I was almost forty years old the first time someone prayed aloud on my behalf.

Until then my prayers were neither personal nor powerful. Maybe you’ve experienced frustration and weakness in your prayer life too. You don’t sense any answers, you don’t grow in faith, and soon you just give up.

My breakthrough came over a restaurant lunch with a friend from church. My friend was on staff at my church and responsible for the spiritual growth of hundreds of families. She agreed to meet to discuss a parenting challenge that had me feeling inadequate and desperate for answers. Already once divorced, I feared our marriage was collapsing under stepfamily issues. My heart was breaking because I knew the love we all needed was there, but we just couldn’t seem to operate as if that were true.

She listened patiently as I laid out my concerns and then, without a moment of sympathy or advice, she reached across the table for my hand. Bowing her head, she said, “Let’s pray.”

A fleeting moment of hesitation and embarassment faded as I listened to her confident presentations of my problems to our good God. She stated the needs without the labeling and blaming that I had engaged in as I had outlined our issues. She thanked Him for listening and promised to be faithful to give Him glory as we watched Him work in the troubling situation.

Then she said, “Amen,” gave my hand a squeeze and returned to our conversation.

A revelation

I thought prayer was formal, private, and reserved for church or special occassions.

You mean, I can just pray any time, any place for any need?

The truth is that I had been clueless in prayer. Her modest example taught me how to pray. My faith was encouraged and took root. And God has returned to answer that prayer for our family in countless ways through the years–our twenty-first anniversary is coming up in April, Lord willing.

The key was praying with a friend, and one who was committed to seeking solutions to all of life’s problems from the Lord.

Since that time I have learned to seek out a prayer partner as a way to keep the faith. At some points the friend has had much greater faith and knowledge of Scripture. At other times I may have been the more mature. But God has honored all of it. If you want to begin a prayer partnership ask God to help you identify whom you should approach. Then, as you grow together, here are some helpful suggestions:

1. Commit.

Choose a time each week, enter the appointment into your agenda, and honor it as you would any other important meeting. It’s great if you can find a meeting place and get together, but phone calls work just as well if your time is limited. I find an hour is about right for each to express our needs and the prayers to be offered up.

2. Prepare

Edit your thoughts and concerns so that your interaction is a more sacred and focused experience. If there is an ongoing need, commit to make that the central topic of your prayers. If things are going well, offer up a prayer of joy and thanksgiving and devote more time to your partner’s needs. Sometimes knowing that prayer time is a day away allows me to put a problem on hold. You’d be amazed how often such problems shrink. Read the Word so you can impart it during your prayers.

3. Believe

The greatest gift my praying friend gave me in the restaurant that day was her clear and evident faith that God was ready, willing, and able to help me even if we had no idea how. There are people all around you who need that kind of faith to face their problems each day. Praying a prayer partner’s needs will help you grow beyond yourself and exercise faith that will bear more and more fruit for God and for his purposes and plans.

Praying with others has been one of the greatest building blocks of my faith journey. I’m sure I would not have made the progress I have without it, without them. It may take time for you to identify a partner, but don’t let that stop you from making praying with your friends your first resort when they come to you in need of wisdom and support.

Through prayer you can lead them and love them just like Jesus did. And who doesn’t need a friend like that?