Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks for your prayer support. I had a wonderful time at the Family Retreat. The couples came from different churches and locales. Some of them were frequent members of this retreat (It was the 19th one). Some came with and from a broken marriage and home. All of them were eager to improve their marriage and family. And one fourth of these participants were pre-Christian friends. Praise God for His work in our midst. Many raised their hands to seek divine strength for their marriages. Five expressed their desires to invite Christ into their lives as personal Lord and Savior. Even though they had not resolved many of their marriage issues, they learned to seek divine intervention and obey God’s principles for their marriage and family. Pray that God will enable these couples to experience major break through in lives. Indeed, prayer is our life-line with God and our ultimate source of strength from Him. However, we seldom utilize this powerful gift. Let’s see how Eugene Peterson shares about the importance of a prayer community.
Here in this great gathering for worship I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers (Psalm 22:25). The praying people, whose prayers are the Psalms, prayed as a worshiping community. All the psalms are prayers in community: people assembled, attentive before God, participating in a common posture, movement and speech, offering themselves and each other to their Lord. Prayer is not a private exercise, but a family convocation.
In the presence of God, “alone” is not good. Call a friend, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” By ourselves, we are not ourselves. Solitary confinement is extreme punishment; private prayer is extreme selfishness. Prayer, in itself, is not an automatic good. It is possible to practice prayer in such a way that it drives us deep into a manipulative, calculating egotism. And it is possible to practice prayer in such a way that it bloats us into a prideful pretension. Jesus was not indiscriminate in his praise of prayer; some people who prayed got a severe tongue-lashing from him.
Prayer often originates when we are alone. Deep within us are “sighs too deep for words.” We pray our guilt, our hurt, our cheerfulness on the spot, not waiting until we can meet with a congregation or get into a church. All the same, for these prayers to develop into full maturity, they must be integrated into the praying community.
And prayer continues into places of solitude. We pray on our beds at night, silently and secretly when surrounded by unbelievers, deliberately withdrawn from society in order to cleanse the “doors of perception” [William Blake]. We neither can nor should be with others continuously; and we are with God continuously.
But the believing community at worship, at regular times in assigned places, is the base of prayer. All the psalms were prayed in such communities. This is not obvious on the surface—we are apt to think of a shepherd on a grassy slope, or a traveler on a dangerous road—nevertheless, it is one of the assured results of devout research, confirmed in the practice of Israel and church. We are most congruent with the conditions in which the Psalms were produced and prayed when we pray in a praying congregation.
Being a private and introverted person, I treasure solitude time with God through contemplative prayer. I don’t think Peterson nullify our solitude time with God. He wants to remind us the value of congregational prayer or praying community. It is true that we tend to focus more on ourselves in private prayer than in public prayer. Once we focus on ourselves in prayer, our prayer becomes an extension of self-centeredness. The more you focus on your needs and problems, the more we become more narcissistic or self-centered. If we only treasure our personal prayer time but not the community prayer time, we miss the values of praying together as a Body of Christ – which tend to focus more on the attributes and agenda of God. Have mercy on us O Lord! Help us to value our time of praying together with the community of faith.
Love you in Christ,