This past Sunday was declared the National Day of Prayer, moved up almost two months from its usual date in May–and boy do we need it. If anything, this decision speaks to the power of prayer and importance of prayer.
Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse, said it like this in his email,
“Our President…reminded the entire country that throughout its history, the United States has looked to God for strength and protection in times like these…I am thankful to [the] President…for recognizing the power of prayer and showing faith in the Lord to intervene on our behalf. “
Recognizing the Power of Prayer
Ever since college, I’ve been working hard to improve my prayer life. I’m usually pretty good at saying them in the normal, expected times of the day, before eating, before bedtime, before a long trip or car-ride. I throw up these words that I’ve memorized or heard other people saying often, close my eyes, nod my head, and bam–considered myself “prayed.”
In college, I realized that I was missing out. Prayer had become for me a checklist option. One of those things that I do because I’m a Christian and other Christians do it and sometimes, we’d even do it all together, in a big circle, popcorn style.
While I made many strides to improve my prayer life in college and after college, there are 3 specific instances that stand out to me: three lessons about the power of prayer, and I learned each of them in 3 different countries.
Lesson 1: Florence, Italy: Prepared Prayers are Powerful
The first lesson came when I was traveling with my Brazilian friend through Italy. We went to a laundromat so that I could wash my clothes because my apartment building in France had a broken washer and dryer (granted, it was practically broken the entire semester). So while I was busy fiddling with my clothes, my friend was sitting in one of the empty chairs with a very tiny notebook in her hand.
Once everything was set in the washer machines, I walked over and asked her what she was reading.
“I’m praying,” she answered. And in that tiny notebook were withered, yellow pages, worn from being carried on all of her travels, and on each page, she had scribbled prayers, verses, praises, requests–anything and everything that she wanted to lift up to the Lord in prayer. There was power in prayer for my friend because she was prepared to pray at any moment.
As someone always struggling to find words to say, why didn’t I go to the Lord with something already prepared? Not only my prayer requests (give me, give me), but also with my praises and even song lyrics or quotes and Scripture to express what my heart can’t find the words to say. And how could it be something that I could carry around and have as a constant reminder to pray.
Lesson 2: Toronto, Canada: Prayer is a Privilege
The second of my three lessons for prayer came just after my senior year of college. I went with the college ministry at my church to do a mission trip in Toronto, Canada. We partnered with a local church to do “door-to-door” campaigning/ministry for a local church that was hosting a barbecue event to get to know their community and learn about ways to better serve them. On top of that, we also went to the University of Toronto-Scarborough and paired with a campus ministry to evangelize to university students.
Overall, it was an incredible experience, and one that I deeply cherish.
If you’re wondering more about traveling in Toronto, check out my post about Adventures in Toronto. In a city that was very dark spiritually, the importance of prayer was very evident there.
I learned so much from the trip as whole, but one specific thing I learned relates to the power of prayer. In our many interactions with the citizens of Scarborough, our pastor encouraged us to pray for the people that we met, in person, and then later after the conversation had ended.
That is when I truly learned the privilege of prayer. People were just in simple awe that we, college-aged Christians, had the confidence to stop, wherever we were, no matter what we were doing, and just pray to our almighty God–about them!
How many other religions do you know of where the lowly, the sinners, the unclean, can come before a righteous God and speak directly to him in prayer? We don’t have to have just made a sacrifice or be standing a temple or be dressed a certain way.
As Christians, we can call on the name of the Lord and pray at anytime, no matter where we are, or where we’ve been, or what we’ve done, or how we’re feeling. We can call on God and know that He hears us.
Lesson 3: Barcelona, Spain: Remember You Always Have the Power of Prayer
My third formative experience with prayer that I want to mention happened in Barcelona. I was visiting two chaplains, a married couple, that pastored the Anglican church in Barcelona as well as took care of the Anglican church in Andorra.
Shortly after I arrived, I spoke with the woman chaplain about how I was struggling to find strong Christian community in Andorra. As we sat there drinking our tea, we had a great, encouraging conversation about the spiritual situation in Andorra.
I was mid-sentence, or maybe she was, when a set of bells rang throughout the church and their apartment above the church.
Leaning forward, the chaplain folded her hands in front of her. “It’s time to pray,” she said. “Join me.”
So I bowed my head as well, and she prayed for the next few minutes about our conversation, my upcoming trip, and thanked God for all of his provisions.
After the prayer, she explained that these chimes ring 4 or 5 times throughout the day. No matter what you are doing, you are to stop and pray immediately. At first, I thought of these chimes as such a derailer…an utter distraction.
But as these chimes went off two more times during my visit and then even more times the second time I visited, I actually grew to like them. As someone who struggles with prayer, it is entirely too easy for me to get so “busy” with life that I don’t remember to pray until it’s too late. Until I’m too worn out, or too stressed, or too discouraged.
I’ve always wanted prayer to be my first response, not only to challenging situations, but to everyday. And these bells were the perfect reminder that the ability to pray never goes away, and so whatever I’m dealing with at the moment, I can listen to the bells and immediately turn to the Lord in prayer. Having that physical reminder proved to help me turn to the Lord more and more.
Application: Pray for Peace for Our Nations
“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 NIV
When I prayed, I had to remember that God’s will is sovereign, which I talk about in this post, and ask him how He wants me to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re still trying to find the right way to respond, I recommend you check out this post about looking to God for the answer and the strength of prayer here.
Learning How to Pray Effectively
I’m certainly not where I was when I started my prayer journey, nor am I where I would like to be. But by keeping these things in mind, I’ve made leaps and bounds.
In these times of uncertainty, high stress, and constant fear, I encourage you to use these three lessons for prayer to fuel your prayer life. You have the privilege of direct access to the almighty God. Pray specifically and pray frequently.
If you need some “bells” to remind you, I recommend the free Echo App. With the free version, you can record your prayer requests, paste in the text of a scripture, and then set a time for the app to send you a notification for you to pray. The reminders can be set for any prayer at any time you choose.
Eventually, these notifications will instill in you a habit: the battle is best fought on your knees.
Lastly, here is a helpful article about how our frustration should inspire us to reach up toward heaven in prayer. I recommend it for those of you who would like to read more: http://cornerstoneatl.org/let-frustration-fuel-prayer/.
Tell me: What have you learned about the power of prayer?
How do you view prayer? What helps you pray more purposefully?
Drop me a line in the comments below!
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