The craving for that prayer connection with God and other people did not seem to be going away. Aren't I already expressing my concerns, hopes and fears to the Father in those moments? Yet still, it was cooking in the back of my brain to start a prayer circle. I had always believed in the power of prayer, but reading the scriptures in which Jesus would leave the disciples behind and go off for mediation and prayer before many of the really 'big' decisions and events in his life, and his encouragement to them to gather together to pray kept after me and I couldn't shake it off.
Putting the PeopleTogether
With that I began to pray seriously about the whole prayer hooplah before and at the beginning of Lent. Would it be too weird to ask even my religious friends? Who would I ask? How many people should I try to rope into this hour of power? A gentle leading told me to ask a long distance friend from college who is a true christian and a kind hearted funny person to boot. I thought, naw, too busy, kids to take care of blah blah blah...She was interested! I had another person in mind, local and a former work buddy, but I assumed she too would be too busy with life as was often the case when we'd try to get together. Surprisingly to me, she also was interested, and was excited about the idea of carving out time each week for focused prayer. My first friend asked another friend in her own state to join us, but she felt she was too busy with work and we became 3. And I thought to myself, "well, 2 or 3 gathered in my name, it is just the right number, at the right time".
How We Do It
Working out the particulars is always a bit dreary, especially since no one wants to tell anyone how they should pray (except maybe Jesus, but He can get away with it). After throwing out some tentative suggestions we came to these important basics. We wanted to share concerns and have them prayed for by the group (for ourselves and for the greater world). We wanted to share prayers answers. We wanted to pray at the same time weekly when possible, and we wanted to include a 'regular' prayer we all would use somewhere during the time of prayer. Currently we are using the concluding Monday evening prayer from The Glenstal Book of Prayer. I might mention that we are all Christians but from different denominational traditions. How we approach our prayers during the appointed time is up to us. I leave the main 'living area' and close the door to my room. I enjoy having sacred music playing quietly in the background during this time, or sometimes silence. At some moments I just picture the person's face and visualize their prayer concerns, other times I'm quite wordy in my praying and pour my little chatty heart out to God. I usually allot half an hour in my mind but if it goes longer it goes longer...until peeps and places are accounted for. It seems the more we pray, the more needs come to our attention. Is this how it becomes "praying without ceasing"???
And Here We Are
At first a bit awkward to get up and say "Well, I have to go pray now". Now I look forward very much to that evening time of prayer. It hasn't been that difficult to schedule life around it and we remain flexible enough that if one of us has an unforeseen event we adjust the schedule slightly, or pick up the prayer slack for the person who is called away. An unexpected wonder to me about this has been that it has strengthened very much our relationships with one another. It can be so easy to drift apart when you don't see each other every day. As our personal lives are interwoven into the prayers we are much more up to date on the cares and concerns of each others lives. My two invited friends have never met in person, but have developed a wonderfully supportive online friendship. This is an unexpected blessing and I look forward to a time when we can all be together in person! Coming out of the prayer time I feel refreshed and energized from being with the spirit of God. And astounded by His great love and compassion. I can't say I know God's reasons for nudging us in this direction or what He will do with this work. Does it really matter? He knew that we needed it. And here we are.