Friday was our fifth day of Prayer Box, where we go out on campus and pray
for anyone who wants us to. We take written requests home and pray over
them during Bible study, as well as praying with people in person and listening
to their problems. It's a great idea we shamelessly borrowed from the
Wesley at UTEP, and it's given us a great opportunity to be present on campus
and minister to students.
This week, a girl came up to us and told us that the prayer request she had
submitted before had worked out, and thanked us all for praying for her. As she walked away, I jumped up and down – I
always wonder whether we’re helping anyone with any event we do, whether it’s
Prayer Box or a day at Roadrunner Food Bank or Project SHARE.
We’ve had a couple people ask us to explain the concept of intercessory
prayer; how can we effect any change or get God to listen to a problem that’s
I wish I had come up with a better answer on the spot. I’ve grown up with going to church or Bible
study and automatically going through the prayer requests that everyone has as
a group. It was never explained as a
process, just in place as a practice. After
reflection, I wish I had said something like this:
“I believe that praying to God for a prayer request is a way of asking for
blessings or relief, and that someone can ask God for blessings for somebody
else. Praying for somebody else is a way of showing as much concern for you as I do for
myself. If you have a prayer request, my praying for you is a way of showing
God’s love to you.”
We also had a request submitted that
said, in brief, that we should pray that people would stop praying and start
actually helping people instead of sitting around and not taking action. I wish
that the person who submitted this had talked to us in person, because I think this is a common misconception about prayer. It's one of the things we're trying to show with Prayer Box:
Prayer helps people.
Prayer in person has results that we can easily see. We’ve had people come
up to us and ask us to pray for school and money worries, and for their
families. People will come up and just
ask for a hug, and we give them as many as they’ll take.
Prayer’s long-term or long-distance results are harder to see, especially when people expect fast results. Not every prayer is answered as quickly as I want, or with an affirmative "Yes!". Just because my prayers aren't answered with a flash of lightning and a cosmic drum roll doesn't mean God isn't listening, though; sometimes my prayers are answered with a hug or someone telling me what I need to hear when I don't want to hear it.
At SWIFT this weekend, I saw a t-shirt
for Rethink Church that read, "Sometimes prayer brings miracles. Other
times it brings helping hands." When a disaster or crisis takes place in the world, not only are Christians praying for it all over, but organizations like UMCOR and even our own Wesley are getting in to help. We are helping to answer prayers by serving these needs, whether around the world or here at home; we are being God's vessels, instruments of His peace.