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How Should Prayer Look?

Here it is, the year two thousand twenty-three, and things have changed radically in my lifetime. I will turn sixty this year, which means I have seen the hand of the Lord at work in my life for four decades. Thanks to friends who walked faithfully and honestly alongside me, and a church that taught the truth of Scripture in my formational years of faith, the Lord has sustained my walk with him.

One of my favorite ways to know Jesus more is to pray. I can still remember the shock and awe I experienced when I discovered, having grown up in a traditional church where I learned only recited prayers, that I could say anything to God. I remember the first time I truly expressed my hurt and told God how I felt about a situation; part of me was waiting for a lightning bolt to strike. It seemed too good to be true that I could talk to the Lord from the depths of my heart. And he always heard my cry. 

Early on, my heart learned the truth of Psalm 116:1,2.

“I love the LORD for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

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Through college, I learned how to string together eloquent words of prayer as our campus ministry met in small groups. But I had yet to learn the power of raw, gut-wrenching, simple prayers. (“Father, help!”) I thought I knew how prayer “should look.”

Fast forward to 2016, and we were serving in the Czech Republic with Josiah Venture, having left our four adult children in the States. One of our kids was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease just before we moved. Perhaps you know that treatment for a chronic illness always gets worse before it gets better, and, after we left, she struggled. I remember crying out to God daily for her healing. I cried to him for another daughter, who was struggling with depression and anxiety so severe that she often ended up in the hospital. I had to decide whether I would follow Jesus with a defiant faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I knew the Lord was able to rescue my kids. But, even if he did not, I had to learn to tell the enemy that I would continue faithfully following Jesus and not bow to fear or ever desert my Savior.

We now live and serve full-time with Josiah Venture from Chicago, near two of our four kids. And we are still waiting for that rescue. 

During these years of waiting and crying out, I have learned that prayer is not a monologue— spelling out my wish list to the powerful one, hoping he will grant my desires. Prayer means that sometimes I am at the lakefront asking God questions, tears flowing freely as I await his response and behold his limitless creation. 

Sometimes prayer finds me on the floor, sobbing and grieving before God with no words like our Ukraine team certainly must be doing regularly these days. 

Sometimes I recognize the enemy working, and prayer takes the form of defiant worship, singing lyrics that reorient my mind to truth over fear.

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Sometimes prayer means disciplining my mind to be quiet in his presence as I listen for his still, small voice to lead and direct, speaking love and correction over me.

Prayer happens alone, in pairs, in groups over Zoom, in the still of the night, and on a bustling sidewalk. Sometimes it happens over Marco Polo. We can talk to the Lord as we work out, walk the dog, and ride the bus. We have seen prayer (or the lack of prayer) make (and break) the success of our efforts. This is not because the Lord needs us to recite some magical formula, but because he wants to hear from his children and generously chooses to bless us when we dedicate the work of our hands to him.

One of the excellent tools Josiah Venture has developed and used for the past six years is an online “prayer room.” Obviously, it’s a virtual room, and it has no borders. This space echoes the heartbeat of two core values that all Josiah Venture staff hold dear: bold faith and dynamic community.

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With bold faith, I can use sleepless nights to enter the JV Prayer Room on my computer and talk to my heavenly dad about the needs of our team in any of the countries we serve. I can see the real-time needs of our Ukrainian team on my Prayer Room app as I walk through a park. I can send a note of reflection to the dear ones for whom I have prayed to let them know that they are being covered from another continent. These things deepen our sense of community and allow us to link arms and cheer each other on. 

As you begin this new year, remember that nothing can keep you from communicating with the Father, except your own distractions. Allow your heart and soul to come out of hiding and be honest and present with God this year. Let him hear what you are really thinking, and feeling, and all that you need. May the suffering of unanswered prayer draw you closer to the Father as you learn to trust him, and defiantly communicate to the enemy that “even if God does NOT answer my prayer, still I will serve only him.”

We hope that, at some point, God will lead you to the Prayer Room, where we will all feel the support of your prayer as you hold up our arms for battle. May your relationship with the Father grow deeper and richer this year as you learn to communicate with him on a deeper level.



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