As we work to adjust to a new-old culture...Mississippi and America, this is one of those lifestyle things we're going to hold onto firmly from home.
If I were to have surgery on a Tuesday, I might as well mark Sunday and Monday off on my calendar, because there will be friend after group after family member after co-worker after acquaintance passing by those days to spend 30 minutes each by my side...asking questions, singing a hymn, reciting a Psalm and putting their hands on me to PRAY...out loud, for me, with me.
If three people come together, they will all pray, out loud, together for me. If twelve people come, they will do the same. You can only hear a chorus of scraps of pieces of prayers, and the melody is sacred.
When little Mayah was born far too early, countless hours were spent with people who'd never met her, holding our shaking hands and PRAYING.
I have had women hold cool hands of prayer on my head sitting on the bathroom floor with me, all four pregnancies, the last place I wanted to be seen...the first place I needed Him to be called...called even when I couldn't.
When things were particularly rough at Emmaus one time the entire men's dorm came to our home at 6:00 am, sat us on our coffee table, put their hands on our bed-heads and all prayed...all out loud, all together, all heavy, for we were heavy. oh, how tears poured down our cheeks that day, how SEEN by the Lord in our distress we felt.
I'm new here, and a different person from last time I was from here anyway, and I want to encourage us to learn something from the way Haiti prays.
Just DO IT, instead.
If at all possible, (notice I did not say, if at all convenient) go TO that person and put your hand on their hurting life and PRAY. Get in the car. Walk down the hall. Cross the parking lot. Cross the state.
Pray for them...with them. Bring them into your prayer, let them be encouraged by your conversation with a Mighty God on their behalf, get there. PRAY with them.
If you cannot get to them, still stop...and pray out loud right now. Prayer is not a sentiment...it is a conversation. Have it with the One you CAN get to...right now, coming boldly before the throne of grace.
Praying alone is easier, but praying with the person you're praying for is Powerful...His presence when two or more are gathered is thick. This is important. This is kingdom work, lifting one another up to the Father, together.
2) Break the rules.
When it comes to praying for people, all the other hospitality / visitation / comfort / convenience rules fall short. You can show up empty handed. You don't have to be clean cut or made up, the room doesn't have to be quiet, the time doesn't have to be perfect. There can be children hanging on your hands (heavens, take them...may our children grow out of the faith of praying people!) and you can be in work-out clothes and you can be in a public place and you don't have to be comfortable, and neither do they. Your words don't have to be perfect or inspiring or powerful or just right.
Prayer is not a convenience, and it's not a performance. It's an outpouring of simple faith.
We trust Him to fill in the gaps, we trust His hand is not short, we trust He is at work, and we ask Him.
3) Forget about it.
Forget the differences in your opinions. Forget the differences in your belief. Forget the differences in your lives, in your language. Forget about the patterns. Forget about the cycles. Forget about the statistics. Forget about what you think God can do...what your assessment of the situation is, forget about what YOU want to say to the person or what YOU want to see happen.
Prayer is not preaching, and it's not about us. It's not even about the person you're praying for.
It's about the throne, the One on it, and finding grace for this precious person in time of need. It's about what HE thinks. It's about what HE can do. It's about what HE wants to see happen.
4) Just ask.
I have prayed with witchdoctors. I have prayed with dying men and women. I have prayed with half-naked kiddos. I have prayed with families and friends and strangers that I have had NOTHING in common with and I have prayed with people I KNOW are not believers and THEY don't pretend to be whom I never thought would even let me pray.
But I promise you, when you get up the guts to simply ask, "Can I pray for you?"...people are SO QUICK to say yes. Even the lost-est of the lost in broken times, in sickness, in worry, in despair, know and want something...they will take the something that you are offering to give. They don't have to do anything, they don't have to respond, they don't have to commit. Receiving prayer is about the safest gift a hurting person can receive.
5) Because GRACE.
Matt shared this beautiful analogy often when we were home of the mango, the fruit every man, woman and child in Haiti knew so much about. They grow green and big and beautiful, but when you touch them, hanging by a thread, they are hard as rocks.
If you pick them, they never ripen. If you push them, they remain firm.
But slowly, over time, entirely unseen, sap and water and nutrients slowly filter through that tiny stem and one day, they fall...and you pick them off the ground soft and ripe and warm and sweet.
That's grace, Matt says, and that's what we're praying for.
We're not praying for results. We're not praying for our will, our way, our time.
We're praying for GRACE to drip into the situation. We're lifting up hard hearts or broken lives or busted bodies or crushed dreams or desperate situations because we want God's grace...His unmerited, transforming love and favor...to seep in.
Hebrews 4:16, NLT: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."
What more do those around us need?
Let's take a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Haiti and come boldly.