As I was reading in the book of Joshua today, I thought of my children, and that led to thinking of how grateful I am to God for all the prayers He has answered regarding them. There were so many times I scrambled to understand how to be a mother, and I felt my failures keenly, but I kept praying. People prayed for our children as babies, and as they grew I sought out a prayer group of mothers, and we prayed for our children. As young adults I prayed for them with another mom. My husband and I have prayed for them. My huge lack of wisdom kept and still keeps me praying. My great need and my earnest desire to see them grow to love God compels me to pray, for I know my dependence on God to help and keep them.
The prayer I have prayed most often for myself has been for wisdom and discernment. I began praying this as a new Christian in college because reading requirements contained hostile and conflicting ideas about my new faith. I started praying every time I sat down to read that God would give me wisdom and discernment, and that He would keep me from harm, but instead use anything bad for my good. When you’re plunged into humanities as a new Christian, you pray a lot of prayers like that! I prayed this so often that it is still a habit when I read. I hadn’t even thought about how much I had prayed it until a few years ago when I realized I had prayed this prayer more than any other for myself.
Throughout my life I have looked for prayer partners to meet with once a week and pray over our individual or mutual concerns. I’ve done this, again, out of need and out of weakness as I don’t consider myself to be a great spiritual giant in my personal prayer—more like a spiritual midget!
There have also been times when I have been in such deep personal pain that I could hardly pray alone, because of the intense pain I felt as I cried out to God. I needed to have someone alongside me to help lift me up, and their presence enabled me to pour out my heart.
I have always found it easier to pray for others and to pray for the advance of God’s Kingdom and the spread of the Gospel when I am with others and can join with them in prayer. I have greatly enjoyed and found strength in prayer together, and I have been dismayed to see how rare actual prayer meetings are in churches when people come together to spend time praying. Those prayer meetings bonded us together in love for God as we spent time coming before Him together. Church prayer meetings remind us week after week of our dependence on God in our need for His wisdom and power to accomplish anything and to grow. I have been in stiff, formal prayer meetings that were boring and impersonal, but I’ve also known those prayer meetings that provided God’s rest, strength and power rest to advance His kingdom and in the midst of conflict—welding hearts together as we prayed. One of my former pastors, Mike Braun, led us in these wonderful times together. We sang together, we shared what God was doing in our lives, we offered requests, we thanked God together, and our fellowship was interwoven with our earnest prayers. Those were times of deep love and great joy even in the midst of suffering.
At those times when I have been in leadership, I have always made prayer a priority for whatever group of women I was leading. In fact, the first time I was in charge of a women’s ministries, I decided we would spend the same amount of time praying together as we spent planning together. God encouraged me to keep prayer a continuing priority as there was such unity of heart and mind and ease in planning in that first meeting. I am convinced that when a group comes together in humility to seek God together, then the Holy Spirit will give them wisdom in planning and work in their hearts to enable them to lay aside selfish ambition, granting them unity as they learn to consider the needs of others as they plan. I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen the continuing difficulties that come when people hold at some level to their own ambition, and prayer is reluctant or perfunctory. For a work to bring God glory, it must be of Him—His wisdom and His power—and we need to learn to pray, and to pray fervently together, persevering though our numbers be small.
In thinking about my own life of prayer, there are two passages that come to mind. The first is on wisdom:
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
The other is from a psalm of refuge. I have always loved the words about pouring out your heart before God, and the assurance that He is a refuge for His people:
“Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.”
May this passage from Hebrews be an encouragement to all of us to pray in this new year.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Pray with gratitude to God and thankfulness for who He is. Pray for your family, your friends, your co-workers, for the spread of the Gospel. And I would so appreciate your prayers for me as I write, as I pray for you as you read.
May the Lord bless you, keep you, make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you in 2011. May we grow in Christ together.
Albrecht Dürer, Betende Hände, Public Domain.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter