They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread
and to prayer.
Acts 2: 42
Sometimes prayer is joining hands and voices in worship, in petition, in confession, in grief and in joy. Praying with others reminds us that when we pray, whether we are by ourselves or in a congregation of worshippers, we never really pray alone. Prayer always joins our spirits with God’s Spirit and with the spirits of others. Prayer is always an act of communion with a larger community.
When we physically join hands and voices with others in prayer we experience in a direct way that we are a part of a family, that we are interconnected and interdependent. The effects of this experience in prayer are many. First, our faith is often strengthened by the faith of those with whom we pray. We draw on each other’s experience, strength and hope. Second, we feel less isolated. We have the opportunity to directly experience our spiritual connection with other people. Thirdly, the Spirit sometimes chooses to move, teach, heal and counsel in ways that may not happen when we are by ourselves in prayer. When we join hands and voices with tender hearts and teachable spirits we invite the Spirit to be present with us in powerful ways.
It is important to keep in mind some of the potential pitfalls of praying with others. There is a temptation when we are praying with others to try to impress. We may want to sound spiritual or pious. We may want to use the occasion to preach rather than to pray. We may find ourselves unwilling to pray with the vulnerability and lack of pretense that prayer requires. These pitfalls do not need to rob us of the experience of praying with others. When we find ourselves slipping into one of these dysfunctional modes of prayer we can experience it as a reminder to ask for a spirit of humility as we pray with others.
Many of the ways of relating to God that solitary prayer offers are experiences that can be shared with others as we come together to pray. The experience of praying with others can include the prayer of praise, of confession, of contemplative silence, of joyful song, of reading together from a book of prayer or from Scripture, of intercession, or of spontaneous conversation with God.
Faith communities may be made up of two or three individuals, or of many hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Whatever the numbers might be, we are most receptive to the presence of God’s healing love and grace when we join hands and voices in acknowledgment of our brokenness and our need, and when we come together seeking the forgiveness, help and strength we need to live the lives of love we are called by God to live.
We join our hands and voices,
acknowledging our need of you,
seeking your grace,
asking to know your Presence with us.
Make us yours.
Together we give ourselves to you.
Together we raise our voices in joyful song.
We praise you because you are Love
and your love endures forever.
Reflect prayerfully for a few moments on your experiences of praying with others.
What blessings do you see? What pitfalls are you aware of?
Ask God to enrich your times of prayer with others.
Seek some opportunity to join hands and voices with others in prayer.