every week) our Country, our President, and our Government.

Just before we started, Hildria asked me some questions about where I was from, where I went to church, how did I come to find their church, etc.  And introduced me to each person who entered the room as though I was a special guest (it’s always fun introducing myself as a “traveling salesman”).

She gave me a copy of the night’s prayer list (I do keep these, and sometimes even get back to the same church a few weeks or months later, to hear a praise report follow up).  Then she went around the room and asked each person to pray for one or two of the people on the list. When she came to me, she didn’t miss a beat, knowing that I didn’t know the people, she asked me to pray for their church.  Suddenly I felt very honored to be in a position to lift up this small congregation in prayer, and be able to offer thanks that the door to God’s house is always open to strangers (obviously referring to myself here), and to pray for my own church congregation, and the revival that I sense happening back in my home town (I’ve posted about that previously in my writing about our Men’s group, Cornerstone, which I believe is part of a revival of the Spirit in our church).

All in all, we prayed for about an hour, and I truly felt as though I was part of something much larger than the six of us praying together in that little church in Atlanta, GA.  I was part of a world-wide prayer meeting that Wednesday night going on in thousands of big and small churches, the Family of God, gathering for prayer, praise, and worshiping our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Praying for strangers, praying with strangers? Not really… Praying for my brothers and sisters, praying WITH my brothers and sisters, just ones that I hadn’t met until I walked in that door on Wednesday night…

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