Rather than splitting the groups male and female, our pastor broke us up into families. Biological families praying with and for church families. We prayed especially for those within our prayer circle in which we sat.
I must say that last night's meeting was one of the best times of group prayer I have ever participated in. In my circle were people I have known for many years while some I have known for a much shorter period of time. There were singles, young married, young families, families whose children are growing up and moving on and one couple who have been married over forty years whose children now have families of their own. Each of us in that circle has faced very difficult situations, yet God's grace brought us through and we remain.
One young man prayed that our church would be united. While praying, he quoted, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I realized that spending time praying for those around us, remembering the good times, contemplating the many times they have held us up in the difficult times will go far in keeping our church family (& our biological families) united. Often, we see so narrowly in the present forgetting to look back at the past or look toward the future. We see what makes us unhappy now. We complain about what so-and-so isn't doing (or is doing) now. We see the teen beginning to rebel now - and we forget the teens who have struggled (including ourselves) and have made it through. We forget to look towards the future and the grace and restoration God continues to hold even there.
Last night caused me to reflect and rekindle my love for my dear church family. I recall the way many of them welcomed our little family of three when we first began to attend and welcomed, with joy, each of the six children who joined us throughout the next nine years. I remember the young ladies - now women with children of their own - who came to our home week after week to help care for our crew, iron clothes, cook meals, clean house, and babysit so my husband and I could sneak out. I remember sitting in the ER countless times and an unexpected familiar face would peek in the doorway and just give us a few moments of fellowship and cheer. How can I forget the support and love that just flowed when our son, and then our daughter, had surgery and those who actually relieved me to stay the night in the hospital with them so I could get some sleep in my own bed? For weeks, we were the recipients of meals, help, visits, prayers, and extra love when our sixth child was born premature. I also truly believe that my husband survived his farm accident largely due to the immediate prayers of these dear people.
Some have gone. Some became bitter. Some moved away. Some have joined our Savior Heaven. I love the memories we had with these people. I thank God for those who once were a part of our family and will always have a place in our heart and family tree.
However, those who sit among us now...those who have rejoiced in the good times and endured the bad times, those who have been hurt and have forgiven, those who have suffered their own personal and physical trials...those who remain are the ones for which my love has grown deeper. Just 45 minutes of prayer last night has made me so much more grateful for my church family. Today, I plan to reflect even more on what they have meant to us and what we can do for the individuals that make up this diverse unit (a juxtaposition that only comes from God). Today, I plan to spend more time in prayer for the precious souls that make up my church family.
How about you? The best way to love is through gratefulness. Will you praise God for your church family today? If you are struggling with one or many members, refocusing your vision and talking to the Lord about them just may rekindle your love for the family He has placed you in.