Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dining (and Praying) Together

Have you ever noticed that most tables are made for more than one person?

It sounds like a rather redundant question but think about it for a moment. Why are tables generally intended to seat multiple people? The answer is that most people like to eat together, not separate.

Ironically, eating is really an exceptionally individualistic process. I cannot eat a meal for another person. Whatever nourishment I take into my body will no more help another person’s nutrition than if I were to exercise in somebody else’s place and hope they would be the one to lose the weight.

In spite of the fact that we alone are the only ones that can eat for ourselves, we also like to do it most in the company of others. In fact, I think there are few realities more depressing than constantly eating alone.

In Christianity, we share the common meal of the Eucharist. Call it Communion, the Mass, Lord’s Supper, Last Supper, or Lord’s Table, it essentially remains the singular symbol of a sacred meal shared Christ shared in the intimate community of his closest friends. They each ate and drank individually, but did so together. In gathering at that table we do more than remember, we also join together in sacred prayer as one Body of Christ shared in community.

To me, this image takes on even greater significance when I encounter the book of James. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16) The primary meaning behind this is that it is not enough to simply have faith and pray for one’s well-being, one needs to take an active role in making a difference with that individual.

This reality became vividly clear to me when a friend said to me today that the difference between praying for someone versus with someone is like eating for someone versus with them. Not that there is anything wrong with praying for people! I do it all the time and have no intention to stop. But think for a moment how easy it is to say on the fly, “Oh, I’m praying for you!” and then pray when it is convenient. Now imagine what a difference it may make for that individual to stop, take their hand, and offer up a heartfelt prayer by the power of the Holy Spirit and actually pray WITH them, rather than simply for them.

Pray! The book of James concludes with one of the most powerful testimonies to prayer in all the Bible. “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.   Are any among you 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.   The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.   Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”  ( James 5:13-16 )

I believe that part of the power of this prayer is not that those remembered in prayer are being prayed for as much as the prayer directly involves them!

As the New Year dawns, prayerfully consider who you can pray with as well as pray for. Perhaps even pray for them to come to a place that you CAN pray with them if that is necessary! It could mean the difference between you eating for them and eating with them!

God bless!  

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