Do you ever wonder what goes through a pastor’s mind when he or she is in front of people? Let me tell you what went through mine when Jeff Dibert, our Pastoral Support Team Leader, gave me your Christmas gift. During the worship service, Jeff asked Stephanie, my wife, and I to come forward. Then he handed me a gift bag. When I pulled out a stuffed penguin, he said, “We heard you like penguins.” I immediately thought, “Surely to goodness they didn’t buy me a penguin, did they?” Knowing Jeff, he would if he could.
Isn’t it funny how once our minds start going in a certain direction, we keep moving in that direction even if it isn’t logical? Then I got to thinking, “Is it even legal to own a penguin in the U.S.?
“No. I don’t think it is. Are they sending me someplace that has penguins?”
By this point, Jeff revealed, much to my relief, that the gift was tickets to a Pittsburgh Penguins game.
Later in the week, I started thinking about my original question. “Is it legal to have a penguin as a pet in the United States? I decided to look up the answer. According to several websites, the answer seems to be only if you’re a zoo. Since they’re a protected species, you can own them only if you have the right permits and a proper place to house them.
As I spend a few minutes researching penguins, I realized there are some ways that you and I are similar to them. For example, if you could adopt them as pets, they are such social creatures that you would need to adopt several of them so they could function together.
God created us to be social creatures as well. We can struggle with this because our society embraces and rewards rugged individualism. We’re taught to refuse help from others unless we’re desperate. Try and do everything on your own. But this is viewpoint isn’t from God.
Galatians 6:1-10 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Do you notice what verse 2 and verse 10 tells us to do? We’re to carry each other’s burdens as well as do good to all people, especially to other Christians. God didn’t make us to be alone. We’re made to live in a community with each other where we come alongside one another.
There are several terms that can be used to describe penguins. The most common name for a group of penguins is a colony. A group of penguins in the water is called a raft. A group of penguins on land is called a waddle. Obviously, the term “waddle” comes from the way penguins walk. According to Oxford Dictionaries, “waddle” is defined as “walk with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion”
If we stop and think about it, this word could also describe our walk with God. It isn’t easy. Things typically don’t go as smooth as we’d like and the process takes a lot longer than we wish it would. We’re waddlers. Our Spiritual growth us usually marked by short, clumsy steps. This is why we need each other.
One vital way we can carry each other’s burdens and care for one other is by praying for each other. Because Jesus has reconciled us to God through his death on the cross, God hears and answers our prayers. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
As we waddle forward as disciples of Jesus, each of us needs to find a prayer partner. Here are some suggestions about how to find a prayer partner. (Taken from Parent Warrior by Karen Scalf Linamen. Found on https://www.crosswalk.com/560556/)
Individual prayer is essential, yet there is no denying that God wants us to bring other people into our prayer life. Jesus makes this clear when He instructs that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them (Matt. 18:19-20).
Benefits of praying together:
- It makes you accountable. On our own, we get distracted by the demands of life. Knowing that you have scheduled prayer times help you budget your time and focus on prayer.
- It develops intimacy. There are so few chances for intimate connection with others. We long to connect with others in a deep meaningful way. Prayer with others cuts to the soul and allows sharing of struggles, disappointments, hopes, and blessings.
- It offers a time to express the power of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. There is healing when we share our deepest secret with a prayer partner – and that partner still loves us. When that happens, it’s easier to believe that God, whom we can’t see, can love us that way too – and more.
- It gives us the opportunity to experience God’s love in a physical, tangible manner. It makes God real – a place to give hugs, pats on the back, and for holding hands and wiping tears.
Characteristics of a good prayer partner:
- Choose carefully. The person you choose as a prayer partner can enrich or detract from your time together in prayer, so it is important to put some thought into your selection. This is particularly true if you will be praying about highly personal or confidential issues.
- Vulnerability and transparency. Select someone who knows what it’s like to feel vulnerable and is willing to share – and hear – the hard parts of life.
- Confidentiality. Don’t set yourself up for disillusionment, embarrassment, and even bitterness by sharing highly sensitive prayer concerns with friends who may not be discreet with your problems. Private matters shared before God in prayer are not for the public ear.
- Solid theological footing. Look for someone with a solid working knowledge of the Bible.
- Repentant spirit and desire to live pure before God. Sin that remains unconfessed and unforgiven will hinder our prayers. Look for a partner who confesses sin and seeks to live differently.
- Desire to pray. Choose someone who is familiar with the power of prayer or who has a desire to incorporate more prayer into his or her life.
- Make a list. How often would you be interested in praying with a partner? Think of three people you would feel comfortable praying with. Pray over your list. Call each of them and ask them to pray about being a prayer partner. Let God work in your lives.
Penguins are cute when they waddle. Humans. Not so much. Let’s make sure we not only support each other but that we also humble ourselves and allow others to support us. We created to function together.
(Please let me know who your prayer partner is. The only reason I ask for this information is so I can know how many of us have prayer partners.)