Gift #2 — A Prayer Partner
So, we have Joseph, the father of this miracle child being open and willing to follow the instructions of an angel. What about the mother, Mary? How does she handle the news that she is going to have a baby? Like every other woman since the beginning of time, Mary finds a woman friend to hold her hand!
Gospel writers often focus on the men involved in the story. That’s just how the writers would have seen the world in that day and age. Luke is a fascinating writer though. He brings the women into the story more than any other Gospel writer. In the third book in the New Testament, Luke introduces us to Mary’s relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. The Angel Gabriel speaks to Zechariah to let him know they will have a son and to name him John. John will grow up and prepare people’s hearts for Jesus. (To see Zechariah’s response to the Angel Gabriel read Luke 1:5-25. It’s quite different from Joseph’s.)
In Luke 1:26-38 the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary, a virgin, to tell her she will give birth to the Son of God. As the angel explains how this will happen, he finishes by announcing that “your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36-37)
Mary immediately travels to visit her relative Elizabeth. As the two women greet each other they each break out in prayer and praise! While Elizabeth greets Mary with “Blessed are you among women … ” Mary answers with “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (vs. 42 and 47-48).
According to verse 56 Mary stays with Elizabeth three months. Then, in verse 57 the scripture says that the time came for Elizabeth to give birth. So we don’t know if Mary was there when Elizabeth’s child was born or not. What we do know is these two women had three months together to pray and support each other.
I love their greeting. They are so filled with God’s love and the joy of what He has done for them, all they can do is praise Him. There is no complaining. Maybe that happened later in their three months together. We are left to wonder about how much time they spent worrying about what the other women in their towns would say. Did they take time to gossip or get petty? Or did they spend the whole three months rejoicing and planning? Regardless of the divine nature of the babies they are carrying, they are still women, human women. It’s fun to wonder, isn’t it?
No matter how they spent their time, they were together. How wonderful that they had each other since the circumstances of their pregnancies were so unique. I imagine they found comfort in each other’s presence, almost as if they had found the one other woman on earth who could understand what it means to carry a child God has announced with a visit from an angel.
I discovered the power of having a prayer partner quite by accident. I was in a Bible study and an acquaintance asked me to go to lunch with her one morning. We started meeting weekly for lunch even after the study ended. We shared prayer requests. Of course, two women having lunch together it was easy for the conversation to turn to gossip. My prayer partner taught me to quickly change the conversation by asking me, “Now how can we pray about that?”. We would even get specific and write down our requests.
I now call her my PPP or “previous prayer partner” because she moved away. I knew I needed someone to pray with me, so I asked another acquaintance. It turns out that in 2011 this new prayer partner, who was a 20-year breast cancer survivor, was praying for me when I found out I had breast cancer. She walked with me the whole journey. We both believe God placed her in my life at just the right time.
I learned through this experience how important it is to have support. And prayerful support is a gift beyond measure! Just as Mary and Elizabeth spent time rejoicing, planning, praying and lifting each other up, my prayer partner spent time praying with me, visiting doctors and supporting my decisions in the process.
The next gift you will give yourself this season is to ask someone to be your prayer partner. It does not matter if neither of you are very practiced at prayer. If you make a commitment to each other, God will give you the prayers. You do not have to meet for lunch. If you cannot meet face-to-face you can email or call each other. You only need to contact each other once a week to check in, offer support, and learn about new requests. You can offer prayers for each other related to this study. Whatever the study gift is, ask God to provide that for each other.
A special note here in case you have problems with trust. So many of us do. Many of us often trust completely or not at all. Trust that is not earned can lead to disappointments and betrayals. Not trusting at all leads to isolation, which can have serious consequences. I learned from an art therapist I worked with many years ago a beautiful image for trust. Begin by considering trust like a dripping faucet that you keep on in the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze. Share only simple prayer requests that are of little consequence if the prayer partner cannot handle them. If your partner proves trustworthy in these, then you imagine the trust flowing out of that faucet and into a stream behind your dwelling place. You can share a little more. If the information you share is respected, then you imagine the trust flowing into the size of a small lake. If that trust is respected imagine it flowing from the lake to a large river. The trust grows gradually until it flows into the ocean.
If you find you have made a trustworthy connection, you may choose to continue praying for each other beyond this study. Or, you may choose to change prayer partners simply to get to know someone new. What matters today is that you seek the same kind of support Mary found when she was able to spend time with her relative Elizabeth. Prayerful and supportive. Try to stay away from complaining, gossip, whining and pettiness.
If you are someone who is isolated this will feel very risky. In fact, isolation and depression often go together, so much so that one of the first things I ask depressed clients to do is to make a list of 10 people they could call at any time in case their emotions become overwhelming. It is difficult to watch people struggle to come up with a list. And yet, their isolation is exactly why this is so important. Feeling connected is a strong antidote for a depressed mood. So, if you happen to be struggling today to think of who you might ask to be a prayer partner for this season there are a few options. K-Love is a faith-based radio station. You could start requesting regular prayers by turning in weekly online prayer requests at http://www.klove.com/ministry/prayer/ or you can call them at 1-800-525-5683. Platte Woods United Methodist Church has also created a special email address just so you can turn in weekly prayer requests to us. We have a prayer team ready to pray for you through this Christmas season and we would be honored to support you in this way.
Now that you are open, try giving yourself the double gift of prayer and connection!
The gift you give yourself today is to find a prayer partner.