I almost always experience an awkward moment or two when a roomful of people is asked to break into small groups. Do I follow the person sitting next to me into a group? Do I intentionally drag my chair across the room to join a too-small circle?
Last night I attended a prayer meeting where we were asked to do the self-selection dance. I didn’t know many people there, so I headed toward the nearest, largest group. I didn’t have time to look around at the others in the group before we began praying. I closed my eyes and listened intently to the voices of the others around me so I could join my soul’s yes to their words of intercession.
As I did, I heard the soft, lyrical lilt of an African accent. Then the British-tinged English of an Indian couple. The carefully-selected syllables of an Asian gentleman. The different colors of American English spoken by people who’d grown up in places other than Chicago.
Ribboned throughout the book of Revelation, there are mentions of multitudes from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before God. All see him for who he really is; all bow the knee; and a song of gratitude rises from those he is redeeming. When I pray with a group like the one I prayed with last night, it brings the unspeakable beauty of God into time and space.
No, I’m not being idealistic here. I think we experience the Eternal with us any time we pray with another person, even if it is someone as familiar as a spouse or old friend. We are all different enough that those who are most like us are still worlds apart from us. The act of corporate prayer is an immigrant act that moves us beyond our own little fiefdoms and self-boundaries in order to breathe the air of a kingdom without borders. The pain of Babel and the promise of Pentecost are our passport. Jesus Christ is himself the visa into his Kingdom. When we pray, we are, for an eternal moment, home at last together.
But I always experience this reality most deeply when I am in an international prayer group like the one I was in last night. The people in my group last night would never find ourselves in a room in a clumsy circle crossing our own personal borders if left to our own devices. Never! But because of God, we were, for an eternal moment, home together.
How about you? When have you most acutely sensed the eternal breaking into time and space?