Spiritual Friends

Written by Norm Henry
From his column A Sound Mind

The holiday season is just past with Thanksgiving and Christmas reminding us of how much we have to be thankful for. I try to be thankful throughout the year, but anticipating a feast shared with family reminds me of those for whom I am truly grateful. God has blessed me with good “spiritual friends”! Around Thanksgiving, I think of them with gratitude. Along with Paul I would say, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership!”

Some who guided me when I was younger now would be considered mentors: Larry Doskocil, Dr. Ladd, Grandpa Payton, and my oldest brother, Wesley, all influenced my life for eternity. I am still grateful for them all. As I look at those relationships, I realize they all believed in me and that God could use me. Indeed, God has blessed me richly. I hope I have provoked some memories and gratitude in your own hearts. No doubt you have many for whom you are thankful. There are many around us now who need us to be their spiritual friends.

Ministry is relational and can be draining. Therefore, we really need relationships with persons who encourage and pray for us—safe, trustworthy, openhearted individuals who are committed to our health and well-being. Healthy relationships with others are critical for maintaining a sound mind and a healthy approach to life. We have heard often the phrase, “Who are you discipling, and who is discipling you?” Let me rephrase this, “Who are you praying for, and who is praying for you?” If I asked you who your prayer partners were, could you immediately name someone?

We really need relationships with persons who encourage us and pray for us.

As I write this, I realize that in my heart I am singing an old song by Lanny Wolfe. "Someone is praying for you.” Each of us needs someone who is lifting us to God in prayer. We used to call important persons who prayed and prayed “Prayer Warriors.” Grandma Payton was one of those. Whenever we encountered something difficult, we all wanted her to be praying for us. Mama Sue was another prayer partner for me. Now Mama Sue was feisty. One time I asked her to pray for me as I was facing an intense situation. She put her hands on her hips and said, “I pray for you every day!” I never again asked her to pray for me. I just shared my requests. Dr. Toby Williams is still a prayer partner for many, me included. I have tried to tell him how important he is in my life. Through prayer, he is a part of all ministry God does through me. One time I asked him for special prayer as I confronted an intense situation. Here is a paraphrase of his response: “Well, we prayed for you yesterday. And I think we already prayed for you today. But I guess we can pray for you again!” Thanks, Dr. Toby.

We are encouraged to confess our sins/faults to each other and pray for each other. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer recognizes mutual confession as a means of grace. God uses our sharing of prayer requests with others and praying for one another as a means for Him to grace us. Being part of the “priesthood of believers” means carrying each other’s burdens through prayer. Being a prayer partner with someone is more than just praying when they ask you. It is sharing in their journey through prayer.

We have all forms of connections now that allow us to share requests; however, God does not need social media. He still speaks our name in prayer to those who are praying. Moreover, He will speak their name to you in prayer if you ask Him—and listen.

So if you have prayer partners, thank them. If you need prayer partners, try this: next time you are talking with a spiritual friend, ask them “How can I pray for you?” Let them answer. Then, be purposeful and intentional in offering prayer for them—right then. And if they ask, “How can I pray for you?” tell them.

Dr. Norm Henry has served the Church of the Nazarene in numerous capacities as both psychologist and minister.