“We should ask people to pray for us, but also be willing to take up the important practice of praying with others. Praying together—face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder—is one of our most precious privileges.”
Would you pay someone to pray for you?
Beginning in 2011, the Christian Prayer Center charged people between $9 and $35 to submit a prayer request, promising (fraudulently) that Prayer Center staff would intercede for their need before God. In the center’s four years of operation, 125,000 people sent requests.
When I first read this story, I found myself incredulous. Who would pay strangers for prayers?
But when I look at common posts like this one on Facebook or Twitter, I see a similar phenomenon without the payment plan. People toss their earnest prayer requests onto the Internet, hoping that someone somewhere will bring their concern to God.
Please pray for my sick daughter. Please pray for my job interview. Please pray for my dying grandmother. Please pray for my struggling friend. Please pray our house would sell. Please pray our dog would heal. Would you pray for me today at 2 p.m.? Please?
These websites and posts demonstrate a common—and good—desire: we want people to pray for us. In his letters, the Apostle Paul repeatedly asked first-century churches to pray for him and his fellow gospel workers (2 Cor. 1:11, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1). We should ask people to pray for us, but also be willing to take up the important practice of praying with others. Praying together—face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder—is one of our most precious privileges.
Paul and his companions knew this. They prayed together when they ate (Acts 27:35-38), when they arrived (Acts 28:15), and when they departed (Acts 15:14). They prayed with prisoners and with prison guards (Acts 16:25-34), they prayed with women and with children (Acts 16:13; 21:5-6). They prayed together constantly, thoroughly, and joyfully (1 Thess. 1:2).They prayed together “night and day” (1 Thess. 3:10).
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “It is in fact the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”
In college, I attended a weekly prayer meeting at a rural church 20 minutes from campus. That first Wednesday night, I descended the stairs to the church basement and sat alone, waiting for the meeting to begin. At a long table, two farmers and their wives debated superior tomato varieties. Next to them, an elderly couple in matching square-dance outfits smiled cheerfully. A man walked in by himself, explaining that his wife’s mental illness was preventing her from coming that night. Last, a pair of frazzled moms—all car keys and diaper bags—rushed to take a seat.