Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
“Would you please pray for me?”
I’m sure you’ve not only received this request, but you’ve asked it yourself. Requests for prayer are not only common, in recent weeks they are coming thick and fast. While the usual needs for prayer are still circulating, fears and concerns uniquely raised by the Coronavirus pandemic are stirring the pot.
Being a member of the community of Christ and vitally connected to my local church body means that I not only rub shoulders with a lot of hurting people, it also means that the concerns that cause them grief, fear, or pain are my concern as well. The closer I draw to my family in Christ, the more their pain becomes my own as I weep with those who weep. Likewise, I know that they too are shouldering my burdens and weeping with me.
We are weak, but simply knowing that another is also carrying our concerns helps to lift our burdens ever so slightly. When faced with the threat against her people, Queen Esther asked that the Jews of Susa fast and pray with her for three days as she sought wisdom and courage to approach the king. Paul often asked for prayer concerning his plans for travel and sharing the gospel. Even our Lord Jesus asked that his friends watch and pray with him as he struggled in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest.
It’s not that the more people you have praying for an issue makes it more likely that God will hear or act upon your request. No, for God hears the cry of a solitary saint just as clearly as he hears the cry of an entire nation. He’s not waiting for us to gather enough leverage on our side before he will answer our prayers. God cannot be bribed or cajoled into doing good for his children, because it is already his desire to do so.
It’s that praying together for one another is an act of community, and in today’s #socialdistancing isolation, we need community more than ever. One of the first jokes to circulate was that for introverts the recommendation to self-quarantine was a dream come true (*nodding my head in agreement*). But for our extrovert friends this isolation is torture. After two weeks—has it been two weeks already?—even I am getting anxious to see and be with my people.
So let’s commit to praying for one another, and let’s find creative ways to maintain our ties to our communities as we do so. Texting our loved ones to let them know we are praying may be simple, but it can make a powerful difference for someone who is feeling alone and forgotten. Email, Facebook, even picking up the phone to make a call are all simple ways to check in and share prayers. This afternoon I’ll be trying Zoom for the first time, as I’ve heard others have had fruitful times of prayer and mutual encouragement through this virtual environment.
Whatever means you choose, though you may be sitting alone in your home, you are connected to the community of believers because of Christ.
Remember, we are not the ones who made us a community in the first place. We have been brought near to God and to one another through Christ, through whom we have access in the Holy Spirit to our heavenly Father in prayer (Eph. 2:13, 18). As the requests mount up and we don’t even know how we should pray, remember that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, searching our hearts and praying for us according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26–27). Moreover, Jesus himself is at the right hand of the Father praying for us (Rom. 8:34).
Knowing this brings us joy, even in these uncertain times. Because the times may be uncertain, but our God never is. He always has been, and even now is, the secure refuge for his people in the midst of every storm. So even as we weep together, praying earnestly for one another, we can know that we also have every reason to rejoice together.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
May God be glorified through the prayers of his saints both now and forevermore.