A week ago today was the 24 hour prayer vigil for Bishop Trevor(pictured above). It was good to do and surprisingly enjoyable. 8 people joined in person over the 4 hours, and some of you prayed at home. I keep thinking about what I learned from it, so thought I’d share 7 of my observations so far.
Whoa. For all the ways I follow Jesus, praying for others’ healing isn’t ‘a major part of my life of ministry. Should it be (more)?
2. It made me wonder if intercessory prayer doesn’t have to be so much about formulating what we think God could/should do for a person (which can be intimidating and overwhelming), as much as listening for how the Spirit may already be praying for and working in the person’s life, and “joining” in that, or just holding in prayer the expectation that God will do what is best for them.
Practically this partly just feels like a posture thing - starting with the reminder that God knows this person or situation, that God’s love and ways are beyond my understanding, and the Holy Spirit is already ministering to the person. Then instead of wondering about how I fit in or can contribute to the prayer for this person, I might instead open to God and express my desire to see/hear/join what God is already doing. I’m not sure if it leads to a different “outcome” but a few of us tried this posture during the first hour of our time and it felt like “intercessory presence” more than “intercessory prayer” in a way (although they’re ideally the same thing!).
3. It reminded me how prayer for others fans the faith flame.
Spending some time praying for Trevor fanned the flame of faith within me (and those who came I’m guessing :D) and in the first and last hour we prayed for others, with more expectation, I think, than if we hadn’t spent time in that orientation.
4. It was a memento mori opportunity.
As you may know, “memento mori” means “remember you will die,” and has been a practice (or posture) in Christian spirituality. Saint Benedict, in his rule, said to “keep the prospect of death before your eyes everyday.” Lent, of all seasons, reminds us not only of our frailty - that “we are dust” - but also that we will die - “to dust we will return.” Of course, though, I don’t normally “keep the prospect of death before my eyes everyday.” But I did that night! I couldn’t pray for Trevor without facing - in a more direct way - the reality of death. I had thought about how nice it would be to be at COOL, to pray with others, to worship, but I forgot it would mean 4 hours of also sitting with frailty, finitude, pain, fear, uncertainty. It was good for me: perspective-making, awe-and-gratitude-inducing, humility-deepening.
5. It’s fun and better (in lots of ways) praying with another person
Time flies when you’re praying with others compared to praying alone! At least for me.
6. It’s awkward and vulnerable praying with another person
For 3 of the 4 hours it was just me and another person (each of the pastors). It was a little awkward. I hang out one-on-one with people all the time, so that wasn’t it - it was the nature of prayer. Prayer can be very casual and conversational, but there’s an aspect of it that is also so personal and vulnerable, and therefore, there’s an intimacy to it. It wasn’t awkward-bad, but I’m just noting that prayer-with-others might require pushing through some awkwardness. (And I totally think it’s worth it.)
7. It felt dignifying to be included in something bigger, something happening on purpose for 24 hours
All week leading up to it, “March 1st” to me wasn’t just the day to drop off our rent check, or feel that much closer to spring, but was bookmarked in my mind as “that 24 hour prayer vigil.” Suddenly, happily, my “worldly” calendar got co-opted by the liturgical calendar again, albeit a local, customized one. In a small way, it felt like a mini-holiday, because it was something I was participating in that was bigger than me, that other people were doing too, and it was “for a good cause.” As “small” a thing as it may have been, it still was better than an average day for all these reasons. In other words, my year could use a few other 24 hour prayer vigils. Makes me wonder: what should we pray for?
Lastly, for the spiritual realm record, here are some things that were prayed for:
Envelope - The verb “envelope” was used 3x by different people in 3 hours; for God to envelope Trevor in comfort, peace and healing
Cocoon - that God would wrap Trevor as in a cocoon
Daily necessities - that God would provide the daily needs for Trevor, like friendship, conversation, levity, family
Courage in the face of uncertainty - for all Trevor’s faith, this still must be uncertain and unsettling
Shepherd - for God to be like a good shepherd to Trevor
Sermons + Hymns - that some of the hymns Trevor knows by heart would come to mind (and heart) when he needs it; same with his sermons
Plea to stay - prayed that God would not take Trevor, but keep him here for longer
Glory now too - just as God’s glory has been revealed through Trevor’s ministry and vitality, so may God’s glory be revealed through this season of weakness and uncertainty
Arms outstretched - image of Trevor standing in a receiving position, with arms outstretched; this pray-er saw this pillow in the sanctuary and said it looked like her image!