I led them with the cords of human kindness, with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:4
I’ve been thinking about what has encouraged me most in my prayer life, and I would have to say that the most powerful generator of consistent, faith-filled prayer in my life has been the presence of a prayer partner. When I look back, I realize that I have never been without one since discovering God anew twenty years ago. That wasn’t a deliberate decision, but rather the result of my own hunger for help in navigating this mysterious, joyful, and challenging life with God.
My first partner was an office mate named Charlotte. We prayed together three to five days a week for several years. We would take our lunch hour and go to the empty sanctuary of the Methodist church next door. After three years of praying for her husband, he came to Christ. There were endless answers to prayer, small and large, revelation of the scriptures on which we meditated, etc. We learned that God listens, cares deeply for us even in the smallest things, and guides us in our prayers.
The Gospel in Action
Though we weren’t conscious of it at the time, we were putting the gospel into action on a one-one basis. Consistently praying together led to a deep friendship. Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Each time we came together to pray, we practiced listening to the Holy Spirit, praying with a generous and compassionate heart for the other, and receiving encouragement, love, and gentle exhortation in return. Our times of prayer were life-giving, and we would return to work full of joy. God taught us about his character through each other. We learned a great deal about true friendship; we developed a deep love for each other.
1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” This naturally occurred through praying the Lord’s best for one another. In such an environment we were safe to be forth-coming about struggles and doubts. We could trust that we would be honored, that things would be kept in confidence, and offense would not be taken at our failings. I believe this is the kind of friendship God intended for us, and the kind he wants with us.
Beyond Pretense and Offense
I want to encourage you to ask God for a partner, if you don’t have one. He will gladly answer such a prayer. You can decide between you what kind of schedule would be best; for the last ten years I’ve prayed once a week with my partner. I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to know and trust God. One of his greatest means of overcoming my fears and uncertainties has been a life of prayer WITH another person. “Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them,” said Jesus in Matthew 18:20. He has been in the midst of us and has brought healing and liberation.
I haven’t only prayed with a partner, but also with dear friends whenever I can. Prayer with another makes the practice of the gospel possible. It takes us beyond pretense and offense. It nurtures a deep love for the other that would not exist otherwise. And if it can exist for the one, it can exist for a community. There are many things that occur automatically when deep love is present: honor of the other is one of them. But that’s a topic for another day.