For the past several years, prayer has become more and more important in my life. Not to say that it wasn’t important before, but somehow I’ve come to better realize my great need of communion with my Heavenly Father and at the same time know the great power that comes from asking of God things in the name of Jesus. Sure, I’ve had plenty of times when I felt my faith was challenged or wondered if my faith was too small because my prayers weren’t answered as I expected or wanted them to be. But God used those moments to teach me what it really meant to have faith and trust in Him for all things. I’m slowly learning what it really means to pray and to be a prayer warrior.
This past week is a perfect example. My church does an annual Thanksgiving basket (box) distribution the Sunday before Thanksgiving, with church members donating food or money from almost a month prior. We even have our Pathfinder group (sort of like a co-ed version of Boy Scouts) go out into the neighborhood and drop off paper bags on doorsteps asking for people to leave non-perishable items the following week for pick up. The families that are selected for receiving a Thanksgiving box are vetted through a thorough process of investigation to ensure that we are helping the truly needy families of our community. Every year, the amount of families seems to grow, with the past couple of years rounding out at about 90 boxes that needed to be filled for families of various sizes.
Well this year, we approved 134 families from the community, ranging in size from 2 individuals to 10 plus pets. It was the most we had ever had to provide for. You want to know what else? This year we received the least amount of food ever donated. How were going to fill the need of the families to whom we promised a box full of supplies when we weren’t sure if we had enough supplies to fill the boxes? That’s when we knew we had to really start praying hard.
In an effort to improve my prayer life, I’ve recently been reading a book entitled, “The Kneeling Christian” by An Unknown Christian. It was recommended to me by a friend and I feel, going through it, that I still have so much to learn in regards to prayer. God wants us to pray, to pray for anything. When we align our will with the Father’s and seek for an outpouring of His power and Spirit in our lives, amazing things happen. Jesus promised us that anything we ask for in His name will be granted to us. Jesus also said that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to accomplish even greater things than He Himself! I can’t even imagine what that could mean! Of course, this is not so that we can boast in ourselves, but so that we may glorify our Father, Creator, and Redeemer. What this meant for me, this past weekend as volunteers joined together to do last minute preparations of the boxes, was that if we asked, God would multiply the food. He had done it to loaves and fishes – twice (Matthew 14; 15:29-39)! We knew and believed that He could multiply again.
Friday night came and our Adventurers (elementary aged children’s group similar to Pathfinders) came with their parents to “shop” for the supplies listed on a piece of paper in each box. Supplies were gathered from shelves that had been erected in one of the church’s hallways and carefully placed in the proper box. This was to ensure that each box was filled with the main necessities. Once each box was filled, the child would pray for the family it would go to and move on to the next box. Saturday night, some teens and adults came together to flesh out the boxes. Already we could see how God was working, because each of the boxes were slowly filling up. Then, just as we thought we were finished – we ran out. There were still 16 boxes that needed some supplies to be considered complete.
Thankfully, donations from members of the church allowed one of our deacons to make an emergency grocery run to Wegmans on Sunday morning in order to have just enough to provide for those last few boxes. Four individuals ran the calculations, figured out just how much would need to be purchased to make sure everything was just right.
Sunday morning, a couple of hours before distribution, I was helping the deacon in filling in the last 16 boxes with the newly bought supplies. When we were done – there were still leftovers! Lots of leftovers! “How is this possible?” someone asked, “we had four people doing the calculations? How do we have extra?” We all smiled, because we knew the answer already. God.
The leftovers allowed us to add a little extra to some of the boxes meant for larger families – like that one family with 2 parents and 8 children. Or the other family with 4 adults and 4 cats. Or one adult and 5 children. I’m sure that what was added, although extra according to our calculations, ended up being exactly what they needed.
At noon, we opened our doors to invite the members of the community who were expecting a box to come inside and wait for their turn to pick up their delightful array of non-perishables and produce. All the volunteers had a job. We had ladies checking names with addresses, our pastor welcomed them as they entered the room where all the boxes were lined up in numerical order, and we had young men and their fathers helping cart out the boxes (they became very heavy!) to each person’s car.
My job? I had been asked to mingle with the community members while they waited for their turn and offer to pray with them. Mingling is not a problem for me, I’m not a shy person and yet… I became extremely shy about asking these people if they wanted prayer. I didn’t want to force it on them. What if they didn’t like it? I wondered. I don’t want to anger anyone… What if someone got mad at me…
I had suddenly become very inward focused – self preservation took over in a weird way. For the first half hour or so I stuck to speaking with the children and mentioning to the group that I was available for prayer, but not doing much more. Then this couple showed up from a neighboring church – a middle aged woman and her father – and said that they were here to pray with those who were waiting. You know what I felt? Threatened. This is my job! I thought. I quickly realized this was ridiculous and that even though it was my job, I wasn’t doing a very good job at it. So instead I relaxed and watched.
These two made it look so natural – approach the person, ask their name, tell them yours, ask if there is anything they would like to have prayed about. I was astonished. I realized that my fear and timidness was ungrounded and silly. Slowly, I started imitating them, every once in a while joining hands with them and we prayed together for an individual or a group. I started to truly feel the blessings being poured out by our petitions.
Towards the end of our 3 hour distribution time, a woman approached me asking if she could speak to me. Noticing that she looked distraught, I walked her to the opposite end of the hallway where we had a little more privacy. “Jesus told me to come and ask you to pray for me,” she said. “Please, please pray for me.” This woman began to tell me deep rooted troubles and fears that haunted her daily, how she rarely felt safe, and that she had often thought about taking her own life. As she spoke, I kept praying silently that the Holy Spirit be present at that moment. When we finally started praying, both of us were shedding tears, asking for God’s protection and peace. I was later told by someone else that we had prayed for at least 15 minutes together. By the end, the woman seemed calmer. Things weren’t yet perfect, they may never be, but I believe the Holy Spirit was granting her peace within her heart. She thanked me for praying with her and went on her way.
I returned to the front of the hall where the father/daughter team were sitting, waiting for new attendants. My face must have shown how worn out I was, nearly in shock over what had just taken place, because they came and prayed for me to strengthen and encourage me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt I had actually done battle during prayer.
Being a prayer warrior takes practice. Patience. Willingness. Determination. Faith. You have to believe in the power of prayer, the power of the One the prayer connects you to. I caught a glimpse this past weekend of what it takes to be a prayer warrior and all I can say is, there is still much training to be done.
If you are a person of prayer, please whisper a prayer for my troubled friend, that she might find rest in the Lord. And for all the families who received Thanksgiving boxes, that when they left our church they were not only physically-filled, but spiritually filled as well.