My understanding of prayer changed dramatically once I learned about tricliniums.

Triclinium comes from two Greek words meaning “three” (tri) “couches” (kline), and it refers both to the furniture and the room in which that furniture was placed—the formal dining room in a traditional Roman home. Three chaise lounges were pushed together in an overlapping zig-zag, thereby creating a space in the middle for servants, entertainers, and teachers. Each couch would have been big enough for a family to share, though it was common for three adults to lie together, also.

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his followers that “wherever two or three are gathered in [his] name, [he] is in their midst.” The phrase “in the midst” refers to the center of a triclinium.

Once I realized this, my paradigm for prayer shifted. Prayer became more social, more pleasant, and more interesting. Since “the midst” of the triclinium had specific functions, it was marvelous to consider that Christ was placing himself in the role of a servant. Of course he did this many times, but it’s strange to think he’s doing it once again. It’s humbling.

Likewise, Christ in the midst comes to entertain—to sing and perform. So prayer doesn’t have to be dour or miserable. Jesus wants us to lighten up, to liven up, and to enjoy what he’s offering.

Finally, Christ-in-the-midst comes to educate; which, in the ancient world, was always meant to be a conversation. He wants to teach, but his instruction requires we ask questions, debate, and sometimes arrive at our own conclusions.

I want you to pray imagining Christ in your midst.