Deep prayers, deep friends
A friend of mine writes to me, “I am not sure there are more valuable things we can do for each other than pray.”
If he were preaching this from the pulpit, it would be cliché. So Christianized perhaps we would forget what he wrote all together. His thought pierced me. It was a message, sent in specific context, based on the needs at hand. He was going through a time in his work requiring long periods of focus and a time in his family requiring him to be emotionally “all there”. I knew this season for him was no easy task so I texted him a quick prayer. And that was his response.
This man is my friend. When I write “friend” I wish I could appropriately describe the affection and camaraderie built over the last seven years. Few of us enjoy deep friends. Those of us experiencing it know how rare it is. We hold it humbly and guard it as if it were a fragile artifact of some sort.
One of the reasons I call him friend is he prays for me. I know he prays for my marriage, my children, my work. He has intentionally jumped in the boat with me. Occasionally he will shoot me a message, sometimes out of the blue. “I’m praying for you.” Once again, read flippantly, it can certainly sound meaningless and impotent. The kind of thing you only hear after someone in your family dies. Possibly written in a Hallmark card. This is not what he is doing. He is taking inventory of the intentional talks we have had about our lives. He is considering the problems I am facing. He is empathizing with my temptations. He is following Galatians 6:2.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Are there more valuable things to do for one another than prayer? His question sent me on a journey of thought. I think this certainly depends on our belief about the effectiveness of prayer. The reality is my friend is unable to radically affect my life for the good outside of going to his knees. He is not in a position to arrange for my dream job. He does not sit on a pile of cash so that he could take care of my family and my needs. Nor would he because I don’t need those things from him.
What do I need from a real friend? I need support. I need someone “digging a foxhole” along side me. I need company when I don’t understand the decisions made above me. This is true of the decisions the Father makes that impact my life or the leaders at the companies for whom I choose to work. This encompasses all which is outside my control. I need a friend knowing me well enough to “push me out from in front of the train” of my own sinfulness. I need the kind of friend who will offer me forgiveness and grace. I need a friend who is prayerful, discerning, in tune.
C.S. Lewis writes “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Lewis is insightful. He knew this is the beginning of friendship, the tip of the iceberg. I can only add to Lewis’ thoughts that friendship becomes so much more over a long period of intentionality. It runs deep into conversation and support. It stays intentional. It is not deterred by the messiness of ones personality quirks and selfishness. It eventually will find its way to prayer as the friendship reveals the mountains of complexity in one another’s lives. At some point, we have to get the Father involved.
Describing friendship between two men in our culture in this context certainly delivers weight. I figure many men will read this and find it uncomfortable, intense, pressure packed and foreign. “How could I bring so much to a friendship? I’m not even able to deliver this kind of friendship to my wife.”
We crave this kind of connection though. We have deep desire to win in life and not alone but on a team. None of us are really made to live singular lives unconnected and successful on our own. The driving forces toward success are so that we can be known and respected by others, so that we can connect and be found acceptable.
This need, desire for friendship is upheld by prayer. When my friend wrote these words, it was because he was convinced his prayers are heard by the Father. He was fully persuaded his prayers make a living and active difference in my life. And when I pray for him, he feels it. He experiences a spiritual sense of being upheld, strengthened and undergirded.
Why doesn’t my friend experience a sense of cliché when I write “I’m praying for you”. I believe it is because he knows I have listened when he poured out his story in vulnerability. This is the give and take of authentic intentional friendship. Story prayer, prayer story. Confessions are stuffed in between. Messiness. Offense then forgiveness. Humility. Put them all in a dryer and watch them tumble around. This kind of friendship lands around a campfire, quiet, telling stories, laughing, enjoying. This kind of friendship shows up at the hospital in the middle of the night. This kind stands back in the right moments and makes oneself available only if necessary.
Is there really anything better? Can affections like this be bought? I think not. I really struggle putting words to the importance of talking to the Father about our close friends. It is an unmistakable ethereal component of friendship and affection. It is necessary. It is the way we invite the Father on to the scene of our most loved friends and family. If there is a dare in this, it is for you to try it.