This week I realized that prayer is like a spiritual version of Facebook; it is something that breeds familiarity and community even as one sits alone in a room with the door shut. I have been involved in a mentor group since June. The group is made up of pastors at various points in their careers from retired all the way to the newly ordained (me). We meet monthly, using an online meeting tool, to discuss how our lives are at the moment, how our churches are, and how we are interacting with our congregations. Once a year we get together in person for a week of prayer and study.
At each meeting we ask for prayers about one or two things that are particularly pressing to us. Most of us write them down and then pray about these things as regularly as possible. I have been praying about them every morning for quite a while now and here is what I have learned: I feel very close to them, more intimate with them than makes any sense given the amount of time I have actually spent with them.
It’s just like Facebook, I feel closer to a bunch of people who populate my newsfeed than I really am. There are old friends on there who regularly post things I find interesting and “like.” They are people I haven’t seen lately, for some it has been 10 years since we had a cup of coffee, and yet Facebook makes it seem like we are close. I know what is going on with them (or at least what they will publicly say is going on with them), and I know how they look, I often even know if they are on vacation or travelling or whatever. All this is hollow though, because I haven’t spoken with them, I haven’t been involved in their daily lives, just their digital trail.
So the mentor group isn’t exactly the same. We have an important link to each other, we value the time we spend together, we look forward to seeing each other, and as busy people we are making a big statement when we set aside time to hear each other’s concerns. What strikes me, though, is how familiar prayer has made me with them, how “together” or “in communion” I feel with them, just because I have prayed so much for them.
It makes me wonder at the power of prayer. What sort of global reconciliation would take place if more of us prayed for each other, prayed for the people who make us most angry, or most afraid? What would our communities look like if we spent more time holding each other up in prayer? What would my congregation look like if I were as diligent about praying through its prayer list as I am about praying through the mentor groups’?
We gathered here this Sunday evening for a Christmas tears service. It was a quiet meditative affair with lots of prayers and candles. I like to think it brought some healing and some comfort, I like to think that by crying side by side, lighting candles together to lighten up a room, we lived out in a couple of hours the sort of community I have found through my morning prayers. A community of love, respect, and intimacy, without knowing all there is to know about someone else, or even why they came. Knowing only that they too know what it is to feel pain, they too know what it is to feel frustrated, lonely, tired, overwhelmed, faithful, hopeful, committed, and the myriad of other feelings that lead us to pray.
In the Our Father Jesus calls us to pray as a community. Over and over about he uses the plural “Our Father…Our Bread…Our Debts…” I think he was on to something important.