While walking through a labyrinth for Lent, Cynthia Hottinger remembered she needed to ask her pastor about starting a prayer group for the church.
Thus the seed was planted at Ellicott City's First Evangelical Lutheran Church, whose group meets at 8:30 p.m. every Monday to pray for the congregation, its leaders, parishioners in need and larger world concerns.
"It was my understanding that it's biblical that every church should have a group praying for it," said Hottinger.
"I didn't plan to do this. How I decide if things are God's will for me to do is that if the doors keep closing, it's not God's will. But if the doors open, and the way opens, it is God's will. Here, it fell into my lap.
"I think," she added, "that it's so important that we undergird the church and leadership with prayer."
The Rev. Andrea A. Wiegand, associate pastor at First Lutheran, concurred.
"The last couple of churches I've worked at have had prayer groups," she said. "When Cynthia brought the idea to me, I was excited by that. It was exciting to me to have someone in the congregation who wanted to go about forming this group."
"Prayer," Wiegand said, "is certainly an important part of the people of God and a church. On Sunday morning, there's limited time - you don't pray for everything every Sunday.
"The prayer group is an opportunity to pray regularly and intentionally in specific ways in many different areas - for staff, the church, the mission of the people of God, for baptisms and births.
"It's nice to have people pray before a council meeting," Wiegand said.
The prayer group meets wherever space is available in the large and active church. One week it meets in the church parlor, another week in the sanctuary.
The group exists to serve the needs of others.
Prayer is not direct social action, and therefore to some it doesn't feel like "doing" anything to serve the church or the world. However, as prayer participant Lauren Mueller explained, "The prayers pray the will of God into being on this Earth. They are the ones who have preceded many of the major moves of God."
During the prayer meetings, participants - who can include members or friends of First Lutheran - pray vocally as they are moved to do so.
"It's important that the praying be led by the Holy Spirit, as well by our understanding of a situation," said Mueller.
Instead of praying for what you think a solution to a problem should be, "seek first to find God's wisdom as to what a problem is," she advised.
"What an institution [the prayer group] has become in my spiritual well-being," she said.
Is the prayer group part of a trend? Wiegand doesn't know.
"We're at a time when denominations are able to look at each other a little more and see each other's gifts. We're concentrating on what unity might look like, which has opened up dialogues between different denominations. We may be influenced by that," she said.
What she and others in the group do know is that the praying is biblical. Mueller points to Galatians 6:6 in the Amplified Bible - "Let him who receives instruction in the Word [of God] share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his support]."
Good things, Mueller said, refer to both material goods and spiritual gifts, both of which humans are commanded to share.
"I do know," Hottinger said, "that prayer works and is important. Every church needs to be supported in prayer."
Anyone with prayer concerns is welcome to join the group, which meets in the First Evangelical Lutheran Church at 8:30 p.m. Mondays. The church also welcomes worshipers to its Sunday services at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Information: 410-465-2977.