“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16
We called it “The Mush Pot,” probably left over from when we played Duck, Duck, Goose as kids. It started back in my college days when I worked at a Christian houseboat and waterski camp in the summers. Prior to the start of the season, the camp staff would gather for a weekend of training, prayer and fellowship. As we shared our hopes and fears about ministering to the many kids who we’d meet over the summer, each of us would take a turn sitting in “The Mush Pot” encircled by the other staff members. We would lay our hands on the one in the middle and pray. The Holy Spirit was alive and active in us, prompting our prayers and blessing all of us in the process. I can remember the butterflies I’d feel in my stomach when it was my turn to sit on the floor of the houseboat while everyone gathered around to lay hands on me. It was both overwhelming and inspiring to hear the things people prayed specifically for me. I came away knowing that God would give me exactly what I needed to love the kids and serve Him well.
My oldest son is now old enough to go to the camp where I first learned this practice, but “The Mush Pot” tradition has continued to be a part of my life. Looking back, I can see how God has increased my faith by giving me opportunities to offer and receive prayer. I can picture intimate and tearful gatherings around hospital beds praying for different friends and family members. Some were healed, some went home to Heaven, but all of us experienced peace through those sacred gatherings, even in the most clinical settings. I can also remember laying hands on people to pray for them in different small groups and Bible Studies over the years. Some of the most meaningful prayer times have happened spontaneously in unlikely places. I remember crying my eyes out while a friend prayed for me out on the mountain biking trail during a time of grief. The memories are powerful and tender. It was an honor and privilege to take part in them.
We don’t need to wait for the “really big” things to ask for prayer or to offer it. Beth Moore says it well in James: Mercy Triumphs: “If it has to do with us, then it has something to do with Him… we have an open invitation to a divine invasion. If we’re willing, God is our song when we are happy, our escape when we are tempted, our hope when we’re despairing, our joy in tribulation, our strength in weakness, and our immortality in dying” (p. 176). She goes on to say: “A pair of hands clasped in earnest prayer is the best means we have this side of Heaven to hang onto Jesus for dear life” (p. 178). As far as I can tell, there is nothing that is “off limits” for receiving prayer. If it’s happening in your life, it is worth asking for God’s intervention.
Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking God doesn’t want to be bothered by our needs and we try to handle things on our own. We might feel undeserving or awkward asking others to pray for us. I remember the first time I walked to the front of a church to ask for prayer during Communion. Struggling with the weight of a painful situation, I needed some comfort and wisdom. Even though I’d seen other people go forward for prayer, I’d never been one of them. For some reason, that day I just felt prompted to get out of my seat. The woman standing in front greeted me warmly. I fumbled through a vague explanation for why I needed prayer and then stood stiffly as she held me close and prayed. I don’t remember a word she said, but I recall being amazed that she knew what to pray with the small amount of material I’d shared with her. I returned to my seat relieved and at peace. My difficulty didn’t end immediately, but calling in reinforcements gave me the strength I needed to persevere in trusting God. I’d been carrying around the burden all on my own strength when God had been waiting all the time for me to share it with Him. Having another person pray for me made all the difference.
Sometimes we can also be fooled into thinking that we aren’t “righteous” enough to offer to pray for another person. However, the Bible makes it clear that if we have accepted Christ and are living for Him, we can claim His righteousness as our own: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19a, 20-21). We have righteousness, what we need to ask for is confidence! If you find yourself in a situation where a person needs prayer, you may feel awkward or fearful offering. Let me encourage you to ask God for courage. There is something powerful about praying for a person in their presence instead of just saying “I’ll pray for you” and doing it later. Jesus says in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
In the Session Five and Six videos for James: Mercy Triumphs, Beth Moore points out two subtle adversaries to our faith: cynicism and insecurity. Maybe you’ve watched others walk to the front of the church and have thought: “That person must really have problems” or “Why do they have to be so dramatic and get up in front of everyone?” Maybe you’ve known someone needed prayer, but didn’t offer because you thought she would think you were “too religious.” Cynicism and insecurity stunt our ability to be used by God and rob us of opportunities to be a blessing to others. I know this from personal experience and pray regularly that God will rid me of those destructive trains of thought.
It’s been over 20 years since I first sat in “The Mush Pot” to be prayed over by my fellow staff members at summer camp. It’s been less than two weeks since I last laid hands on someone in “The Mush Pot” to pray for God’s intervention in her life. In all the time in between, I have rich memories of connecting with others through accessing the power of God together in prayer. I’ve been blessed beyond measure witnessing the powerful and effective prayers offered by followers of Jesus.
Do you have a “Mush Pot” experience you’d like to share? How has joining with others in prayer blessed you and them? How have you overcome your fears about praying with and for others? Post a comment and share your thoughts.