A friend lamented from across the ocean, “I just wish there was more we could do,” as I finished updating her on Matt’s condition.
It was Fall of 2020, and Matt was continuing to recover from a spinal cord injury he incurred during a motorcycle accident, while sightseeing with a friend. We had been in France since late 2019 to attend language school for a year in Albertville, in preparation for working with Lutheran Brethren International Mission in Africa. Two-thirds of the way through our language-learning year, Matt was injured. He would finish out our time in France living in a rehabilitation center in another town, over an hour away, during Pandemic Year.
“You know that the best and most tangible thing you can do is pray,” I had replied.
The community of language school students was steadily providing meals to our family; a few other families were instrumental in providing transportation and childcare, along with mental and emotional support; opportunities to continue learning French were provided. We were physically covered. During this time of physical isolation—being far from the U.S., family, and long-time friends, and during restrictions and the confinement of the pandemic—the Lord laid it on my heart and mind, almost immediately and necessarily, to engage all these “faraway people” as the Body of Christ in the most tangible means of support there is. Prayer.
Soon after friends were delivered the news about Matt, we gathered in Christ’s name at the dining table. Our five kids anxiously danced circles around us as we went in and out of conversation with each other and with the Lord. Christ told us that if only two of his followers agree on earth about anything we ask, it will be done for them by our Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19)! Therefore, as we supplicated for Matt’s physical body, the frustration about cultural and language barriers, as well as the distance between us and Matt, we were agreeing and asking for the most physical and practical of things: our daily bread, the Lord’s will to be done on earth, delivering us from evil (see The Lord’s Prayer). As more and more people became aware of the situation and involved in prayer, the more it became evident that this was more than mere coping or pleading for what we wanted. This was the Body of Christ, coming together before the Lord to tend to a wounded member. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV). The opportunity for this lifestyle of petitioning, suffering, and rejoicing in praise and thanksgiving together, has continued to show us how the practice of corporate prayer is critical to the believing followers of Christ.
As a family, we have often aimed to be “praying CATS.” We use this fun and helpful acronym to encourage one another to know what kind of prayers to pray, namely those of confession, adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication. The simple idea of saying confession prayers first (“I’m sorry God for…”) makes you right with him and others, before going into prayer requests (supplications) by way of adoration (“I love you God because…”) and thanksgiving (“Thank you God for…”).
To start, some important things come from confession! James 5:13-16 tells us that confession, even to one another, leads to healing, as the prayers of righteous believers have great power as they are working. Talk about tangible! Confession also leads to the Lord’s faithfulness and justice, purifying us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), thereby making us more effective pray-ers in the supplication realm. Peter explains that repentance leads to three key points: “that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20, ESV).
A glance at the Psalms displays the prayerfulness of the psalmists as they petitioned their cases before the Lord, but they also reveal much beautiful language focused on adoring our Creator for who he is and thanking him for what he has done. For example, Psalm 145 gives us a model for praise, adoration, and worship of God: verse 21 proclaims, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” In Psalm 107 (ESV), verses 8 and 31 give an inspired example of thankfulness, in repetition: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” The Apostle Paul also often implores believers to adore and thank God for who he is and what he has done, specifically in giving us Christ as the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 9:15).
I appreciate that “CATS” can begin our family’s prayer time with confession and repentance, thereby freeing us to adore and thank the Lord for what he has done, before we bring our petitions to him. These times of pleading before the throne are commanded of us by Christ himself, as he delineated his seven-point prayer during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9-13). The divine opportunity of petitioning allows us to communicate adjunctly with the Almighty and the community of Christ-followers.
We have been daily encouraged by the Body praying for us, as we see the Lord doing mighty works of healing, but also for the eternal purposes of his kingdom! Prayer provides opportunities for worship with our brothers and sisters as we praise and thank God together. The mighty hand of the Lord is working not only in our story, but in yours as well. The prayer “grapevine” allows us to adore and thank God together, as we continue to confess and petition our afflictions and pain before him in prayer (“Save me, O God!” Psalm 69:1) and we are set on high by his salvation (Psalm 69:29, ESV)!
Christina S. and her husband Matt have been called by the Church of the Lutheran Brethren to serve as missionaries in Africa.