Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prayer Times - Scattered Metrics

Occasionally my wife and I swap spouses with another couple in our church. Fortunately, this not as scandalous as reality television would make you think. My buddy spends the evening at my house sharing dreams, telling stories, and critiquing movies. My wife spends the evening at my friend's house, sharing fears, telling stories, and critiquing literature with his wife. Girls have girl-talk and cry a lot. Guys have have guy-talk and bump chests. Sometimes chips and salsa are involved.

Once upon a time I had told this friend my prayer life was miserable. He confessed God was often on his mind, and he loved his heavenly Father very much. I offered him my pastoral position, but he enjoyed seeing progress in everyday life, and graciously declined.

As our conversation began to digress into tired grunts and guttural moans, we decided to call it a night. My friend stood up, walked to the door, and paused halfway to the porch. "We should pray," he suggested.

It took us two and a half hours of talk to stumble into prayer, but the Holy Spirit seized my friend on the threshold and reminded him of my spiritual weakness. So we prayed. Then we chest bumped. And he went home to retrieve my wife for me.

Several years ago when I asked the elders of our church to consider which program/event of our church they would be quickest to suspend, the majority indicated the prayer group. On Sunday mornings, before anything officially begins, I provide a scheduled prayer time to ask God's blessing on our gathering. Three of eighty regularly attend. On fifth Sundays, we substitute prayer walks around Leesburg for classroom time, but half the people stay inside.

But measuring prayer for the Gathered Church is not a fair metric. Many people monitor their words and emotions in big crowds. They doubt their orthodoxy or eloquence. Or the pastor spends too much time talking to allow another voice issue a praise or request.

On the other hand, when the Scattered Church prays together, there is real power. I know of a husband and wife who spend hours praying each week. I know of accountability partners who connect daily, weekly, or monthly to encourage one another in prayer. I know of people who hear a personal need mentioned and immediately bring it to God's throne. I know a friend who would not leave my front porch until he prayed for my dreams, thanked God for my stories, and begged forgiveness for the movies we watched.