After a few months of serving a church in Nashville, I was missing my group prayer time. One day there was a knock at the office door. I had been in ministry long enough to know that knocks at the door from strangers were often costly. There is a regular flow of needy folks. They all have a story and they all have a need.
However, this stranger has given me a lot through the years. I now count him amongst my closest friends. Phil is the pastor of a nearby church. He came to introduce himself to me and invite me to a weekly prayer group with other area pastors.
To be honest, I was not sure I could work it into my schedule. Also, I was a bit trepidatious about praying with such a diverse group. I was comfortable with my Presbyterian fellows and perhaps a Methodist or Lutheran, but Southern Baptist, Charismatic, Church of Christ, Non-denominational? African-American, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, African?
Four years later, I hardly ever miss a Thursday with my brothers and occasional sister or two. As a visiting Presbyterian Church of America fellow put it, “My p(for Presbyterian) is getting smaller and my C (for Christian) is getting bigger.”
When you pray with people, your differences begin to fall away. To my memory, in four years nobody in that group has ever had an argument over baptism or sanctification or any other denominational differences.
In prayer we say “Our Father” not My Father. We recognize that we are all siblings before God, not neighbors or distant cousins. Certainly not enemies!
Everybody has something to bring to the party from their tradition. I love to sometimes just sit back and watch the diversity of prayer going on. Some on their knees, some standing with hands raised, some meditative, some eyes wide open. Hands are laid on, heads are anointed. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
We celebrate with each other and mourn for each other. We lift up our neighborhoods. We pray for our congregations. We pray for our loved ones. We pray for the students and teachers. We pray for the single mothers and fatherless children. We pray for husbands and fathers. We pray for the childless and the widows. We pray that wars may cease and that the glory of our God may shine. We sing, we praise, and we confess.
And then we share a meal, usually Chinese, but sometimes Mexican. There’s never an argument about that either.