In the summer, many of us spend time with people more than usual. We’re on vacation with family, or we host visitors. We go to special events such as weddings and anniversary celebrations. We attend concerts, parties, and sporting events. Is there any way to incorporate prayer in all of this?
No, I’m not going to suggest that you try to lead your fellow sports fans in a prayer before the game starts. But think of the various kinds of prayer we’ve discussed this summer: attentiveness, gratitude, praise, quiet. We often think of prayer as a solitary activity, but can we include others in our communion with God? And can we do it in ways that are inviting, not intimidating or awkward?
This is new territory for me, I must confess. As an introvert I go out of my way not to intrude on others or create social situations that could turn awkward. But, really, do I value individual, and also communal, engagement with God my creator? Can I take a chance every now and then? Here are a few ideas about praying with others.
Worship in a faith community. It’s so easy to skip church and other faith community commitments when a full summer agenda is calling. But it’s not wise to neglect those relationships and faith practices. Summer can be a more relaxed time at church, often with smaller numbers in attendance. At our church, we combine two services during the summer, and so we’re able to spend time with members of the community we rarely see at other times of year when we attend different services.
Simple prayers with family. Rather than a fast and cursory grace before meal when extended family is gathered for a picnic or birthday party, take this opportunity to offer a prayer from the heart: “Lord, we’re so grateful to be together, grateful for the safe travel, and for every person able to be here. Bless us with good conversations and help us make wonderful memories.”
Indirect prayer. Especially when there are children present, it can be a powerful experience to go around the room—or porch, or backyard—and have each person state what she or he is thankful for. You may not begin with “Heavenly Father” and end with “Amen,” but you have done something sacred together, and its impact might be felt for years.
Quiet presence with someone who is struggling. If you’re sitting with an elderly relative or friend in the nursing home, allow the lapses in conversation to be silent prayers for grace and help. And don’t be afraid to use touch when a niece or nephew appears to be having a rough time. Who is going to fend off a hug or a pat on the shoulder from a loving aunt or uncle? These are simple gestures, but they can mean a lot, and each touch can be your prayer for that person’s welfare. Also, I doubt that anyone will object if, at a family gathering, you ask for a few moments’ silence to honor people who are no longer with you.
Spontaneous prayers with children. How many of us learned to pray from grandparents and other loving adults when we were growing up? If you spend time with grandchildren, it can be quite natural to use whatever is happening as prompts for prayer. If a child is worried, you can talk to Jesus together about it. If a child is happy, you can say thank-you together. Unless parents have objections to this—and it’s important for clear communication about it—take advantage of grandchild time to pass along the hope and faith and gratitude you hope to see develop in these young ones.
How have you prayed with others during family and other social events?