A Prayer Meeting

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If we cannot meet God within, in the very depth of ourselves, our chance of meeting Him outside ourselves are very remote.
—Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray

When I was a youth, our church had prayer meetings. There was no sermon, no special guest preacher, not even a well-trained musician. But, this was not what drew us. We did not receive text message or email reminders. But, there was no need. We ordered our lives around the service because we couldn’t live without prayer.

Today, I don’t think that our prayer meetings could compete with the professional sound system, stage lighting, and stadium seating that we have grown accustomed to. My church would get lost in one room of our churches now. But, its appearance didn’t matter then. We didn’t have multiple services to choose from and, with a small budget and a volunteer staff, our church didn’t have many services to provide. There was no children’s church, no nursery services, no banking or credit unions. Still, those gatherings seemed to meet all our needs.

A small, rural church in Alabama without a full-time pastor, we faithfully gathered to testify of the goodness of God and to share prayer requests with our faith community. No choir and no hymnbooks, we sang from our hearts and our souls vibrated with each note. No large crowd here; we came week after week because we wanted to be in the company of praying people.

Church was all we had. We traveled “into town” for school, work, and shopping. In our neighborhood, there was no library, no YMCA, no community center, and no park. We were poor but I didn’t know it then, because our church was rich in faith and was the hub of our community’s activities.

The testimonies of the believers quite literally held us together and kept us motivated from week to week. We were not only living from paycheck to paycheck but from prayer meeting to prayer meeting. And though the words wouldn’t seem like much today, these prayers have sustained me “down through the years.”

The formative years of my faith have proven to be transformative time and time again. We had not heard about the mysticism of our faith or studied the spiritual practices of contemplatives. But, this economically disadvantaged, agrarian community was a kind of monastic colony. We didn’t have much and we didn’t need much. At those prayer meetings on Wednesday nights, we turned inward and met the God of abundance who satisfied our souls.

Perhaps, this is how we face the world today—by turning inward and baring our souls. Stripped of the frills and all those things we fuss about, we might see that the meeting is all that matters. Because if we can meet God within us, then we can meet God anywhere.

smcneillReverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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