Prayer is something as a child I thought was really simply a way to Thank God for things you already knew he knew and a way to ask for things you wanted. I didn't understand prayer to be something that was communication on the level it was meant to be with my Lord and Savior, until the last few years. Mom & Dad would use a cliche statement "Pray about it honey." My parents never prayed with me outside of the dinner table. I was never shown how to carry out a request for prayer, I was just told to do it. I didn't know what that really looked like or felt like. I never felt that my prayer life brought peace. It was very routine, and God felt very distant. I still prayed, but I didn't comprehend the benefit of it.
My prayer life has changed. Dramatically since last year, specifically September 2012 when I joined a Woman's Bible Study Group. At the end of our weekly lesson, we would go around the room asking for prayer. This was an all new experience for me as the only way I knew of group praying was in a "church" setting. Each week at the next lesson, the gals would followup on the prayer requests for the week before and inquire if any had been answered, if things had changed, was the prayer request still on the list, were there any others to add to the list, etc. We had opportunities to Thank God for answered prayers and to cry harder for things that brought further grief and a desire for more fervent prayer. Many times the prayer requests were emailed out so people could pray during the week and not forget the details of these requests. At the end of the lesson, sometimes we would even close the time in prayer and the prayer requests would be mentioned then. I had never experienced any of this before.
Believe me when I say it felt strange at first. I wasn't used to sharing my prayer life with other people, people I didn't know outside of a Woman's Bible Study Group. I wasn't used to sharing prayer requests either, specific requests. Sure, the big stuff everyone knows is going on in your life and that are horrific enough that they know you are facing a challenge is okay, people "know these things". But not the things that might be bothering you in your life, maybe even something you couldn't quite put your finger on, maybe something of concern to you, or things that you felt were beyond your control or wisdom to know how to handle, maybe even small things of importance to you in my personal life but really not when you look at the big picture but still troubling, irritating, frustrating...but enough to bother someone else enough to ask them to add it to their prayer list??? No, not a chance.
I wasn't used to people following up on my prayer requests, getting back in touch with me to let me know they prayed for me, taking the time to send me an email with the prayer request, or a text message with the prayer they prayed on my behalf. I truly didn't feel that important. I didn't feel my concerns needed to be brought to the attention of others and I didn't believe in my heart of hearts that they really would pray for me. I was used to the pat on the should in passing and a statement "I will pray for you".
During my Woman's Bible Study Course, the date got set for my surgery. Everyone knew it was a big day for me, not just because of my concerns with anesthesiology, not just because of the impact surgery was potentially to have on my health, but the fact insurance was not going to cover my surgery. This was a HUGE deal for me. I was facing some great fears and I needed prayers, desperately. I requested prayers from the ladies in my Bible Study Group, and one lady asked if before I left, if I would mind, if they actually could pray with me...for me...over me. I wasn't sure what to expect, but believe me, by now, I was all in. I wanted prayer. I had seen the difference prayer had made in my life in a few short weeks. What did I have to loose to do this too? They all stood around me and prayed with me, putting their hands on my back, my shoulders, my arm. They wanted me to know they cared, they were connected, they were in touch with my pain. Multiple people prayed over me before I left that day.
In the midst of all this, I met with someone to share in some strategic business planning and this guy, never having met me before, before I left asked how he could pray for me. I shared my impending surgery and he asked if he could pray with me before I left. I was blown away. There really were people out there who took prayer to a level I wasn't familiar with.
I then made myself vulnerable and emailed all my close friends asking them to fervently pray for me. I shared why I was afraid and that I needed their prayers. I never received response beyond "I will pray for you"...but neither did I expect them to be able to do what others had done for me. They didn't understand prayer on this level.
Regardless, the results of all these prayers are one of the reasons I believe my surgery was such a success. I had prayer warriors all over praying for me!!!
In December 2012, I had lunch one day with one of the ladies of my Bible Study Group and her husband at Olive Garden. They frequent this place and knew the waiter by name and her story. When they asked her how her day was going, she burst into tears. She had been serving a table of about 20 senior couples and they were making her job really hard. My friends husband, took initiative right then and said "Look me in the eyes, I am not going to close my eyes and neither are you but I am going to pray for you. You with me?" She nodded. He prayed. He prayed for her to be freed from this burden, for her to feel and know God's love for her, he prayed that these people out to bring harm would stop, that she would get assistance from other coworkers to finish out this shift so she could manage her tables, he prayed that God would still bless her with tips, he prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed for at least 4 minutes or so.
I was in shock. I have never seen someone truly care so much about someone to actually quickly, passionately, emphatically pray with someone.
My heart knew that my prayer life had more work to do. I wanted to be like that! I wanted to impact peoples lives and share in their hurt, their pain, their difficulties, their trials. I wanted to encourage. I wanted to support. I wanted to show I cared. Because I do!