Have you ever had an encounter with someone stronger in the faith that entirely changed your method of living out the gospel? For me, her name was Judy, and we were standing in the boxed food aisle of my local grocery store. I knew Judy from church. She was all at once a cozy grandmother, an energetic spitfire, and a woman of God. She also became the messenger for the most significant shift I ever experienced toward prayer and comforting others.
I’m pretty sure I’d been staring unseeingly at the pasta boxes for quite a while when her cheery voice called out my name. She must have seen my depth of thought, or maybe it was my furrowed brow, proclaiming that I was unsettled in my soul. Judy was familiar with me and my story. She knew the internal struggle that was most likely happening. So, right then and there, with dozens of people around us, she grabbed both of my hands and began, “Lord, I bring Charity before You…”
Years of church attendance prompted me to immediately close my eyes and bow my head, but my mind’s eye was still wide open. I was dumbfounded. We were praying… out loud… in public! Were people watching us? What were people thinking? How did we look to others? As the warmth of her hands slowly seeped into my consciousness, so did a sense of rightness and freedom in the Lord. Yes, this indeed was an appropriate response to Judy seeing my pain. She stopped everything she was doing to bring me before our Lord. She ushered me into His presence and petitioned on my behalf for peace and wisdom. The feeling of being loved, cared for, and connected to the body of Christ was overwhelming. That day, my perspective on prayer and comforting others changed.
Prayer with other believers in the context of a small group can be a game-changer. Matthew 18:20 gives us Jesus’ own words on the subject, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Prayer with other believers comforts and encourages us to rely on faith and not on self. As Pastor Aaron often reminds us, “If we aren’t preaching to ourselves, we will end up listening to ourselves.” Sometimes, we need to be pulled out of our own cauldron of swirling emotion and thought by a word from another follower of Jesus.
Imagine being a player at a basketball tournament, and the opposing team is winning. Everyone huddles on the side-lines for a pep talk. Bumping shoulders, each player jostles his way into the circle and tosses his hand on top of the pile, looking around expectantly. The blank faces stare at each other. Silence stretches as seconds tick by and nothing is said. No words of encouragement or strategy are given. There is no game plan presented and no galvanizing speech to fire up the players. Everyone quietly thinks their own thoughts. A buzzer sounds, and the group breaks. Everyone jogs back onto the court just as discouraged as before.
We would never accept this for a basketball team. As Christians, we have an opportunity to huddle together, to speak encouragement in prayer and to send each other out to fight the good fight. Praying together brings a sense of unity and energizes our fellow follower of Christ to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). There are times that we need a teammate to intentionally reach out and give us a loving word, to remind us of past victories, or to point our gaze toward the greatest coach, Jesus Christ.
Are you close enough to see when another believer needs your comfort and encouragement? It takes selfless love to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) When you look around, is there someone near you today who is in need of a game-changer kind of moment? Reach out, grab their hands and begin, “Lord, I bring them before You today…”