Photo by Todd Melrose
In my younger years I often thought of prayer as an open handed reaching for God as God reached down to us.
This image worked for me because I imagine the gentle finger of God (not unlike the Sistine Chapel) reaching down from heaven to heal, comfort and move His people toward His eternal purposes. In my mind it was a beautiful and simple picture. That being said, over the past few years I have been learning that the reality is less simple... but far more beautiful.
Our time in Nepal was powerful for so many reasons... the warmth of the people, their receptivity to our teaching, the youthfulness of the Nepalese church, the majesty of God's creation, etc. But I would say the one piece that stood out to me from the trip the most was the power of God in the prayers of His people.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Thessalonians 5:16-18
So often it feels like we relegate prayer to an activity that complements other activities... we pray in church, before our devotions, after something has gone wrong, before we eat, etc. It is like a spice we add to the food of our life and rarely the main course itself. Even when we gather for a "prayer meeting" we often find more meeting than prayer or at the best a single prayer lifted up one at a time as each individual waits their turn. I found myself reminded in Nepal of how essential a life of prayer is to the Christian. Though we may not understand it, prayer moves the heart of God and shows faith (and utter dependance) in His unseen hand. In Nepal, like most parts of the world where God is truly ALL people have, prayer is a lifeline to God. People pray continuously and passionately because they believe God is listening and cares about their pain. When it is time to pray EVERYONE prays at the same time and expects to be heard. Their prayers come with force, expectation, devotion, tears, joy, shouting, crying, standing, kneeling, pleading, thanking and with great love.
The Nepalese christians believe in prayer with a reality that goes so far beyond our western understandings - especially when it comes to prayers for healing. We heard the same story over and over; a person (or spouse, family, friend of person) gets deathly sick. In desperation the person seeks help from Doctors, witch doctors, hindu priests, buddhist monks, etc. and nothing works. They hear about "the christians" and talk with a local pastor who prays for them and they are healed. Healed. The person receives Christ and decides to live their lives for Jesus wholeheartedly... sounds just like the New Testament doesn't it?! In Nepal, God's "gentle finger" is more like a mighty force of restoration and healing. It is unpredictable, powerful, mystical, dangerous, mighty, frightening, magnificent... it is as if Heaven is touching earth.
One of the best stories I heard was from Obed (our Nepalese Coordinator) who was told by his Doctor that he was going to die. Obed was fairly certain that God had other plans and prayed. When he returned to the Doctor Obed was told that the sickness was completely gone (even after multiple tests). The Doctor was amazed. Obed simply turned to the man and said, "my Doctor made your Doctors". After that the Doctor regularly called Obed to have him pray for his patients because God is a God who hears and heals according to His will.
I believe Lord... help me in my unbelief. Father, grow me into a follower that moves to prayer first because that is what You've commanded... makes expectant prayer the "main course" because that's where Your power is... and gives thanks no matter what the answer because Your faithfulness is always perfect. Amen