InTouch Blog - Life Lessons in Prayer
An unfamiliar name popping into a student’s mind during a pre-trip MX lab, with the sense this name needed to be prayed for. Walking 15+ kilometres, shouting and singing prayers over the dull roar of traffic on a city’s perimeter highway. Standing on ancient castle walls overlooking a city of 5 million +, asking God how to pray for its residents. Praying in four languages with fellow believers who had lost all and become refugees for the second time. Feeling the heartbeat of a nation in shocked grief, asking that our presence and prayers would bring the fragrance of Christ. These were just some of the experiences in prayer of our 3rd year MX class this past February-March.
As I read students’ final reflection papers a month later, I realized that these varied experiences had resulted in many life-changing lessons in prayer. I asked them if I could summarize and share their lessons. Here they are:
God speaks to us in the way He’s designed us to listen.
“The one phrase that I will probably always remember for the rest of my life is when A prayed for us on the first day, ‘Father, help them to listen to you the way you designed them to listen’.”
This lesson struck a chord with many, and we began paying attention to how God had created each of us to listen. For some, it is images. Some receive a word. Some hear God through Scripture. Some experience the gift of speaking in tongues.
We practiced attentive prayer in small groups in our first city. During this experience, one student realized that we can ask God to lead us in prayer through the Holy Spirit at any time. “Even if we do not always receive something, we can make ourselves available to a God who wants to use us to pray on behalf of others, sometimes in a very specific way. God speaks to us – that is incredible and humbling altogether.”
God delights in our attempts to learn.
You don’t know how to listen to God in prayer? Just get up and try! He’s cheering the attempt, like a parent who holds out their hands to the toddler learning to walk. If you mess up, he will pick you up to try again.
This required courage, as we shared with each other in small groups what we thought we might be hearing, and then set out to follow this direction on a prayer walk. One student reported an overwhelming peace, “not that I had to hear something from God but just a peace in a time of prayer, because of his character of being a gracious father.”
Our prayers are prompted by what the Triune God is already praying.
We were reminded that both the Spirit and Jesus Christ are interceding for and through us. We were encouraged to pray what God was already praying in the situations we found ourselves in.
In our prayer walks, we prayed with eyes wide open, asking Christ to help us see what He was seeing in the world around us. Prayers were prompted by the things we saw, the people who crossed our paths, the sounds of the city, and the spiritual senses we felt.
“This allowed prayer to be much more strategic and focused, which I found powerful in experiencing God in prayer.”
We dared to ask God for the things we believed he already wanted and intended for this world. “I remember praying that as I walked past this one woman, she would be like the woman in the crowd who reached out to touch Jesus and was healed. I prayed that when she saw us walk by, she would know in her heart that the reflection of God we carried was what she was looking for to quench her thirst. I believe that God wanted her to experience the healing of his presence. Is that not crazy! I have never prayed a prayer like that before. There is so much I do not know about my Creator, but I learned that he wants big things to happen in this world.”
Prayer is the key to ministry anywhere.
The workers in the places we visited had so much faith in the power of prayer and the difference it makes for future ministry in the areas we prayed. Prayer isn’t just a forerunner to ministry; it is ministry. For many students, this lesson is one they’ve brought home with them.
Students say their prayers have become more intentional, a tool that helps them to love people. News from other countries is met with more interest and concern. Other peoples’ struggles no longer feel as distant as before. Compassion for the unreached moves them to prayer.
Some have committed to prayer walk their own communities. As one said, “There are strongholds and dark places that need to be prayed on. We have schools and hospitals that need our prayer. Once a week we try and get out and do that. It starts with us and once we have a regular rhythm, we can invite others to join us in this adventure.”
Strategic intercessory prayer like this is hard work! When you are asking God to break strongholds and enter a place intensely opposed to him, the battle is tough. Despite the challenges, prayer-walking is an incredible spiritual experience, sustained by the Spirit. “Living with my mind in the spiritual realm so continually is difficult and taxing, but rewarding in that it draws me closer to God. Since I must rely on His strength, I am drawn into closer relationship with my Heavenly Father.”
The goal of prayer is intimacy with the Father.
When we are convinced that God speaks to us, delights in our attempts to learn, and is prompting us to pray, prayer is no longer simply a task on our checklist. It becomes a time for spiritual renewal, following Jesus’ example of drawing apart. “I found that when I took walks alone and talked to God, I could have better direction for what He wanted me to do that day. I also found that I was more loving to my neighbor.” Prayer journaling helped one student process emotions with God and lean on Him. Another discovered that “prayer shapes me and aligns me with God’s heart to follow Jesus”.
MX3 took us deeper into prayer and it became very real to us how God sustains his people through communion with him and through answering our prayers. As one student summarized, this increase in prayer and reliance on God is something we want to continue. We have seen the value of prayer – now we desire to cultivate it.
Arlene Friesen, MTS is a faculty member and Registrar at Steinbach Bible College. She led the MX3 team on a trip to Central Asia in early March 2023.
This article is part of the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of SBC’s magazine, InTouch. The online edition will be out soon!