What do “we” prayers have to do with unity?
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
I have had several opportunities lately to lead groups in prayer. In every case, I began with a brief lesson on praying “we” prayers. The Old Testament contains some fantastic examples of “we” prayers like those in Ezra 9 and Daniel 9. Both Ezra and Daniel completely identified with the sins of the people and the need for God’s compassion and mercy. Even though they were not guilty, they prayed as though they were. They never asked God to forgive “them.” They asked God to forgive “us.” Why? Because they both felt such a unity with their people that they could easily pray on their behalf.
Many Christians are familiar with these prayers and the way these two leaders took on themselves the guilt of the people. Yet, there’s another aspect of a “we” prayer that seems to elude most believers these days. It comes into play when a group of believers gathers for prayer, and it has to do with the concept of corporate prayer. Corporate prayer reflects Christ’s promise that when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there with them. It has everything to do with unity and living as one body.
Here’s how it plays out. Eight people gather together to pray. The group has a choice. They can come to God as eight individual people, each offering his own “I” prayer, or they can identify as a group, each one offering a “we” prayer since he is praying on behalf of the entire group. In a “we” prayer, “we” is substituted for “I.” It’s as simple as that.
AS I SEE IT
This may seem like making much over nothing, but it’s far from just an exercise in semantic grammar. “We” prayers reflect an identification with one another as members of the same body—the Body of Christ. Each “we” prayer brings the eight individuals together as one and takes the one who’s praying out of his own little world and into the lives of the other seven. “We” prayers are by nature intercessory, transforming our selfish prayers into one more like Christ would pray.
Every time I finished introducing this concept to a group, and others started praying, I felt like I must have been speaking in some foreign language. What followed was a series of “I” prayers just like they had always prayed. In every case, I sat with my head in my hands silently crying out to God. In all honesty, it was difficult for me to sit through the rest of the evening.
Having duplicated this experience more times than I care to admit, I have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about why this is so difficult for so many believers. I have concluded that our society has influenced us all in ways that are not conducive to oneness. We are bombarded with messages (mostly ads) that glorify self. We are taught how to look better, feel better, act better, and appear better even when we feel like crap. We’re inundated with self-help books. As far as I know, there’s not even a category for dealing with “group-help.” We live in a selfie generation where everything’s about me. Yes, it’s always been that way, but it’s much worse than it used to be.
We’re supposed to identify with the Body of Christ. We should feel a spiritual kinship with other believers. We should feel a kinship with other churches that are carrying out the Great Commission. Too often, the only times we truly experience this kind of oneness is when we interact with fellow believers halfway around the world on some mission trip. Too many of us have become lone ranger Christians, even while we’re meeting in church.
I have concluded that what I experienced in the groups I was leading was symptomatic of our culture, and it’s going to take something drastic to truly bring us together. Perhaps this kind of oneness is impossible as long as we really don’t need one another. Perhaps it’s going to take a good case of persecution to shake us out of our self-sufficiency. In any case, my challenge to you is to join me in promoting the kind of “we” prayers our churches so desperately need.
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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Law of Biomechanics – The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.
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