It was Wednesday evening at the Bible translation centre in Belem, Brazil, the night when all the missions personnel gathered to share stories and pray for each other. For nearly two decades, whenever we returned from the Canela village for a consultant break on the centre, our whole family attended these prayer meetings. Now, however, we were within a few years of finishing the translation program, and our daughters had left Brazil for university. Valorie studied in Los Angeles, Leanne in Edmonton, and Cheryl in Capernwray, Germany.
Our neighbour and colleague, Marj, had something to share. “I just got a letter from our son Ken in Texas. A few weeks ago, he was riding home on his motorcycle around 1 a.m. after working late at his part-time job. He was exhausted, very drowsy, and suddenly collided with another vehicle. The impact threw him off his motorcycle, but he landed unhurt on the lawn of somebody’s house.
Then I remembered how a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly woke up around 4 a.m. feeling anxious about Ken. I immediately prayed for him until the fear left; I was at peace and went back to sleep. Today, when I read Ken’s letter, I checked the date and the time zone difference. Sure enough, God woke me up to pray for Ken on the very night and time as he was riding his motorcycle home.”
Does God Need Our Help, or What?
Hearing that story, Jo and I felt a firm assurance that God was taking care of our children as well, and we committed to be sensitive to his urging in our hearts to pray for them, not just regularly in our devotional time, but when the urge to pray hit us. Marj’s story also reminded me of the term the apostle Paul used to describe himself and his team in his first letter to the Corinthians. In 3:9, “We are co-workers with God.” In 6:1, “We are working together with God.” Paul was writing poetically about planting and watering, and that it was God who made things grow.
God had awakened Marj and given her the urge to pray for Ken who was in danger while riding his motorcycle 6,000 kilometres away. Why did God need her to pray? Because He wants His people to work together with Him. As we pray, He works to answer the prayer.
Two Stories From Long Ago
The fact that the outcome of God’s work somehow depends on our prayers is vividly illustrated in Exodus 17:8-15. The first battle after Israel’s escape through the Red Sea was an attack by the Amalekites. Joshua fought them on the open plain while Moses stood on top of a hill and lifted his staff to God as a symbol of prayer. As long as Moses lifted his staff high, Israel was winning, but when he got tired, and his staff sank and wavered, Amalek prevailed against Israel. Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on, then held up his arms on either side, for a full day, until sundown and Israel won the battle. Verse 14, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it.’” Joshua needed to know that God had won the battle working together with Joshua’s army and their swords, and Moses and his staff of prayer.
Many centuries later, the people of Israel had abandoned the worship of God. Ezekiel the prophet kept urging the people to return to God, warning them of disaster ahead. At the end of a long description of how He planned to destroy the nation, God said, “I searched for one man among them . . . a man who could advocate for the land, a man who could convince Me not to destroy it; but I found no one. Ezekiel 22:30. The next verse starts, “So, I will turn my anger loose on them . . .” The nation was destroyed, but even just one person interceding for mercy could have stopped the judgment.
God Does His Part; We Need to Do Our Part
Did God limit himself to work in this world, mostly in response to His people’s prayers? It seems like it. We do know he wants us to keep in constant connection with him. Maybe something is going on in the spiritual realm we know nothing about, like the story of Job. Let’s be sure we do our part and pray about everything that comes to our minds. Be in constant contact with God’s Holy Spirit and pray at ever urging. As the apostle Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.”