Back when I was a member of the TCU Chapter, we regularly honored brothers with an award known as the “Manly Man Award.” Brothers would nominate other brothers who went out of their way to serve individuals in the chapter. At chapter meeting, the outstanding brother would be recognized and presented a golden toilet seat.
It seemed like a disproportionate amount of the manly men were recognized for helping a brother who had car trouble. They would pick up a guy because he ran out of gas or help change a flat tire. In my seven semesters, I don’t recall a brother ever receiving the honor for praying for another brother.
While I may be over-spiritualizing an honor that involved presenting a golden toilet seat to a brother, I am not overstating that we undervalue praying for one another. In Christian circles, we have no problem talking about needing prayer or giving prayer. Roll with enough Christians and you will regularly walk away from a conversation after saying, “Yeah, I’ll pray for you,” and then not pray for them.
It’s not that we don’t want to pray for others. I have had this very exchange with people I love dearly. I think we fail to fathom what actually happens when we pray and to whom we pray.
Maybe if we left the conversation by saying, “Yeah I will lift your name up to the infinitely powerful, infinitely loving Creator of the universe who made everything from nothing and then took on flesh to be tortured and murdered so that he could have a relationship with us for eternity,” we would start to process what we actually do when we hit our knees before the Father. Replace Christianese with good, sound, verbose theology until it sticks. Yes, that is hyperbole. You will probably lose friends that way.
As we head into Called to Pray Week on Monday, I think we need to understand why it is important to pray for our brothers.
Because God said so.
Amen. Let’s pray.
God said pray. What He says should go. The Scriptures on prayer are no less of a command than those that say don’t murder, lie, engage in sexual immorality and so on. We have to pray.
Paul tells us to pray for all the saints in Ephesians 6 and writes about praying for others throughout his letters. He asks that his audience pray for him. If Paul needs prayer, I need prayer, you need prayer and so do your brothers.
Because it is effective in bringing healing.
In James 5, James says to pray for one another that you may be healed. Allow yourself to be entirely pragmatic for a moment. We pray because it works. If we love our brothers, we will pray for our brothers because we know it is the most loving, most effective action that we can take.
When we pray, we are turning to the only One with power to change any situation. That is what makes it effective. God likes to give good gifts, as Jesus points out. Even our earthly fathers know how to give good gifts. How much more does our Heavenly Father? He is both capable and willing to help. He always and exclusively does what is best for us even if we don’t agree with His opinion of what is best for us.
Because it displays our need.
I think my own perceived self-sufficiency is the biggest stumbling block to a fruitful prayer life. If I had an accurate understanding of just how messed up I am and just how badly I need Jesus, then I probably wouldn’t stop praying. If I am incapable of fixing myself in my own strength, you better believe I am going to have a hard time fixing others.
The acknowledgement of our ineffectiveness is the starting point for us becoming effective. When we humble ourselves and commit to prayer for others, we begin to make a difference in the life of our brothers.
The act of prayer is an admission of need. When we lift up a brother in prayer, we are humbly acknowledging that we cannot serve them without the Lord using us. James says that God opposes the proud in chapter 4. Those that are too busy looking down on others fail to look up in prayer. Consequently they are not able to help in the healing of their brothers because they are not petitioning the Healer.
Because it turns our attention and affection to our brother.
When we take the time to pray for our brothers, our hearts and minds are move not only towards our Heavenly Father, but also towards our brothers. This is important for two reasons.
First, it takes the focus off of me. When a friend hits a rough patch, it brings me the perspective that there is far more going on outside of my little world than I am often cognizant of. I have to block out what is going on in my life so that I may care for my brother, and that starts with consistent prayer.
Second, to pray for a brother turns our affection to him. We are moved to compassion and empathy. Paul talks about being in pains like those of childbirth the way the Galatian church keeps turning back to legalism rather than the Gospel. This is the heart that is developed through prayer.
We hurt for our brothers when they hurt. We are more easily able to walk in their shoes and empathize when we pray for them. As we move into that place of emotional connection, we are then able to minister to them in manners beyond just prayer.
“There are many goods that God will not give us unless we honor him and make our hearts safe to receive them through prayer.” –Tim Keller