By Steven Norris
“Good Morning, friends! Welcome to our time of morning prayer.” So begins my weekday mornings. For years, I have found that an essential part of my spiritual growth has been tied to the practice of starting each day off with communal prayer. Pre-pandemic, this was done in person — usually 4-6 individuals gathering to read scripture, sing, and pray for one another.
For the past year and a half, however, we’ve created a digital space using social media to start each day together in prayer. For myself and numerous others, this practice has been a lifeline, reminding us that we do not carry our burdens in isolation.
The New Testament letter of James talks about the importance of prayer. It talks about when to pray and how the community is involved in the practice of prayer. Towards the end of James’ letter, we find this passage:
“Are there any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord . . . Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:13-14).
Prayer is the right response when we are suffering, when we are happy, when we are ill in body, and when we are ill in spirit. There is hardly a time or circumstance that isn’t a perfect invitation to prayer. Prayer is, after all, bringing our lives into the presence of the Holy God and seeking communion with the Eternal, the Divine.
While prayer is certainly an individual act, I’ve found over the past months and years that its communal quality is essential. We don’t just pray for ourselves, by ourselves. We are called to pray for one another and with one another. After all, when Jesus was asked by the disciples to teach them how to pray, he modeled a communal practice: “Our Father in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our sin as we forgive…”
As you can clearly see, this model of prayer includes confession as well as petition. We are called to take responsibility in our prayers of confession. By courageously naming them to one another, we tear down the defenses, preparing us for healing, and creating communities of genuine accountability
As one writer put it, praying with and for others “allows us to see the image of God embodied in others, to share in their suffering, and to add our voice in God’s hearing for the good of the world” (Kathy Dawson).
As we learn to pray together, we learn what it truly means to be the body of Christ — the family of faith. If you want to learn to pray, I invite you to join us on a Sunday morning or any weekday online — we would welcome you with open arms and relish the communion created as we seek the Lord together.