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Saturday
Feb162013

Prayer Partners (David Burman, SHH '13)

I was reminded how fruitful praying for others can be. I had felt empty and frustrated when I prayed for myself the previous day, but this time, as I recounted my prayer partner’s concerns to God, I felt filled with the spirit. Somehow, as I asked God to be present in my housemate’s life, I was reminded that my spiritual life does not consist wholly of my own relationship to God, but also of the ways in which God is present in my relationships with other people.

A couple days ago, I prayed, but I seemed to get nowhere. It is an axiom that prayer does not always feel fruitful, but this instance was particularly frustrating. There are a couple areas of my life in which God’s will seems a bit unclear, and so on this occasion I walked into the Lady Chapel at Christ Church (so called because a stain glass depiction of the Virgin Mary sits above the altar in this chapel), resolved to pray about these concerns.

But my mind didn’t focus. I tried reading and meditating on scripture, but that didn’t work. I tried being still and seeing if the words of God might come to me in some shape or form, but they didn’t seem to. I even tried different postures: I tried sitting upright, slouching, and kneeling, but all without success. Eventually, I just walked back to the rectory where all of us interns live.

The next day (Saturday) was a busy one, primarily because we interns spent most of the afternoon and evening making dumplings. But during a brief lull in the dumpling-making action, I again sat down to pray. This time, however, instead of praying for myself, I prayed for my prayer partner.

Recently, we Hildans have begun to split into groups of two each week. Every Friday or Saturday, we each draw a name of one of the Hildans out of Neil’s splendid top hat, and that Hildan is our “prayer partner” for the week. We focus particularly on praying for our prayer partner that week, and then each pair of prayer partners eats dinner together on Thursday, before we draw the following week’s pairs.

So far, I have met up with most of my prayer partners at the beginning of the week as well. At our first meeting, we have shared some of the things that concern or excite us with each other, so that we can remember what the other person is dealing with in our prayers. Then, when we eat dinner together at the end of the week, we can review our weeks with each other.

This prayer partner system has been quite helpful to my prayer life, turning it outward to others. Even though I have long known praying for the concerns of others is vitally important, it occurred to me that, recently, I have been praying for myself the majority of the time.

But now I have a prayer partner to pray for each week, and when I sat down to pray for my partner during the pause in our dumpling making, I was reminded how fruitful praying for others can be. I had felt empty and frustrated when I prayed for myself the previous day, but this time, as I recounted my prayer partner’s concerns to God, I felt filled with the spirit. Somehow, as I asked God to be present in my housemate’s life, I was reminded that my spiritual life does not consist wholly of my own relationship to God, but also of the ways in which God is present in my relationships with other people.

This is what holding others in prayer can be – a means by which God refreshes tired minds and hearts and frees them to love others. 

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