I'm not sure how prayer works. That's something I probably wouldn't have admitted to a few years ago. I'm a pastor's daughter, after all. I grew up in the Church. Surely I should understand something as simple and integral to the faith as prayer.
But really, I don't get it. I'm not sure how this fits into the whole imagination versus experience means to understanding, since I have certainly experienced prayer, yet still, I don't understand what it is.
If I were a theologian, I would start by citing all the relevant passages in Scripture, quoting extensively from Matthews Commentary or whoever is popular these days, and coming to some conclusion or other about what prayer is, why we are called to pray, what it means that Jesus prayed, and how this all fits into the rest of my life. (Boy, all you English-types must really be cringing by now at that run-on sentence!) But, let's face it. I'm not really that excited by theology. I don't read it for fun. I didn't even go to a Christian college.
Here is what I do know about prayer. It says throughout the Bible that we need to pray. Continually. Boldly. Asking for what we need, that God may grant us the desires of our heart. And it does work. Unfortunately, not always the way I want it to. Prayer isn't some wish list I bring to God as if he were Santa Claus. And, likewise, He doesn't pat me on the head and send me on my way with a candy cane. Prayer changes me. That's the best answer I can come up with. Praying for others makes me more sensitive to them. And, somehow, sometimes it changes the situations, too.
I've been meeting with two other women specifically to pray for one another for three and a half years now. We had a fourth member of our group for part of that time, but she moved out of state and driving three hours to join us once a week became somewhat inconvenient.
These women have become sisters to me in a way I've never really had sisters. The sisters I have in my family are both significantly older than I, and always a few stages ahead of me in life. We stay close through phone calls and e-mails and seeing one another occasionally, but we don't have a relationship where we talk regularly about what has gone well in our week and what has gone poorly. How we have failed and how we have succeeded. What is coming up that scares us, excites us, causes us to wonder. Our prayer group has an ongoing intimacy and vulnerability that is hard to find in this individualistic society.
Thank you. I know I don't say this enough. Thanks to my prayer partners, my sisters who stand with me and love me, even when I'm not being very lovable. Keep praying for me. Unfortunately, I continue to need it.
Or maybe it's more fortuitous than I realize. Maybe that's what keeps us bound together in community, knowing that we truly do need one another. And maybe that's why God wants us to keep praying, even though He already knows what we need.