On Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of women from more than seven churches in the D.C. area to pray for many things: new marriages, restoration of current marriages, the discipleship of men in our churches, repentance in ourselves, and much more. This meeting is just one part of the "fast.pray" movement that my friend and fellow author, Connally Gilliam, started as a response to the bewildering issue of unintended singleness. She and her co-leaders intentionally picked the Saturday before Valentine's Day to organize this prayer time.
As we gathered in a cozy room with a warm fireplace and multiple windows to watch the swirling snow, Connally held up a piece of paper with about a dozen men's images on it--men who had committed to intercede for the women gathered that day, as well as for the fast and pray movement itself. These men have various leadership roles in area churches and ministries and they sent encouraging messages about the importance of our prayer time. Knowing that men were also praying with us--brothers seeking God's wisdom and favor--was compelling to me.
So we prayed. And we waited on God, silently listening for His voice as He searched our hearts to inspire confession and to prompt intercession. While we did ask for marriage ourselves (the initial reason for drawing this group together), the focus of our prayers was broader than that single request. As one of the women posted this week on the weekly fast.pray blog, praying boldly and expectantly is the point:
Sometimes when I tell people about this group, I get the sense they think I spend every Monday lunch break asking God to please bring me a husband … oh, and one for a few of my friends, too. Of course, I’ve always had some underlying hope along those lines, but I knew going into this rhythm of fasting and prayer that I didn’t have control of the agenda. To enter into a spiritual discipline like this is to bring our hearts and hand Him the keys.
Thus, in the three-plus years I’ve been fasting and praying with all of you, my focus has shifted away from me and my disappointments and much more toward others. And not just those who long for marriage, but men. In the last year, I’ve prayed particularly that men would reach their potential and become who they were created to be (whatever that does or does not mean for their relational lives). One encouragement in this has been an old fast.pray meditation on Ezekiel 37, about how God had Ezekiel prophesy over a valley of dry bones He transformed into people. That post has been a persistent reminder that God can create something from what seems like nothing.
Praying for others not only takes the focus off of ourselves, it opens our eyes to what God is doing in our midst. It invites us to step into someone else's shoes and consider their needs and perspectives, instead of jumping to conclusions. Most importantly, it draws us into the reality of our lives together in eternity. While most people will experience the gift of marriage in this life, everyone who trusts Jesus for salvation enters eternity alone. Marriage is for this life only. But life eternal is an unbroken bond of love and fellowship with our Savior and with everyone He has rescued. No longer will the stain of sin break apart our relationships. We will truly love each other as brothers and sisters, with the soul-expanding love that is possible only through the Lamb of God.
As Jesus prepared His disciples for Calvary, He fed them, taught them, and then washed their feet to demonstrate His divine humility. Then He summed up His ministry for them: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Single or married, we can love one another. Especially in prayer. Let not this holiday, which celebrates the good gift of romantic love, make anyone feel cheated. Whether you are single today or not, whether your marriage is blooming or struggling, whether you have shiny happy plans to celebrate or not--if you have Jesus, you have all the love you need for yourself and to share with others. Therefore, praying for one another is both the least and the most you can do for someone else. Prayer is one of the ways we love one another ... and it is the Valentine you can give to everyone you know.
(Photo: Jody Stuart)