When we gather, what do we pray about? Oh my goodness, where do we start?
“My best friend from high school has been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
“A family in my community just lost their child in a car accident.”
“My cousin’s baby was born prematurely.”
“Several men from our church have lost their jobs.”
And on and on and on…there never seems to be a shortage of needs. (Have you read your Facebook feed today?)
Women tend to be compassionate and nurturing beings, and there are multitudes of legitimate prayer requests. But you know what? Trying to pray for everything every single week will leave you exhausted. Well, you ask, if we aren’t lifting up folks with “real problems,” just what are we supposed to pray about? (Side note: we’ve got to stop “lifting up,” and start “handing over.” God is the weightlifter.)
O beloved, we have to start with the foundation; we have to begin with ourselves. Let’s allow God to deal with us first, before we move on to others–no matter how grave their issues may be. This isn’t as self-centered as it might sound.
Ever actually listen to the instructions flight attendants give at the beginning of every flight? They usually say something like this: “In the event of sudden decompression, an air mask will drop down. Be sure to secure your mask first, then help the child sitting next to you.” Our first thought is to help the baby. But if we pass out in the process, what good will we be? We need to be healthy and clear-headed in order to take care of someone else. James 5:16 gives similar instructions for our “prayer flights”:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
So we start with confessing our own sin (i.e., falling short of the glory of God–Romans 3:23), and seek healing through praying for one another. Then it follows that we become powerful in presenting our urgent requests. Prayer becomes effective. Why? Because we are not gasping for air ourselves. Through confession, Jesus makes us righteous.
Another reason we start by praying for ourselves is transparency. This is the fabulous (and scary) part of being in a small, intimate prayer group of women. It becomes a place where barriers can be torn down and masks can be removed; where the carefully curated image can fade and the real self can come into focus. As terrifying as it sounds, being vulnerable with one another is one of the most freeing things we will ever do.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
I have discovered this dirty little secret about my prayer life. When I begin machine-gunning prayer requests about this person and that situation, I am really hiding. I have not honestly confronted what I need to talk to my Father about, so I throw out a lot of other issues as cover. I think it’s my pride…or my shame (which, if you think about it, are really two sides of the same coin.)
And let’s face it. It is easier to pray for others than it is to listen, really listen, to the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls him the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17). While we pull out our laundry list of prayer requests, the Spirit longs to help us deal with our own laundry. What a gracious God we have!
Yes, prayer group is a place to pray for all kinds of needs, placing them squarely in God’s hands. And first and foremost, it is a place to pray for ourselves–to be real, to discover how God designed us. A place to be imperfectly brave. That is what we pray!
If a woman in your prayer group shared something that was causing her pain and despair, how would you respond to her? Would you be willing to let others do that for you?
It’s often helpful to begin with a scripture, or with praising God for who he is, or with thanksgiving. This helps position us to hear the Holy Spirit.
“Confession” doesn’t necessarily mean telling something bad you did or thought. It can also mean just being honest about your faith walk. Your prayer partners will understand, and you might help someone else open up about her needs, too.
When praying for needs outside the group, keep it short. (God really doesn’t need our suggestions on how to fix them.)
Keeping track of prayers (via journaling) builds faith as the group sees God answer our prayers in all his creative ways.
It is our strong desire to equip you and all of this and journey along with you. Here are some tools to help you begin and maintain a lifestyle of prayer and community:
Find the Imperfectly Brave prayer group checklist here
Find the Imperfectly Church Equip information here