The following is the third of three blog posts written specially for CHIC participants who learned about Covenant World Relief at CHIC and want to know more about how to continue being involved with Covenant World Relief in their home settings. They were written by our recent intern, Kaleb Nyquist, who just graduated from North Park University with a degree in Global Studies and Conflict Transformation.
Prayer sometimes feels like the strangest of the three ways we invite people to get involved with Covenant World Relief. We ask for prayers for our ministry and for those we serve around the world. Some people find this rather vague (understandably so!) and e-mail us asking for more specific prayer requests, which of course we are willing to provide. But even then, it takes an enormous leap of faith for these individuals and groups to commit to taking time out of their day, to pray for some person or some cause in some far-away place, not knowing what will ever come of it.
At other times, prayer seems like the cheapskate option. “Sorry, I’m not going to give money or advocate out loud for your cause, but I’ll be sure to pray for you.”
I will be the first to admit that I usually find myself frustrated at the sort of prayer that asks God to do something. Sure, I can pray to God that a particular conflict may be brought to a quick end or a particular crop may be brought to an abundant harvest. But maybe God, in God’s infinite wisdom, has some sort of larger plan, too big for us to comprehend; besides, who are we to tell God what to do?
But God does hear our prayers and God does take them seriously. We have reports from the field of miracle healings that came after months of prayer. Speaking more personally, I have seen short-term mission groups succeed and fail, the key difference between the two being whether or not the group choose to take the time to pray together. The same holds true for the types of organizations Covenant World Relief partners with: those that ask God for guidance tend to thrive, while those that try and do their own thing eventually collapse.
I do not believe there exists “ten secrets to achieve results-driven prayer” or any other hacks to make our prayer more effective or powerful or predictable. Prayer is simple. It is an intentional pause from our daily rush to dwell in God’s presence. God comes to us as we bring ourselves to God.
But sometimes prayer is overwhelmingly too simple. Sometimes we need a little bit of guidance to structure our prayers, and there is nothing wrong with that. Fortunately, some of our partners have put together useful resources that you may find helpful.
- Covenant World Mission has put together a prayer card titled “Prayer for the World” that is available for download. It is a good resource for those who are interesting in starting a prayer routine over specific people, needs and crises that stir their heart.
- When searching the attic of the old office for stuff, our director, Dave Husby, found an out-of-print book of worship called “Banquet of Praise” from our partner Bread for the World. He found a prayer that I think would be useful for a practice of weekly or maybe even daily recital:
Compassionate one, we are surrounded by the needs of your people, and we are overwhelmed by their suffering. We confess we could lessen the harm that comes to them by sharing their hardships and working to end the injustices our systems and lifestyles help to support. Have mercy on us, we pray. Touch our hearts. Help us to stand with your suffering children and to advocate their need to those who do not recognize their suffering. Open our eyes anew that we might know them as brothers and sisters and be glad for the richness they bring us. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
What is interesting about this prayer is that it does not ask God to drop bread from the sky or some other miracle. Instead, this prayer is an invitation to God to change our hearts so that we – the church – may demonstrate God’s love to all.
Which may be the most important thing to know about prayer: when we drop on our knees and ask God to move in a particular way, we must be willing to respond when God turns around to ask us to stand up and go and join into his work throughout the world.
I can definitely say amen to that.