Emailing a friend this morning, I felt the urge to share something troubling me and to ask him to pray. A simple and common thing. But after hitting ‘send’ a question came to mine, “Why did I do that? Why did I ask him to pray?”
The answer should be obvious. I was asking a friend who loves Jesus to join me in prayer for a particular concern, and God invites us to do that. God tells us to share one another’s burdens in this way. So that was why I asked him.
As true as that is, I think there is more. A lot more. We ask others to pray for us so that in our pain and suffering and hurt we won’t feel so much alone. Suffering isolates us, and loneliness frightens us. A simple request for prayer fights back against the awful possibility of suffering alone. And this is as it should be.
In the creation, God saw only one thing that was not good.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone….” (Genesis 2:18)
And upon this declaration God gave a woman to the man and in an instant created community. Things then were good and neither were alone.
It is the searing damage of sin that breeds emotions such as these:
I have no need of friendship;
friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. (Paul Simon)
It is no incidental detail that the result of the fall was the maligning of community. In the chaos of sin the man and the woman hid from God and pointed the finger at each other. The direction of sin is always away from community. Sin makes us alone, or drives us to find community in harmful ways and unhealthy places.
Restoring things to the way they are supposed to be will always be a restoration of community. God saves us into relationship with himself and with one another. Union with Christ means union with his body, the church. This was the first of his acts of bringing his kingdom near, to create a community of disciples who show their relationship to him by the love they bear for one another. We are not meant to be alone.
When I asked my friend for prayer, it was an act of faith, but in ways far greater than I thought. To ask another to enter into our need is an act of rebellion against the sinful order and a definitive stand for the kingdom of God.
A member of our church is battling some serious injuries and surgical complications and his wife has kept me up to date with his status and has asked me, and the church, for prayer. This morning I drove to the hospital. I was not able to see him, but I was able to spend some time with his wife. When I walked in, she burst into tears. Why? It was not that I bore words of wisdom or could bring immediate healing to her husband of 41 years.
I believe it was because with my mere presence, she no longer felt as much alone, just as when I emailed my friend, I no longer felt as much alone.
And in these small ways we glimpse life as it is supposed to be.