Every group of Christian friends needs a prayer ninja. This is the person that, regardless of situation or location, can lay down an amazing prayer out of nowhere. At a restaurant, they’re the only ones that can time a prayer perfectly right after the drink order is taken and right before the appetizers arrive. At church, they know how to pray boldly and powerfully but never try to “out pray” the pastor. They are virtually unstoppable when it comes to prayer. And every group of Christians friends needs one.
But they’re not easy to find. They are an elusive bunch composed of a set of qualities that seem at odd with each other. All at once they are quiet but powerful, humble but confident, invisible but strong when the moment requires strength. How do you find a prayer ninja? It really depends on where you are, because they differ slightly by continent, but there are some similarities that may help you spot one:
1. A prayer ninja is only good at prayer.
Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking a prayer ninja will be great at all things church. They won’t be able to sing or write well or take care of little kids in the nursery. They possess one laser-focused talent and that is prayer. To try to force them out of their prayer zone into another role would be like asking a real ninja to bake cookies or shop for curtains with you. That wouldn’t make any sense, now would it? It would just be this mess of throwing stars and swords and chocolate chip cookie dough. The one exception to this rule is that the prayer ninja often has a deep understanding of the Bible and has the ability to weave verses into the prayer seamlessly. When I try, it often feels clunky and forced, “I just thank you for this pot luck supper tonight God. It was just lovely. Speaking of love, how about that John 3:16? That talks about God loving the world, that’s just really great.” The ninja is far smoother than that. (By the way, a church that is great at everything is known as a “church Swiss army knife” or CSAK for short.)
2. A prayer ninja is not a professional.
I know a lot of ministers and church employees and other professionals that are great at praying, but very, very few of them are prayer ninjas. A prayer ninja, much like the Olympians of old, has usually maintained his/her amateur status. They have not received any formal training but have instead been taught deep in the mountains of life. Part of what makes them a prayer ninja is the element of surprise, people are often shocked at how great they are at praying. There is an expectation that ministers should know how to pray, so they are unable to tap into the element of surprise which tends to disqualify them from ninja status.
3. A prayer ninja only has one voice and one vocabulary.
The minute you hear someone break into a different voice to start praying, you know you are not dealing with a prayer ninja. They don’t lower their voice or raise their voice when they pray, they just pray in the same exact voice they always speak in. And they won’t ever drop a seminary word on you. If the person you are praying with never uses the words “hermeneutics” in regular conversations but tries to drop it into a prayer, that person is not a ninja.
4. A prayer ninja can open, close or “middle” a prayer circle.
Some people tense up when asked to “open us in prayer.” Others get a little sweaty when they get tagged to “close the prayer” during a prayer circle. Not a prayer ninja. They’ll go first, last or middle without blinking an eye. That’s just their way, the way of the ninja.
I’m not a prayer ninja, but my friend Mary is. After a few weeks in small group together we asked her to close a prayer. In addition to just the awesomeness of the prayer, you could sense the awe in the room as we collectively realized we were in the presence of a ninja. She was amazing. For weeks we had been sitting next to her without any idea and then suddenly, as if stealing through the dead of night to deliver some sort of crane kick, she dropped the most beautiful prayer on us. I wish everyone had a Mary in their life. I hope everyone can find a prayer ninja using this list.
p.s. I think I am developing a “ninja reference addiction” or NRA. I was going to say “prayer pro” or “prayer ringer” but neither of those worked well. I think I’m overusing the word “ninja” right now though. If you see me use it again during the month of August, please hold a humor intervention and take it away from me.