It seems that when something sad or tragic happens to someone we know, one of the first things we always say (or type on Facebook) is…
“I’m praying for you!”
“Sending prayers your way!”
“Sending good thoughts and prayers your way!”
I believe that we do this. I believe that we mean this. I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve had too many experiences in my life where I’ve seen my prayers answered to believe otherwise. And when I say I’m going to pray for someone, I do pray for them. But it often happens later that night before I’m going to go to bed. Or the next morning when I wake up. But in the past few weeks, I’ve slowly changed that habit, and now when I say I’m going to pray for someone – I drop everything and pray immediately.
This paradigm shift happened for me during the bible study I’ve been attending. I’d never attended one before, but after going to IF: Pray and IF: Gathering, I’ve really grown to love Jennie Allen’s teaching and when I found out she was going to be teaching a new bible study here in Austin, I signed up immediately. Going into this bible study experience, I think I thought the whole thing would be a lecture from Jennie and we would study materials through the week. I was excited to learn that we were assigned to small groups for the duration of the bible study, and that we would be discussing Jennie’s lesson together each week.
As we went through the discussions (many of which were about hard, heart-breaking things) I really grew to love and appreciate the women in my group. When one of the women was talking through some difficult things that were happening in her family right then, our group leader interjected and said, “We need to pray for you.” And without any further discussion, the women in my group all joined hands and started to pray. Right then. Right there. Out loud. It was beautiful. We didn’t promise prayers that would come at a later time (though I’m sure each of us continued to pray for her individually), we simply started praying. Right then. It was a powerful lesson for me.
As a Mormon, I have the opportunity each month to visit and teach other women in my congregation. We catch up on what’s been going on that month, share a short spiritual message, and we also volunteer and help those women if they need anything during the month. At the end of our visits, we often ask, “Is there anything we can do for you?” I’m sad to say that though these visits are the perfect opportunity to pray together and strengthen each other, I can’t remember the last time we prayed together on one of those visits. I’m so grateful for the example of my bible study group. And because of them, I’m going to change the way these visits end. With a prayer. And instead of asking if we can do anything for the sister we our visiting, I’m going to ask if there is anything specific we can pray for that they are in need of. Because there is power in prayer, but there is also power in praying. Right then. In that moment.
And the next time a friend posts about something sad or tragic on Facebook? I’ll be praying right at my computer. In that moment.