It startled me the first time it happened. It was a Wednesday night my freshman year of college at the musty-smelling YMCA behind my dorm where the collegiate ministry I was involved in met for weekly worship and teaching.
We milled around afterward in small groups, scuffing our feet on the thin, dingy carpet, laughing easy, procrastinating going back to whatever late-night studying or paper-writing awaited us.
I was talking with my friend Kathy. We were probably sharing the highs and lows of the week or commiserating over how the dining hall ran out of chicken crispitos at dinner. I don’t recall the exact details of our conversation — I’m sure it involved me spilling my latest stress-inducing situation with school or the guy I was dating, not dating, or wanting to date again. Through the fog of almost twenty years, I do remember clearly what happened next.
“Let me pray for you about that,” Kathy said.
And then she put her hand on my shoulder and started to pray.
She didn’t say, “I will pray for you about that,” as in, after we leave or tomorrow before class or later in the week if I happen to remember. She just did it — right there under the buzzing fluorescent lights with our friends cracking jokes nearby and the worship band tearing down their equipment. Kathy prayed.
Telling you this story now doesn’t seem so radical. My friend prayed for me. So what?
But at the time? As an eighteen-year-old feeling fresh and stretched in my faith-growing skin, it was the most outrageous, exhilarating thing. I felt so . . . cared for. Seen.
Kathy’s prayer didn’t last long. Standing there with my eyes closed in the middle of a bunch of a college students felt awkward. But maybe simple words and a healthy dose of awkwardness are the very things that can point another person to Jesus. It did for me.
That wouldn’t be the last time a friend gave me the gift of praying in the moment. Just last week at church, I found my friend Margie during the “mingle” time between our singing and the pastor’s preaching. Immediately, her sweet face lit up, and she pulled me into the type of warm hug grandmas give best. Then she took my hand and asked how the book was coming. (The last time we spoke a few months ago I was in the middle of writing.) I told Margie that I had finished my manuscript and would be getting edits back soon, but I needed God to expand my capacity given an extra busy season at work.
There in the middle of a cacophony of chit chat, with friends and strangers shaking hands across rows of chairs, Margie pulled me back in for a hug and prayed. “Lord, increase Becky’s time and energy this week. Use her talents for the good of Your kingdom and to encourage the hearts of women. You are so faithful. We know You will do it. Amen.”
I inhaled my friend’s rose perfume and smiled at the life of faith etched across her face. An extra dose of joy and peace had transferred from her to me in our final squeeze. I felt held up.
Margie could have promised to pray for me that week, and I know she would have been good to her word. But to stop and do it right there was a gift to my heart. Yes, God, You are faithful. Thank You for giving me friends to remind me how true it is.
Something powerful happens when we choose to listen carefully and then enter into someone’s circumstances by taking their concerns straight to God.
In moments like these, I know Jesus’ words to be true:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
Let’s be a friend like Kathy, a friend like Margie. Let’s listen well and pray boldly. And it doesn’t just have to be in a church-like setting. When we run into a friend at the car wash or in the frozen food aisle or at school pick-up, let’s be women who risk feeling awkward for the sake of strengthening a friend’s faith.
Let’s invite the presence of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to invade our lives and move through our circumstances.
I don’t know if it felt like an act of courage to Kathy to pray for her college peer. I don’t know if Margie thought she was being courageous by modeling intercession to a younger Christ-sister. But to me, they are women of courage, and the landscape of my faith is better because of them.
How can we pray for you?
Here at (in)courage one of our greatest privileges is turning to God together in prayer. I wish we could put a physical hand on each other’s shoulder or offer a tight squeeze through our screens. But I believe as we gather here, God is with us. Please leave a prayer request in the comments and then pray for the person who commented before you.
Let’s be women who risk feeling awkward for the sake of strengthening a friend’s faith. -@beckykeife: Click To Tweet