What do I know that I have not learned? As a child, I learned to set the table from my mom. As a college student, I learned synchronized swimming skills from a female coach. As a new mother, I learned how to rock-and-pat a fussy baby into contentment from a grandmother in my church. I learned to knit from one woman, to sing the alto part from another, and to wash windows with the help of old newspapers from a third. One hot Mississippi afternoon, I even learned to make buttermilk biscuits from a neighbor and her generations-old family recipe.
Much of what I know about life, I have learned from other women.
This is true when it comes to the Christian life, too. Like so many, I have learned from other women what it looks like to follow Christ and love my neighbor in the ordinary situations of daily life. Fulfilling the mandate in Titus 2:3-5, my more-mature Christian sisters have patiently and repeatedly mentored me. They have noticed my screaming toddlers and my disorganized devotional habits, and they have shown me by example and encouragement what to do.
And those sisters have prayed with me.
Until I moved to another state this past summer, I prayed once a week for ten years with Carol, an older woman in my church. From the outside, it wouldn’t have looked like much of a mentoring program. We didn’t have coffee, we didn’t study a book together, we didn’t even spend much time in conversation. Tuesday after Tuesday, we’d sit in Carol’s living room, and we would just pray.
We prayed for ourselves and our families. We prayed for our church and its ministry. We prayed for our sisters next door and our sisters in chains on the other side of the world. We prayed for Christ’s glory and his kingdom’s advancement and his church’s peace and purity. We prayed for his return.
Never once did Carol directly instruct me: Confess this. Pray this. Lament that. Instead, she prayed extended, Scripture-rich prayers expressing her confident faith in the God who hears. She praised God, confessed sin, and boldly asked for the fulfillment of his promises. And as I joined her at the Throne, she discipled me in the whole Christian life.
Carol is just one example of the many women—older and younger—who have prayed with me. And I trust I have grown in holiness each time. As the theologian and hymn-writer Isaac Watts wrote, “By expressing the joys of our faith to God, we may often be made a means, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to raise the faith and joy of others.” If we are looking for ways for women to mentor one another—and we are!—it may be simpler than we anticipate.
Just two Christian women, taking turns praying aloud for the concerns of Christ and his kingdom, will disciple one another in important aspects of the life of faith.
The first lesson we learn from each other in prayer is about faith itself. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him,” and the prayers of other women are an encouragement to this belief. On our own, we might be tempted to think our prayers rise no higher than the ceiling. In prayer together, we form a cloud of witnesses, testifying to one another that God is there and that he hears.
Praying together is also a school for theology. Our knowledge of God is never merely academic but is also experiential (personal and relational.) Can you remember praying with someone else when you were a new believer? That prayer—whether you realized it at the time or not—taught you something about who God is: Father, Son, and Spirit, sovereign, loving, and concerned with the intimate details of his children’s lives. Even as more mature Christians, the prayers of other women teach us—and remind us!—about the character of God. In prayer with others, we get to know our God better.
And praying together trains us in repentance, in desire, and in thanksgiving. Typically, we hear someone else pray and think, “Oh! I should confess that sin, too,” or, “Oh, yes! I need that, too!” or even, “Yes, Lord, thank you for doing that for me, too.” Things that might be far from our minds are suddenly brought near by the prayers of other women, and our previously-lukewarm hearts are kindled by their devotion.
So where do we begin? Praying together can be as simple as inviting another woman over, suggesting one or two or twenty needs for prayer, and then taking turns praying aloud while the other person adds her “Amen.” Whether it is ten years of Tuesday mornings, or a single hour one afternoon, we should look expectantly for opportunities to pray with other women and trust the Spirit to teach us both as we do.
Megan Hill is a pastor’s wife and writer living in Massachusetts. Her new book is Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches (Crossway, 2016).