“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16
This is my seventh year leading in the LAMBS Bible study. My goal as a small group leader is always to help each woman enjoy God’s Word, enjoy fellowship, pray for each other, and finish strong.
However, every year, I always have at least one woman who leaves my small group for one reason or another. One year, there was a woman who left my group after coming one time! Yes, there were “good” reasons for it, but somehow, it was hard not to take it personally. Regardless of the reasons, I asked God to teach me how to be a leader who prays for her group, listens well, and speaks life into each woman with the help of the Holy Spirit.
I know that I can do better as a small group leader. I also know that it’s not going to happen in my own strength. The Holy Spirit has to do its work in me, and this requires lots of dedicated prayer while in God’s Word!
One day at the beginning of this past LAMBS year, the Lord impressed upon me John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus did not come to condemn the world…He came to save it! This verse revealed my internal fallenness that God wanted to change. Condemning thoughts surface frequently in my mind. I struggle with judging others. I know that I won’t be able to love with Jesus’ love if I have these thoughts. These thoughts prevent me from being effective as a leader.
I prayed for the Lord to forgive and to change me. God revealed Himself more and more as I sought His counsel in His Word. His exorbitant love, mercy, and grace towards me, despite my numerous shortcomings, overwhelmed my mind and heart, and I was humbled and extremely grateful. Of course, the Lord wasn’t going to stop there. He gave me opportunities to practice this in my small group.
Without going into too much detail, a dear woman in my group, who gave me permission to share her story, left after coming only three times. She was a believer who got off the path and lost her way. Bible study was hard; loneliness and depression plagued her since she lost her husband four years ago. It was just too hard for her to get up and out to a church that wasn’t her own.
Instead of judging her for not coming every week, God opened my eyes to her pain. I have dealt with depression myself. And by God’s grace, He delivered me from my pain while so many faithful friends prayed for me. So, I asked my small group to pray for her. The Lord also prompted me to pray, text and email her. I wanted her to remember that God loves her with an everlasting love. Then I prayed.
I repeated this week after week. Pray, text, email, and then pray again. Each time my message was about God’s love, His omnipresence in her life, and His faithfulness to help her in all things. Then God prompted me to send links of the Overwhelmed sermon series to her. The Holy Spirit began to stir her heart. Now, this dear woman is in love with her First Love again and speaks with renewed hope, joy, and faith!
The LAMBS study ended, and she never finished this study, but she made new friends through the bond of prayer. My group only saw her three times, but she asked to come back one last time to share her story and thank the small group for their prayers. Together, we celebrated her return to the Lord and rejoiced with her like long lost friends! We were all witnesses to the truth that prayer changes everything.
“There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” Luke 15:7