Experiencing the Value of Prayer
When Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati Jan. 2, the injury proved so shocking it ended the game. Afterwards, I felt amazed at how quickly the value of prayer and prayer itself became an acceptable public practice.
The week following the game, our local newspaper carried a syndicated editorial cartoon. It depicted a man reading a front-page headline that said, “Country Collectively Kneels for Bills’ Damar Hamlin.” Behind him loomed a huge football player with a “Prayer 23” on his jersey. The man exclaims, “Whoa! Where’d you come from?”
It’s not that I’m anxious for prayer to become de rigueur in public life. A popular practice can easily turn into religious piety that is more show than heart. Besides, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:5-6 to pray privately rather than for public show.
Yet, at the same time, when players surrounded Hamlin and took a knee, I don’t think it was for show. It was a heartfelt expression of concern for the life of one of their compadres who had just mysteriously fallen.
Similar circles of on-field prayer followed in the weeks after, silently rendering the raging Supreme Court battles over prayer’s constitutionality of recent years null and void.
Discovering the Value of Prayer
As encouraging as that response was, I think our society needs to rediscover the value of prayer. Not by large public gatherings, but individually. Namely, by following Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6:6: “When you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret” (MEV).
It is in quiet, reflective prayer that we can discover the truths that God teaches in the Bible, like a Sabbath rest and the value of meditating on His Word.
Only when we turn away from the 24/7, always-on, always-working, always-scrolling-our-devices habit of modern life can we grow calm enough to hear from our Creator.
I saw the truth of that in early December, when our church’s customary monthly Sunday night prayer meeting had to move into a classroom because of practice for the Christmas cantata occupied the sanctuary.
Not only did the meeting had to move, the participant count shrank because a number of regular attenders were at cantata practice.
Sensing His Presence
The much smaller circle of prayer didn’t diminish its power, though. It demonstrated the truth of Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (NKJV, emphasis added).
There, in that small group the sharing, heartfelt prayer and exchange of personal concerns and ideas made it one of the best prayer meetings I’ve ever attended.
Near the end came the most powerful moment, when everyone stopped speaking and a hush fell over the room. A sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence surrounded us so strongly that I thought, “I could sit here for another hour and it wouldn’t bother me.”
I don’t know exactly how long we remained quiet. But I do know that only when we stop long enough to listen for God’s voice and feel His presence can we have any hope of jumping off the world’s merry-go-round.
I pray more people will experience such joy.
And joy it is.