Formations 05.26.2024: The Prayer of a Friend

Ephesians 1:15-23

Ten years ago, my marriage suffered a time of weakness, miscommunication, and resentment that nearly ended it. My journal entries from May 2014 describe my deep sadness, my confusion, and my longing for a renewed relationship with my husband.

Our marriage survived and is much stronger today, but that was a dark and weary time. My closest friends and family members knew all the details and constantly encouraged me with their support and comfort. They also prayed for us. In my faith tradition, telling someone, “I’ll be praying for you,” is as common as asking, “How are you?” It is just something you say when you know a person is facing a tough situation or undergoing a big change. Sometimes it sounds trite or insincere, as in media responses to tragedies like mass shootings, natural disasters, or the effects of war: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

But when the promise to pray is genuine, its power is unmatched. James writes about faithful prayer in his New Testament letter, ending his assurance with this statement: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (Jas 5:16). Even when prayer doesn’t solve all the problems—and it rarely does—it is a way to connect with our loving Creator in a spirit of trust and gratitude no matter what happens.

Scripture is full of prayers. The apostle Paul is one of the most fervent in offering prayer for other believers. In today’s lesson text, he tells his friends in the Ephesian church not only that he prays for them but also what he prays for them—wisdom, further revelation of who God is, and a deeper understanding of God’s calling for them (Eph 1:17-19). When people prayed for my family ten years ago, they were faithful and specific when they shared these prayers with me. It means a lot to know that people are really praying for us. It can mean even more when we know exactly what they are praying for us.

Discussion

• How often do you tell people you are praying for them and then actually pray for them?
• Why do you think “I’m praying for you” has become a trite statement in our culture?
• Why do you think Paul was so specific about the content of his prayers for the Ephesians? What might that have meant to them?
• What are some examples from your life when people told you they were praying for you, and you knew for certain that they were following through?
• We know that our prayers aren’t often answered the way we want. What, then, is the power of prayer?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!

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