Everyone wants prayer, even if they aren’t aware of it. My church has held a free prayer booth at the fair the last several years as a local mission trip. This year our booth was relocated from the entrance to the center of the park. While before we thought of ourselves as the welcome committee, now we had to be much more direct. Several of us stood out front with offers of “Free Prayer.”
While some people walked by, it astounded me how many responded to our call. From the woman asking prayer for her daughter to remain sober, to the man who casually asked us to pray for his wife as he continued past the booth, to the people who barely spoke English, but wanted prayer, we prayed with them all.
We all have things that trouble our hearts and pain that seems inescapable. Deep down we know that since we can’t fix it ourselves, there has to be someone who can heal us. The answer to our longing is Christ. He is the Great Physician, able to mend all our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual brokenness.
Weeks later, I still remember one woman in particular. She’d given me a sideways glare when I’d asked if she wanted prayer and kept walking. We’d had worse responses, so I wasn’t fazed. A man returned with his friend who knew someone struggling with sickness. She began asking me to pray for her friend’s health and for personal peace about her friend’s situation. Then the lady who’d stared at me reappeared.
“I’m an atheist, and I need to hug you,” she said. She proceeded to embrace as if I was her long-lost friend. I hugged her and prayed as she lingered. When she pulled back, she said, “You and I are different. We come from opposite sides, but I needed to hug you.” I stared into her eyes and saw turmoil storming inside. No one wakes up one morning and decides to become an atheist. Often times they’ve been hurt by someone in the church or had a time when life’s circumstances were so crushing that they couldn’t conceive of God’s existence.
My heart went out to this woman. I figured I was a stand in for someone she wanted to hug. I remembered John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I felt like the body of Christ, holding someone to display His love for her. She began to leave. After a short internal struggle, I shouted “God bless you.” I decided that even if she didn’t believe in God, He knew her and wanted to bless her. I prayed that strongholds would break inside her and that the Lord would begin to heal her hurts and reintroduce Himself as the lover of her soul.
I turned back to the other lady whose prayer had been interrupted and prayed for her friend’s illness and for her to be supportive. Prayer flowed through me for the rest of the day. My two-hour shift extended to five and a half hours as I couldn’t tear myself away.
God showed me before I left that I could pray both for those who asked for prayer and for those who didn’t. They needed prayer just as much and maybe more. I prayed for Holy Spirit eyes to see people the way He did and reach through their hurt with the hope of Christ. God would point out someone with colored hair or a bright shirt to catch my eye, and I’d pray for that person. God knew their needs, even if I didn’t.
The next week, I realized I needed to make every day a local mission trip instead of just a Saturday at the fair. People needed prayer daily. I can prayer walk at the grocery store or in my workplace. God knows how to apply my prayers. This is what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV). Prayer needs to become my lifestyle. When I am in tune with the Holy Spirit, He can accomplish great things through my prayers. I have to focus on the eternal instead of the hectic craze of my day. This transforms the mundane into the extraordinary as God provides divine appointments where He lets us be His hands and feet. I pray God syncs my heart with the Spirit so I extend the gift of free prayer everywhere I go.
We live in a microwave society where everything seems instantaneous. Instant popcorn, fast food, microwave vegetables. Our phones hold vast libraries worth of information at our fingertips. We watch TV “on demand” to see shows at whatever time suits our needs.
In high school, I had a pen pal in England. If I received a letter and responded the next day, I got a note every 10 days. Now with email, we can communicate across the globe in less than 10 seconds. With everything available so quickly, we can lose our ability to wait.
Waiting is never easy. So God, in His great love for us, provides opportunities for us to grow. Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (NKJV) One of the byproducts of obedience over the long haul is the ability to persevere. The more we heed God, the more we see Him care for His own.
The story of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-18) has always struck me. The widow demanded justice every day from the judge and wore him down. He granted her justice so she’d leave him alone. God is a just judge, and avenges His children speedily. It probably didn’t feel fast to the widow, but God took care of her. Part of our job is to ask God for help.
Matthew 7:7-11 (HCSB) says “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” The original Greek verbs denote a continued action, not a one-time occurrence. We are to keep asking, not just ask once. We need to continue praying and not give up.
We must keep praying, because sometimes God says no before saying yes. Trying to find my first real job was stressful. I had seasonal work, which had the possibility to lead into full time employment. The position I wanted to fill was in my field of studies. My coworker had a different educational background and unrelated work experience. I assumed I’d get the job. I didn’t.
I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why she was hired. In my mind, I was more qualified. I questioned God’s wisdom in withholding this job from me. This showed a lack of faith when I acted like God didn’t care. Our Heavenly Father always heard me, but I needed to endure. Daniel fasted three weeks before the angel brought a message to him because of a spiritual battle. I had to pray and trust God, knowing He would come through.
Fortunately, God answered my cries. A month later, I was offered a three month-internship that required me to move. I knew it was where God wanted me. If I had had a full time job, I wouldn’t have had the courage to leave for another short-term job. Even after moving in faith, it still took months to get a permanent job. I worked for a temp agency until God gave me a good job with nice people.
God’s no turned into a wait so He could give me His best. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (NKJV) God exceeded my expectations and generously provided for my needs.
My part is to pray and trust. God’s job is to hear. His timing and ways are perfect. However, God’s timing rarely seems to be my timing. When I pray, the answer is often wait. Sometimes, I wouldn’t have appreciated the things God had for me if I had received them sooner. Other times, God was laying groundwork behind the scenes for my future. I just didn’t know about it when I first prayed. Had I received my original requests, I would have missed out on better things.
Ask God boldly for all things, great and small, knowing He hears your voice. Keep praying until something changes. It might look different than what was on your original radar, so watch out. Good things are coming, just keep praying.
Nothing is too small to take to God in prayer. In high school, I had a health issue that required me to take strong medicine with some undesirable side efforts. My emotions were chaotic. I cried a lot, including when I lost my pen cap. Yes. I cried over a pen cap.
My family had gone on vacation to Disney World. My souvenir was a pen with Mickey Mouse ears on top. One day at lunch, I lost my pen cap. You would have thought I had failed out of school. I got teary eyed and stressed out. My friends started to wonder about my sanity, but scoured the area outside the cafeteria for my pen cap. I kept praying aloud, muttering “God, help me find my pen cap!”
I never found the pen cap. Those Mickey Mouse ears are gone forever. However, I felt comfortable enough in my relationship with God to pray about the cap. Years later, I shared this story with my Bible study when one lady was having a hard time with something she considered menial. My actual quote was “It doesn’t matter if you lost your pen cap, or your dog just died, if it matters to you, it matters to God.” She has often quoted that line back to me over the years as we bring our problems both small and great to the ears of the Father.
The beauty is that He listens to all of our petitions. He doesn’t always answer every prayer the way we wish because God is not a fairy godmother. He knows how best to respond to each request. But don’t limit God by not asking.
James 4:2b-3 says “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (NKJV) We need to watch our motives, but we also need to ask. Let God choose to say no. God loves to give His children good things.
Matthew 7:7-11 says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (NKJV)
God is not up there thinking – how can I give stones to my children? Or, how can I make their lives miserable? He is simply waiting for us to ask so He give us good things. I had to learn to receive God's no to things like my pen cap, but still reach out because I know He will provide for all my needs. He is faithful.
My car battery died the other day and refused to jump start. No one responded to my phone calls for help, and I didn’t know how to get home. So I prayed. God reminded me of public transportation. From the bus, I spied a little bird drinking water from a puddle by the road. It reminded me of Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (NKJV)
God cared about her tiny cry. If God provided for her needs, He most certainly would make a way for mine. I thought of all the hairs I lost the last time I brushed my hair. God knows the intimate details of my life. Therefore, He also has a plan for the big things. I thanked God for the bus. He didn’t leave me stranded in a parking lot, but paved my road home.
God will do the same for you when you call out in time of need. Big or small, His ears hear all. Just ask. Then let Him choose how to respond best.
When I began to pray the long play (LP) version of the Lord's Prayer, I improved my prayer life exponentially. Ten years ago my brother was really sick. I was desperate for God to heal him and couldn’t fix the situation. I knew to pray, but words eluded me. So I returned to the basics – the Lord’s Prayer. At first, I repeated the words as a heartfelt cry unto God. Then I expanded the prayer, and it came to life as I saw the words encompass every area of my world.
Here’s how I broke up the prayer:
“Our Father, which art in Heaven.” First, I focused on God’s character. Who God is.
“Hallowed be Thy Name.” Next I honed in on names of God.
I often combined Jehovah Nissi with Isaiah 59:19 “When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (NKJV) I envisioned the Lord raising His banner above me in the midst of my battle, fighting for me as His child. I felt protected and safe.
“Thy kingdom come.” Here I included items like God’s kingdom to reign over all the earth. My prayers ranged from the government to getting the gospel out to unreached, unengaged peoples in remote parts of the world.
“Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” I couldn’t pray for God’s will while holding onto my demands. I had to surrender my hopes and dreams. God’s character and name reminded me I could trust Him. I told God even if my brother died, I would still trust Him. It helped me to envision the worst, and walk back from there. That allowed God to be Sovereign in my mind over any outcome. The verse also reminded me this world was not my home. There would be a day when things were right in heaven. Life was messy from living in a fallen world. This life was not all there was, and my hope was secure in heaven with Christ.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Next I thanked God for all that He had already provided for, and asked Him to do it again. Asking for daily bread brings dependency on God. Too many times I want God to provide not only for my daily needs, but I want peace about the rest of my life. Lamentations 3:21-24 says “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.” (NKJV) God’s mercies don’t run out, and are new each day.
When the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they were only allowed to gather enough manna for one day. Only on the day before the Sabbath were they allowed to gather for two days. God loves to show us our need to rely on His strength. That way we don’t get proud, and God gets the glory rightfully due Him.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Forgiveness is a key aspect of prayer. I had to examine my heart and ensure I wasn’t harboring a lack of forgiveness. When I compared how much God had forgiven me with any sin a person could commit against me, I found no justification for not forgiving someone else. When I forgive others, it frees God to forgive me and hear my prayers.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God knows we are tempted to turn against God. The spiritual war wages around us though our physical eyes do not see the fight. The enemy will do anything to steer us into destruction. We need to ask God to keep our feet moving on the straight and narrow so that even when we are on our knees, we crawl forward. We need God’s protection.
“For Thine is the Kingdom.” God already rules over the whole universe. We can choose to acknowledge this or not. When we submit to God’s reign, instead of trying to write our own guidelines, we have a greater peace from not striving to understand everything.
“And the power.” John 15:5 says “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (NKJV) This verse is beautifully shows we are weak and powerless. God has all the power in the universe. I pray God uses His power to do what I cannot.
“And the glory, for ever.” All glory belongs to God. When I boast in my accomplishments, it falsely boosts my pride, and strips God of the honor due Him. God is not about building my ego, but building His kingdom. God deserves all the glory. I’d pray for God to get the glory through my brother’s sickness, regardless of the outcome. I remembered how Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died and was in the grave several days before Jesus came and called him back to life. God will allow our temporary grief for His greater glory.
“Amen.” This final agreement relinquishes my rights to God to take my imperfect prayers based on finite knowledge and transform them into His will. It reminds me of Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (NKJV) The Holy Spirit turns our prayers into what we would ask if we knew all God does. He sends those corrected desires to the Father. It is as if I prayed, “God, please give me a pink pony.” The Holy Spirit, knowing I have nowhere to keep a pony, but the real issue is that I am lonely, instead asks, “Father, give her a friend.” The Holy Spirit knows the true need and translates that to the Father on my behalf. Leaving me utterly grateful.
That is my LP version of the Lord’s Prayer. As I interceded for my brother, God did heal him after over a year of us not knowing if he would survive. But my trust in God grew so much because I saw Him answer prayer and change my heart as I surrendered to Him. May the Lord’s Prayer become alive to you as you play your own LP version and commune with the Father in a new way.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.