Praying to and with God, Not at Him
Our small group finally got a chance to meet this past weekend, for the first time in the 2010-2011 year. Our busy schedules made hash of our initial plan of meeting every two weeks on a weeknight, and so we opted for a longer, Saturday afternoon format, with kids taken care of by babysitters.
We capitalized on this more extended time slot to, among other activities, have more prayer time. And, we incorporated an exercise we learned from our church's recent fall retreat, in which, instead of sharing requests and then praying for them, we took turns being still and listening for God's leading for each family, and then prayed for that family according to whatever we felt and heard. Afterwards, or even during, we verified if what we were praying about was relevant or not.
It may sound weird if you are not a Christian, or amusingly tame if you a raging charismatic. But for us buttoned-up intellectual believer types, it is a somewhat different but perfectly normal practice. I find it particularly useful because it is so easy, when praying, to use only your head and your words: you hear a request, you process it with your brain, you paraphrase it out with your mouth in whatever words make sense.
But prayer is much more intimate and spiritual than listening and repeating. And being still, even for a couple of minutes, to give God room to nudge you, or even if only for God to remind you of His presence, is very useful. I think I can speak for the whole group when I say we left with a sense that we had really been with God, and done it together, and emerged with a deeper sense of what was going in on our own lives and in the lives of our fellow small group members.
Fancy that: praying to and with God, not at Him. Maybe it's just me, but this is a useful adjustment, and I hope for even better times of prayer in the future as a result.