"How can I be true to my understanding of prayer and still offer something of worth when praying aloud in a group?"
A reader asked that question after my last blog post, and it's a challenge I've been working through also. (Andy suggests avoidance, which is a good answer for serious introverts. Those of us who talk in groups, though, are usually expected to pray in groups. And we often want to.)
For me, part of the answer is thinking through what prayer means to me right now--mostly expressions of gratitude, trust, and willingness to participate with Love in the situation--and then figuring out how to express that.
That's a big language-shift
FROM the typical prayer-request language I've experienced as normal:
- "God bless so-and-so"
- "God be with so-and-so"
- "God heal so-and-so"
TO a new kind of prayer-talk that's more in line with what I'm experiencing as authentic to me now:
- Gratitude: "I'm really grateful for the gift of this friendship"
- Trust: "You know what we long for, and we lay our hopes before your Love"
- Participation: "Help me to see where Love is, and help me be willing to go there with you"
Another part of the picture for me is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, pouring out his pain and asking for the cup to be taken away, and then saying, "Nevertheless, not my will but yours." (Luke 22:42)
I don't think we have to "not-ask" for things!
But I think the example of Jesus is that we express our true selves before God, then let go of specific outcomes and trust that Love is enough even when we can't see it.
So, maybe in addition to
- trust, and
- honest expression and
Although maybe those are more for private prayer than group prayer? Obviously, I'm just working all this out in my own head!
And then, I think sometimes we're just in a Romans 8:26 situation, where it's completely beyond our language and comprehension:
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
Last weekend, I was asked to pray aloud at a baby shower, and it was my first time since I really put words to these thoughts about prayer. So I tried the new language.
I think I mostly expressed gratitude that a new little image-bearer is coming into the world, and she will be a new place for God to express his love and joy, and she will in turn be someone who pours love and joy into the world. I don't think I said this at the time, but my ongoing prayer is that I can participate as an expression of Love into her life as she grows up.
I don't think it was too weird, and it felt authentic to me.