Mennonite Women USA
Praying Companions | A Women's Group
A Sunday school class at Waterford Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, read Stretch Out Your Hand: Exploring Healing Prayer by Robert D. Webber and Tilda Norberg about 20 years ago. That class continued to meet and pray for each other, even after the book study ended. Within a year or two, the men in the group dropped out. The group named themselves, Praying Companions. While women come and go, about 10 women continue to meet on a weekly basis to share their joys and sorrows. Until the COVID pandemic closed all in-person gatherings, Praying Companions met during the Sunday school hour. Then, they began meeting via Zoom.
The Zoom format served the Praying Companions well as two of their members moved to the West Coast during the pandemic. It also permitted one class member who was frequently absent due to social anxiety to become a regular participant. To accommodate a three-hour time difference between Indiana and the West Coast, the Praying Companions began meeting on Wednesday evening/afternoon rather than Sunday morning.
Praying Companions open their sessions with a meditation/prayer led by one of the group members. Then, each woman shares her praises (often answers to prayers from previous weeks) and her requests. These are compiled in an email that serves as an aide to prayer during the week and permits women who couldn’t participate in the session to stay informed about their sisters’ needs. All the sharing is confidential.
The women pray each other through sickness and the loss of loved ones. They pray their children through addictions and the crises of their lives, including incarceration. They help each other pack belongings and move, as well as bringing meals when needed. Many of the women have international connections, so prayer includes loved ones around the world. The Praying Companions emphasize that they will not give advice to each other, but that they want to help each woman listen to what God’s Spirit is saying to her. (Although, a lot of good advice is shared any way — and is usually appreciated!)
One Praying Companion said, “I need my sisters during all the phases of my journey with chronic illness. I am so grateful for this circle that holds me through the vicissitudes of despair and hope, of learning and yearning to be ‘content in every circumstance.’ The Praying Companions have been the heart, hands, and voice of Jesus to me. I thank God for this community of sisters!”
Sometimes, the Praying Companions read books together. Some important ones have been The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp and Traveling Light by Max Lucado.
For many of the Praying Companions, this gathering of women sharing their lives has moved prayer from a churchy activity to something as natural and necessary as breathing. Emails can be sent during anguished nights and may receive a timely answer. The Praying Companions know that they are not alone.
By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen and the Praying Companions