During my time in Zambia, I read a book called ‘Living Faith’ by Helen Roseveare (short biography & podcast). She was a medical missionary to the Congo, and has written several books to encourage and challenge Christians by sharing her experiences. I could write pages on how inspiring she is – but that’s not what this post is about. I wrote my thoughts after each of the three chapters to help me digest what I had read. This series is about how God used this book to work at my heart and teach me a few important lessons.
Prayer is a major part of my relationship with God that I have been struggling with the past year. I know that it should be a natural part of my faith: like breathing, simply talking to God. But when it comes to actually praying, I get stuck. I don’t know what to say or how to pray – what is the ‘right’ way to pray and how to make my prayers more ‘effective’.
The Lord answered my cry asking Him to teach me how to pray. He is opening my eyes to what I need to learn to set me in motion. Helen writes that the purpose of prayer is not primarily to affect situations, but to learn and understand His will and purpose, seeking to bring my life in line with it for its fulfillment. Prayer is the means by which God works through and gives us all we need to live out His perfect plan.
The need for prayer is great, for those who do not believe in Jesus are perishing. We need a concern for the lost to constrain us to pray – this is where I have been lacking and what has stopped me from praying. I asked the Lord to reveal to me when and why I lost this compassion. I used to be so passionate about the lost! … It was because caring is costly. It is painful to feel compassion for those who are perishing, so I unwittingly chose not to feel at all. I must daily ask God to fill my heart with a concern; a compassion like Christ for those who are without Him. I must accept God’s burden, praying in faith that lives will be set free.
Another key thing to remember is that we do not need to understand why or how God uses our prayers to fulfill His plan. I struggle with this – I usually need to understand the mechanism of how things work before putting it into practice. I guess a helpful way to think about it would be like learning to drive. I don’t understand the whole mechanics of the car, but I trust that if I step on the accelerator it will go; if I pull the brake it will stop; if I turn the handle it will change direction; if I change gear it will allow me to change speed. I do not question how or why – I just do my part. Of course, it is not as straightforward as this, but it helps me understand that it is okay to not understand everything.
Once we start praying, we must commit and persevere until it is answered – whether in visible results or a peace of mind. We must put the needs of those we are praying for above our own, particularly if it is urgent. Don’t count the cost, whether that be in sleep, food, energy, time. Continue believing when praying for longer than 10 minutes. Maintain earnestness. This comes from a heart that is willing to care and love, to suffer with them. Prayer can be painful.
Pray for those who are sick, for God’s healing hand. Lord give me the faith to believe! Do not be discouraged by those who are not healed – simply accept His sovereignty and move on. ‘Our task was to obey and serve to the limit of our God-given ability, trusting Him with the outcome’. Our obedience to the urge of the Spirit to pray, even if specific needs are unknown, may be the channel through which God wants to act on their behalf, for He knows their exact needs. Prayer can be powerful.
When we pray, God may not answer in the ways we anticipate, nor at the time we expect. But when we pray with a heart willing to be available to Him, seeking His will and acting in obedience, He will work out His perfect, pleasing plan. Prayer will turn into praise.
Stir me, oh stir me Lord, till prayer is pain, till prayer is power, till prayer turns into praise. Stir me, till heart and will and mind, yea all is wholly Thine to use through all the days. Stir till I learn to pray exceedingly. Stir till I learn to wait expectantly.