If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is—and if your people pray about their troubles, raising their hands toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 1 Kings 8:37-38
“How was your day of prayer?” That is the question many of you asked me this week in reference to God’s plan for me on April 30th. My standard answer has been, “I was on holy ground.” But that answer only touches the tip of the iceberg.
When I first put out the request for prayers, I had no idea whether I would get one or a hundred. I was prepared to pray all day if necessary, but I honestly didn’t expect to. However, when I received well OVER 100 requests, I knew it would be a long day.
Your prayer requests fell into several different categories. Many had to do with COVID-19—for the safety of first responders, government leaders, hospitals, and the elderly, and they covered global groups to specific individuals. Other requests had to do with various afflictions: cancer, anxiety, stomach issues, chronic pain, and upcoming surgeries. Then there were prayer requests about relationships: marriages, parent-child, friendships, cousins, boss-employee—the list goes on! There were also a number of very specific prayer requests that were personal and painful, and that is as detailed as I will get about those.
Who asked for prayer? People I knew as well as those I didn’t. Men and women, from children to the elderly. Many of the requests came from seasoned Christians, but several were written by nominal Christians or self-proclaimed agnostics, which I found pleasantly surprising!
I give you this background so you can perhaps grasp why I felt like I was on holy ground last Thursday as I entered my designated prayer room.
There is no “correct” way to pray, but I believe praying is as much about petitioning as it is about listening and praising. Hence the reason for a number of items I took with me besides the prayer list: my guitar to accompany the singing of praise tunes, my Bible with which to access and pray scripture when necessary, a candle to set a contemplative mood, and a pencil to write down any messages I might hear from God.
Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:7-8
I prayed slowly, taking time to reflect on every request and listening for any response. Sometimes I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to pray differently or longer. Other times I felt called to pray for someone or something that wasn’t even on the list. And occasionally I felt inspired to write down what I heard in my heart.
More than five hours later, I emerged from my prayer cocoon feeling lighter, calmer, and deeply loved. Having been in the presence of the Lord for hours, I was enveloped by a sense of peace that passed all understanding.
That should be the end of the story, right? Wrong! Later that night I got my first text thanking me for a prayer that had been answered. Wow! I thought. That was not one I saw coming!
The next day I started calling the people for whom I had messages. Without exception, each message was graciously received, though some were met with shock or tears. Over the last week I have continued to hear from people whose prayer requests have gradually unfolded in stunning ways. I have also felt called to write personal letters to several individuals, which I am still working on. This is, after all, not something I care to rush.
I can’t respond to everyone, and I don’t expect to hear from everyone either, because God did not answer every prayer. But knowing he heard each one and responded to many has been humbling and, at times, overwhelming—especially when I hear from those nominal Christians and agnostics! There is no disputing that our God lives, is sovereign, and wants a relationship with each one of us.
And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 1 Kings 8:59-60
Though I am still processing the impact of my experience and the blessings I received by praying for others, I do have a three takeaways I would like to share.
First—You don’t have to be perfect to do God’s work in the world. I am no one special. I do not have a degree in theology, nor have I lived an exemplary life. (Just ask any of my siblings!) But God uses broken vessels for His kingdom purposes. If God can use me, He can use you, too. Stay alert for His call.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 8:18
Second—Prayer is the free communication tool that allows anyone and everyone to speak directly with the God of the universe. I’ve often heard people say, “I don’t know how to pray.” My answer is, “Do you know how to talk, and do you know how to listen?” That’s all it is really. Just pretend you’re on your phone, and start a conversation with God. He’s always listening.
Third—Answered prayers come in many forms: a word, a nudge, a surprise visit. It may come quickly or years later, or you may realize you never really needed what you asked for. Be patient. It will come. God’s timing is not our timing.
I prayed for many things last Thursday, and God spoke into many of those prayers—except for one category. He was completely silent on this pandemic. Not once did He offer any solace or hope. I don’t know what that means, but here’s what I do know: God is aware of our situation, and He is still in charge of this world.
So while we wait for the answers, let’s use this time to pray for each other.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Standing in the Gap (courtesy of Aunt Judy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofxQhYefhu4 by Babbie Mason.
Lyrics: “I’ll be standing in the gap for you. Just remember someone somewhere is praying for you.”