A couple of weeks ago I was discussing with my students the command for us to “pray for one another” (James 5:16). Somewhere in the middle of the lesson the question was asked, “Why do our prayer lives tend to be so me-centered?” An answer came from a fourteen year-old young man: “Because we know ourselves the best.”
Although I think there are other components involved, his answer is spot on. What I know about you or other people in my life is only what I’m told, and yes, I can derive things from your non-verbal communication, but those things are more uncertain. I can’t read your mind and I can’t gaze into the depths of your soul, but I can read my mind and gaze into the depths of my soul. Sure, to one degree or another I can suppress self-reflection and self-examination, but if I’m honest with myself, I can become very acquainted with my weaknesses, sins, desires, and motivations. That is one of the reasons I pray for myself more than anyone else, and not only that, but I feel all the emotions that are attached to those things which propel me ever-so-quickly to pray for me.
What should this reality compel us to do when it comes to us, the family of God, praying for each other? If one of the reasons we pray for ourselves most is because we know ourselves best, then, very practically, we should more diligently seek to know our brothers and sisters in Christ. The more we know about them, the more we will have to pray about for them. And I don’t know about you, but when I have information about a person that is needy of prayer, it is hard to ignore, like God has it set up camp in my heart and mind until I pray for that person.
Further proof that I need to seek to know people more in order to pray for them more, is the simple fact that next to myself the people I pray for the most are the people I know the most. What does this say? Not only will such a practice lead us to pray for the body more, but it will also cultivate a stronger community of faith in our local churches as the bonds of relationship are tightened.