“By awesome deeds in righteousness you will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth… (Psalm 65:5)
In the 1980’s, I had a crazy idea. I wanted to begin praying for the world. I pulled out a big piece of paper and designed a prayer list with many columns to pray for the nations as requests came through what was then Grace Brethren International Missions. Columns were created for national concerns as the cultural war against the Church heated up. Grace Brethren North American Missions was exploding with new church plants that needed prayer. There was a column for our own ministry as pastor and wife and for my family–not in that order of priority. I believed that if I showed God I meant business, the world would change. I’m sure that He was smiling at my well-intentioned efforts.
That’s what they were: good intentions. The overall prayer scheme was too difficult to implement for very long. I still had four young children to raise, a husband to support, and many activities at church that needed my attention. Failure to be faithful was a natural consequence.
Not to be deterred, I delved into the classics on prayer, such as E.M. Bound’s treasure, The Power of Prayer. I learned from biographies of the lives of those who learned the disciplines of faithful, consistent prayer, such as Praying Hyde, who actually died praying on his knees.
More than 30 years and many prayer journals later—some actually finished, God is still smiling at this new stage of learning in the school of prayer.
I was once given a plaque that reads: “Through prayer, God changes things.” It may be true but I learned: “Through prayer, God changes me.” God has taught that being still before Him leads to letting Him control the method, the content, and the results. I don’t have to be the brains in our partnership.
How did He teach me? He brought spiritual mentors into my life who modeled an intimacy and dependency on Him. When they prayed, they entered God’s holy ground and confidently believed His Word. They prayed for His desires to come to pass. They didn’t seem pressured or forced into some method.
Seventy-four-year-old Mrs. Amyrauld loved her Heavenly Father with all her heart. Her relationship with Him showed me the beauty of being intimately connected to God’s heart through prayer. They talked over everything from her Bible lesson that she was going to teach to her shopping list and what she was to eat. God had revealed Himself to her. You knew it from how she prayed.
Another mentor in my school of prayer was my mother, Elly Hansen. Communicating with God was a long-time practice for her. Her friends brought their prayer requests because of her confidence and hope in her God. Mom modeled how to intercede for missionaries who depended on her and others like her to bear fruit in seemingly impossible environments. It is no surprise that one of her daughters became a missionary, for Mom’s heart for the world was transmitted to her children.
At this stage in the school of prayer, I have priceless partners who share burdens for the nations. A friend took me to the McClain Hall tower at Grace College where we prayed throughout the day with a few breaks in between. We’ve gone to nearby gardens to meet with the Lord. We know what each of us is praying before we open our mouths. Prayer has deepened our bonds of love as no other activity.
The world continues to tremble from the increasing effects of sin. But Jesus’ Kingdom ambassadors are not like the frog in the kettle, unaware that the temperature is increasing. We are commanded to be wise, understanding the will of the Lord. We are to be on watch as the five virgins in Jesus’ parable, waiting for Christ’s coming with our lamps trimmed. There is no time to be apathetic about praying for the needs of the world, for Christ could make His appearance at any time. He wants us to be found watching when He comes. We don’t need to check off our prayer list like a to-do list of tasks. But we are people who share His heart for His kingdom to be established here as it is in Heaven. We learn His heart by being in His presence, seeing things from His perspective.
Women of Grace USA has been through ups and downs, turns and tilts through transitions towards new methodology in a drastically changing society. I am convinced that if it were not for a dependent prayer culture, this organization, committed to discipling women, would not exist today.
Two years ago at the Women of Grace USA Fall meeting, the board began to recount all that God had answered on our behalf over the past few years. We were stunned at the pile of colored sticky notes each board member posted on the wall that day. We took them down, placed them on the counter, and sang and prayed with thanksgiving for the many breakthroughs in ministry. That moment enabled us to continue to trust God alone for our existence, for our present need, and for our future. We have collected more than eight pages of answered prayers and are convinced that God is active, powerful, and has a plan for us as an organization, if we remain dependent on Him.
Under the leadership of Sally Miller, a prayer force of more than 100 women (we think there are more as they invite others to join them) take the requests from each Women of Grace USA board member and intercede with fasting on the 15th day of each month.
Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, every believer is a royal priest, called to intercede for others. The dear men and women that I pray with in regular conference-call prayer meetings for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches are people who know their God; they are people of vision and passion for God’s will to be done on this earth. Both men and women bring something unique to our 45-minute prayer meeting.
So where am I in the school of prayer? As with all believers, I know I won’t graduate until I get to Heaven and maybe even then I will lack the praise that God is worthy to receive. But each of us, as His redeemed ones, possess all that we need now to participate in the school of prayer, learning to pray for His will to be done among us and in His world. That is all that matters in the end. It’s all for His glory forever.
God has heard our request to pray globally and Psalm 65:4 gives a blessing to those who pray (the context of the psalm implies prayer):
“Blessed is the man You choose and cause to approach You That He may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.”
— by Sharon MacMillan
Editor’s Note: Sharon MacMillan lives in Tracy, Calif., where her husband, Robert, is pastor of the Grace Brethren Church. She leads a monthly conference-call prayer time on behalf of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. She also serves on the Women of Grace USA board.