By Nora O. Lozano
La versión en español está disponible aquí.
As we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas and the end of the year, I normally start reflecting on the year and the major events that happened.
This year has brought its particular challenges, like every year. When I am going through them, they just seem to be the hardest and most complicated ones ever. However, as I start reflecting, comparing and evaluating, I find out that perhaps it was not the hardest year. At the time it surely felt like that.
As I am going through these challenging times, I assess ways to deal with particular issues, figure out the best approach to the situation, and ask good friends and partners for prayer — much prayer.
I believe that my life has always been surrounded by prayer, not because of my own doing, but because of loved ones who care deeply about me and my situations.
As I was growing up, prayer in my life was a given. I come from large families on both sides — my mom’s and dad’s — and I used to have a great number of aunts. These beloved ladies, together with my mom and grandmothers, prayed for me.
I knew for years and years that someone was praying for me always, faithfully. So, even if I was not praying for myself or my immediate family, I knew that we were prayed for, and that I could go about my daily business covered in prayer.
However, when these dear women, little by little, went to heaven, I was left with a huge sense of loss: stories, food, gatherings — and prayer. I felt a sense of abandonment, of being an orphan in prayer.
With time, God has provided me with other praying communities: my two churches (San Antonio, Texas, and Monterrey, Mexico) and the BUA (Baptist University of the Américas) community that are always ready to pray for me. I am thankful, too, for some Facebook private groups where prayer is just a click away, such as my dear seminary friends and the LLI (Latina Leadership Institute) community.
These praying communities in my past and present have been very important because they have provided me with support in different stages of my life, especially as I struggled with prayer. I must confess that sometimes I do not know how to pray in a particular situation, and often I feel that I am not praying enough.
As I reflected with thankfulness on these communities, I was led to consider a third praying community. It has been always there, in spite of my earlier unawareness of its presence. As I realized this, I found an immense sense of peace, of closure, because it is a community that will not pass away, unlike the members of my first praying community (my grandmothers and aunts).
This third community is eternal, Trinitarian (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) and, furthermore, does not depend on my efforts to pray more or to pray the right prayer.
According to the Bible, Jesus is our perpetual intercessor, and his prayers, I believe, are constant, passionate prayers for us. Why? Since he was one of us, and was tempted in everything just as we are, but without sin, he identifies himself with our struggles and sufferings (Hebrews 4:15 and 7:25). He understands how it feels to be down here, and because of this, he intercedes constantly for us.
Another component of this eternal, Trinitarian praying community is the Holy Spirit’s role. As I mentioned before, at times I do not know how to pray, or even worse, sometimes, looking in retrospective, I have found that I was praying for the wrong thing.
The good news is that prayer does not depend on me. The Bible mentions in Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know how to pray …, but that very spirit intercedes with groans too deep for words … because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Thus, the Holy Spirit is the one who guarantees that our prayers are the right ones. In the way that I picture this is that as our prayers ascend to God, the Holy Spirit transforms them into the right prayers. So it gives me much peace as I pray, to know that the Holy Spirit is the one who transforms our prayers in the right prayers — prayers that are according to the perfect will of God.
So today, I am thankful, too, for this Trinitarian praying community: the Son interceding for us, the Holy Spirit interceding for us, too, and directing our prayers, and God listening to them, and acting according to God’s will to promote our welfare. I am thankful that this is an eternal community that will not die, that it will not pass away like my first praying community.
At this point, some readers may ask, if we have these great communities praying for us, why should we, personally, pray? We do it because prayer is a vital part of our relationship with God, which needs to be nurtured and developed. Furthermore, Dr. Molly T. Marshall suggests that prayer “… is transformative to the one praying and the circumstances for which he or she intercedes.” In which ways are we transformed? She suggests in another blog: “We do not pray to persuade God to do the right thing. We pray so as to add our energy and love to divine purposes.”
So, as we attempt to join divine purposes with our prayer life, these two praying communities, the earthly one and the heavenly one work together to bless us. The earthly praying community represented by our church, families, and friends, helps us to stay connected to the body of Christ, anchored, embraced, encouraged and supported in the fellowship of the believers. The heavenly community guarantees that prayers on our behalf are constant, correct, and effective.
As we go through life with its joys and struggles, these praying communities are indeed a gift from God, true grace, and for this I am so thankful. Amen!