Selah loves her friends. (Both living and non.) And anytime my husband or I try to pray before a meal, she interjects with a long list of her every friend, cousin, neighbor, uncle, and inanimate object within eyeshot. It’s cute at first, and then we kind of look at each other and try to get her to a good stopping point. She simply can’t help herself.
The other night, when I was rocking her in my arms before bed and praying out loud for her to be safe, and strong, and the angels to protect her, she just kept whispering the names of others: Rory. Blakely. Grandma. Pap Pap. Baby Ben. Baby Bo.
I stopped mid-prayer and was moved with wonder: She just keeps naming everyone she loves. That’s what prayer is for her.
For me…prayer is often a long list of my wants, my needs, my goals. How often do I really pray for my friends?
The next night, before I could even verbalize this to my husband, we got into bed and shut out the light and he said, there in the dark, “Let’s pray for our friends.”
And he started doing just that: praying for our friends, and their needs. And as we prayed, their heartaches became our heartaches. And their cries, became our cries. And the more we prayed, the more I loved them. Every single one. Our friends. The people God has planted in our lives. And by the time we were finished, I felt like a root in my soul was extended out further. Like arms reaching. In friendship, toward them. Because I loved them, and I loved their cries. And they were all precious to me.
And to my friends, I have not loved you nearly enough, nor cherished you as I ought. And Selah has taught me this. To love deeply. To hug tightly. And to name out before God the people you love. She has shown me quite simply that, “A friend loves at all times.” Even meal times. Even bed time. For, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
It just looks different than I thought. It’s not always a bloody martyr walk. Sometimes it’s just making their cries your own, through a simple prayer. And opening your heart to love them, the way God does. And I know that loving people isn’t about “just” praying for them. (I know that it’s meeting actual needs like making meals, and helping out, and physically doing things for them.) But…I think when it comes down to how to love our friends—it’s a good place to start. To simply: start praying for them. Truly. Sincerely. Because something mystical happens when we pray for people, we just supernaturally…love them more. And if we can love them more when we’re not with them, how much more when we are together, will we be prepared to listen well, and love well, and lay down life, the way Christ did for us.
Because He is our example in all things, even friendship. And He really loved, and really liked His disciples, His friends. And not only did he feed them, and wash their feet, and break His body for them…but He prayed for them. (John 17) And in doing so, He loved them.