February 10, 2013
Prop: a chair
In a previous congregation in a different town, there was a very active ecumenical ministerium – a gathering of pastors and ministers. In this case there were Lutherans, Methodists, Christian Reformed, Catholics, Assembly of God, and Church of God pastors in the group. Of about 25, only 2 or 3 of us were women.
We were a close-knit group, focusing more on what we had in common than on our differences. In this safe group, we could share our challenges and invite others to comment and pray with us and for us. The group took praying for each other very seriously. There was usually at least one of us who needed special prayers each month. That person was invited to sit in a chair in the middle of the room while the others laid hands on them and prayed for them.
Once or twice, I had the need and opportunity to sit in the “prayer chair” and be prayed for in a powerful way. I can share that it was humbling, awesome, and extremely moving to be the center of the prayer circle. I left the gathering in tears, empowered, knowing that all would be well no matter what happened. The Holy Spirit always showed up when we prayed for each other.
Have you ever noticed that, especially as Luke tells the story, when Jesus prayed, stuff happened? The day he was baptized, Jesus prayed, and the voice from the cloud spoke: “You are my beloved Son, and I am proud of you.”
Before he selected the twelve lead disciples, Jesus went up the mountain to pray.
Before he asked the disciples who people said he was, and who they thought he was, Jesus spent the night in prayer.
Here on the mountain, Jesus has invited the inner circle of disciples, Peter, John, and James to go and pray with him.
In the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus also prayed.
I notice that when Jesus prays, his focus is in two directions: on God and on us humans.
I imagine Jesus asking God for wisdom and courage in making choices, in following God’s plan, and for the power to heal those who needed healing. I imagine Jesus also praying for us – that the first disciples would be the right ones, that they would catch his vision, and come to understand what he was doing. I imagine that Jesus still prays for us in the same way.
… It is definitely helpful to pray, to tell God what we need and trust that Jesus hears us and wants to grant what we need in response. We usually pray by ourselves, or maybe speak a few words aloud during worship.
But what if we went farther? What if we put ourselves in the prayer chair? What if we asked some trusted friend or family members to gather around us and lay their hands on us and pray for us?
A preaching resource actually suggested I invite you to turn to one another right here, right now, and pray for each other. I know some of you would be willing to do that, but many more would be reluctant to do that. However, we can do a sort of virtual prayer chair experience. A virtual experience can be almost as powerful as the real thing.
So, imagine you are sitting in the prayer chair, right here by me. There are two or three people with me. Choose the folks you would trust to pray for you. … Tell us what you need. Silently share with us a health issue, or a major decision, or just a small trouble you would like help with. …
As you sit there in the prayer chair, feel the gentle weight of our hands on your shoulders and back and head. … Take a moment to realize that our focus is on you and whatever it is that you need. … Let yourself feel our love and care. … Let yourself feel the power of the Holy Spirit fill you, giving you the confidence you need, the courage you need, the direction you need, to do whatever needs to be done.
Listen to our words as we pray for you.
Merciful God, we pray today for the people gathered here, sitting in this prayer chair. They ask for physical healing for themselves or for a loved one, for help making decisions, for healed relationships, for forgiveness, for the ability to forgive, for good news. Fill them with your power, with your love, with your forgiveness, with the secure knowledge that they are your beloved children. Amen