How to Use Prayer to Build Community

How to Use Prayer to Build Community

Posted on February 14, 2019

BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS, GRACE ATTENDER

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have described myself as “alone” by any means. My husband and I have pretty tight-knit connections within our family and we’ve always spent a lot of time with our awesome clan of relatives. But I still found myself longing for friendship and connection, especially when I left full-time work to stay home with our second child. We didn’t know a single neighbor and didn’t have many close connections through church. And I’ll be honest, you have to keep a pretty low profile not to meet friends at a place as big as Grace Church. (Guilty!)

That being said, the last three years have been a whirlwind of community-building for our family. As much as I’ve written time and again about my struggles with prayer, I wholeheartedly believe that my present-day community connections are a direct result of prayer. It started with the Grace Church 40-Day Prayer Challenge in early 2016, and it hasn’t stopped since. I’ve told the story of how God showed up after I prayed to build community, so today I want to share some practical ways to use prayer for building community.

Do Your Own 40-Day Prayer Challenge

Participating in the 40-Day Prayer Challenge at Grace Church was incredibly helpful to me, as I was so out-of-touch with the practice of prayer at the time. The structured program outlined in Mark Batterson’s book Draw the Circle is a great guide for beginners and prayer warriors alike. In preparing to write this article, I read through my daily journal entries from the 2016 prayer challenge. I’m literally amazed at the volume of answered prayers I’ve realized since that time. But by far, the contrast between my community then and now is almost unbelievable. Only God! I’m inspired to start my next prayer challenge now.

Breath Prayers for Your Daily Routine

Personally, I love breath prayers. These short, one line prayers have been the best way to infuse my life with regular daily prayer. I recently wrote about my new daily prayer routine, and it’s basically a list of breath prayers that I can return to each day or any time a prompting for prayer hits me. If you’re looking to prayer as a way to build community in your life, below is a list of breath prayer examples for inspiration. Perhaps one or two will speak to you or spark your very own breath prayer.

  • God, please shine a light on my path toward community.

  • God, please help me open my doors to love.

  • God, I want to practice the radical acceptance demonstrated by Jesus.

  • God, please nudge me to accept the invitation.

  • God, please let others who need it to find community with me.

  • God, I want to recognize all of your children.

  • God, I want to love like you do.

  • God, please help me shed the lies, fears and anxieties that prevent me from building community.

  • God, I’m open to letting the Holy Spirit move for the benefit of others through me.

  • God, please help me to embrace my vulnerabilities as a way to foster connection.

  • God, please move in pursuit of those I have extended an invitation.

  • God, please help me step out of my comfort zone toward building community.

  • God, please bless me with the eyes to see You in others.

  • God, I want to encourage others to acts of love and good works.

  • God, thank you for opening my eyes to the power of community.

  • God, please reveal my stretcher bearers.

  • God, I want to work to heal the broken place of isolation.

  • God, I want to celebrate with You and your children.

Take Bold Steps

One of my favorite takeaways from Mark Batterson’s books is his recurring insistence to “work like it depends on us, and pray like it depends on God.” Taking bold steps is how to work like it depends on you—and a great way to demonstrate to God that you’ve put faith in His ability to answer your prayers. Prayer and bold steps work together hand-in-hand no matter what you long for.

What I’ve noticed in my own life is a mix of results from both prayer and my own bold steps. I indeed built lasting community through pushing myself out of my comfort zone and accepting a pool-time play date invitation from a neighbor on Nextdoor. But I saw it as God moving when I happened to meet a neighbor at the bank who lives two houses down from me. I’ve gotten to know several neighbors through hosting block parties and hand-delivering invitations to each house, and that was a bold step on my part. But it was God showing off when He nudged a new family to move in whose kindergartener was already friends with kids on the street. Joining Real Moms was a bold step for me. The fact that one of my original leaders lives in my neighborhood and the other is married to one of my husband’s coworkers (and had actually tried to buy the house across the street from us, ending up in an adjacent neighborhood) was a Godly non-coincidence if you ask me. All this and more has happened in the last 3 years—ever since I said my first prayer about building community. My community is now large and thriving, bigger than I could ever have dreamed of, and I give God all the credit for it. With prayer, He gave me the courage to take some bold steps, and He also sent so many blessings along the way.

With the current sermon series on community, I’m sure that there are some who, like me three years ago, are longing for connection more than ever. If that’s you, I hope you’ll put the power of prayer to work in your life. You can start right now with a simple breath prayer from the list above. And when God shows up and shows off for you, I hope you’ll share your story to inspire others!