Above: seniors from WCA (left) and BCS (right). Have you ever prayed for someone while looking at his/her picture? This week's blog explores how praying for others can look a lot of different ways. (Not pictured: Cole Knapp, Trey Shurtleff) Photo credit: Rebekah Klase
If prayer were an ocean, I think it would be bigger than any ocean we've ever seen. When we first encounter prayer, it's more like a small pond into which we're dipping our toes. We see where it starts and ends. We wade into it. Sometimes it feels refreshing. Sometimes it feels like we're moving against the current. But at first, we definitely think it fits into some kind of contained space.
We say to ourselves, prayer looks, feels and sounds like this. For me, there are a few basic instructions about prayer that come to mind that I learned as a young child. Things like closing your eyes, bowing your head, and folding your hands. This is what we do when we pray.
However, as I've grown older and experienced more life, my understanding of prayer has definitely expanded. I remember one time in college, I was with a group of students from Baptist Student Ministries (later known as Cross Seekers, the Christian organization I was a part of), and our campus minister led us in a rather unique way of praying. We were standing in a circle and he said that we were going to pray for each other, but he instructed us to keep our eyes open. We were then to go to someone else in the circle, stand facing them, and pray for them, keeping our eyes open and looking at them as we prayed.
I remember feeling like this experience was definitely pushing me outside of my comfort zone while also opening my eyes - literally and figuratively - to the endless possibilities of meaningful ways to pray. It felt kind of like the little pond I thought prayer fit into had now turned into a much bigger lake, and I had just stumbled upon an area of it that I had never seen before.
Now years later, as I keep practicing and exploring, I am convinced that I will never in my lifetime reach the bottom of the ocean when it comes to prayer. There is always something new to discover.
One such discovery happened for me quite by accident. I was using a set of prayer cards I have to pray for various people. Each card has the name of a person along with some verses and specific prayer requests I've written down. When I came to the cards for my own children, I happened to look up on our mantle at their pictures. (We had gotten prints of their school photos and had each one displayed in a picture frame.) Rather than looking down at the cards, for some reason I just focused on each of my children's photos as I prayed for them. God, bless this child. Thank You for the person You've created her to be, for his smile, for the way I see her caring for those around her...
I don't remember the exact words I prayed but I remember it being a powerful and moving experience, bringing me to tears. As I looked at each of my children, focusing my eyes on their faces, my love for them deepened. I felt such incredible joy in seeing these faces, these precious works of God's creation. I deeply desired to see them grow and thrive. Praying in this way felt somehow deeper and more meaningful than normal.
I'm not sure that my prayers that day were necessarily any better or more effective than they would have been if I had closed my eyes, bowed my head and folded my hands. Perhaps for someone else, the eyes-closed/head-bowed/hands-folded praying could have resulted in a similar heartfelt kind of praying experience. What was so cool about this experience for me was how it showed me that the gift of prayer really is like a bottomless ocean.
I bet most of us have had a time when our understanding of prayer was expanded. What was it for you?
I hope we keep sharing these expanded understandings with one another, because there is more to this gift of prayer than any one of us could discover on our own. As we continue learning, may each new revelation deepen our sense of awe and gratitude for the God whose gifts reflect His character, bigger and wider and deeper than any ocean we can imagine.
Pray with me...
... God, help us keep our eyes open to what new things You may want to show us about prayer
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
... Lord, teach us through each other and help us to encourage one another in prayer
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
... Father, let every aspect of Alliance Christian School District be infused with prayer
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
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory