Prayer as Relationship

Prayer as Relationship

“Hey God, it’s me. I have an offer for you. If you heal my friend in the next two days, I’ll volunteer for one week … but wait, there’s more! If you heal her in the next hour, I will double the amount I put in the offering plate next Sunday.”

It can be tempting to treat prayer like a sales pitch—even if it’s not as obvious as the prayer above. But Emily Vanden Heuvel recognizes the importance of seeing it as a relationship.

“The challenge lies in asking God for requests,” says Vanden Heuvel, the prayer team coordinator for ReFrame Media, the English ministry of Back to God Ministries International. “When we instead approach prayer as a relationship, it becomes less about how he’s responding and more about how he just is.”

Around the world, partners from the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s global mission agencies—BTGMI and Resonate Global Mission—have seen how God moves in response to prayers.

Answered Prayer in Japan

Seeing prayer as a relationship can feel especially freeing in challenging ministry contexts. Walking the streets of Japan’s busiest cities, for example, you’ll come across very few Christians and even fewer young Christians. This is alarming for the present and future of the Japanese church.

“The existing Japanese churches are rapidly aging and fragile due to a lack of young people,” said Resonate Global Mission missionary Ken Lee, who serves in Japan with his wife, Jeannie.

But God is raising up more young adults to be leaders in Japan’s churches—and God’s doing it in response to persistent prayer.

The Lees reach and disciple young adults to continue growing and strengthening the church in Japan. They do this through small group Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship training, and opening their home so young adults can invite friends who are not yet Christians to spend time in a Christian community.

But first, they pray.

“I work for God,” said Ken Lee. “If I work for him, then I need to hear what his plans are and what he wants me to do. … That’s why prayer, talking to God, is very important to me—to find out where he is working and how he wants me to participate in his work.”

Following the Holy Spirit’s leading is decisive in Resonate’s work joining God on mission. Wherever God sends church planters, campus ministers, volunteers, and missionaries throughout the world, God is already at work. That’s why prayer must be the foundation.

In prayer, God highlights young adults for Ken Lee to disciple for church leadership. “There are certain people God gives me a heart for,” Lee said.

Tomoki Mikawa is one such person. An elementary school student when Lee first met him, Mikawa and Lee reconnected while Mikawa was studying at university. He told Lee that he felt called to seminary, and Lee started studying the Bible with him and encouraging him to live a life of prayer. Lee also helped coordinate an internship for Mikawa at a church where Mikawa is now a leader.

But Lee has been praying not only for more young adults to go into ministry; he’s been praying for more people to reach young adults.

Again, Mikawa was an answer to prayer. “He, too, has a vision for sending young people to seminary,” said Lee.

Following the Lees’ example, Mikawa and his wife often invite young adults over to share a meal. “That gives them a chance to talk and share about faith,” Lee said. “He guides them in decision making.”

Mikawa is just one person in Japan through whom God is working, but with prayer, he’ll make more disciples. By equipping leaders such as Mikawa, the Lees are helping the gospel to spread in a country where very few people know Jesus.

“We just praise God that he answered our prayers,” the Lees said.

Many Forms of Healing

In her work as ReFrame’s prayer coordinator, Vanden Heuvel receives about 130 prayer requests every week and then sends them to about 6,500 volunteers around the world.

“It’s a privilege to read messages from people who are pouring out their heart,” Vanden Heuvel said. “I pray for them right then and there, then respond to let them know that it won’t always be easy. But no matter what, God is with us in that space.”

The bottom line, Vanden Heuvel said, is that God always heals the broken through prayer. But the healing takes different forms.

Answered Prayer Through Physical Healing

In India, BTGMI’s Hindi ministry team often encounters God’s physical healing.

The Hindi ministry team regularly meets with seekers and Christians who listen to BTGMI radio and internet programs but don’t have a regular form of fellowship with one another.
At one such event, Pawan (his first name is omitted for his safety) shared his powerful story with the ministry team and about 35 listeners from his area.

“Pawan grew up worshiping spirits and would eventually start telling the fate of the people using black magic,” a member of BTGMI’s Hindi ministry team shared. “People would come to him with their issues and learn their fate.”

Gradually, Pawan said, he himself became a victim of black magic.

“Evil spirits possessed him and tormented him,” BTGMI’s Hindi ministry leader said (name withheld for safety). “Slowly his body became very weak and stiff. He had multiple diseases, and doctors told him that he would never heal.”

Confused and hopeless, Pawan came across a flash drive a friend had given him. On it he found programs produced by BTGMI’s Hindi ministry team. His curiosity piqued, Pawan visited a Christian who lived nearby to learn more.

Pawan prayed for physical and spiritual healing. Not long after, he was healed.

“Pawan believed that Jesus is Lord,” the Hindi Ministry leader reported. “And God in his matchless grace delivered Pawan from all his bondages.”

Since then, God has used Pawan to be a living testimony to others in his community.

“He is continuously witnessing his faith and testimony to many other people,” the ministry leader said. “He lives in a small village from where it is difficult for him to go for Sunday fellowship. During our seeker meeting, we introduced flash drives like the one he first encountered, and he was excited to share them with others.”

Answered Prayer Through Spiritual Healing

Of course, not everyone experiences what Pawan experienced. Ken and Jeannie Lee had to wait many years for God to reveal his work in Tomoki’s life.

This is why Vanden Heuvel regularly reminds people who come to her with prayer requests from BTGMI’s programs that this time of waiting is a part of the healing process.

“Part of the challenge is being okay with the mystery,” Vanden Heuvel said.  “Prayer helps our idea of wanting to grasp something tangible.”

Vanden Heuvel came to this realization with help from her mother.

“My mother was one of the most godly women I knew, but she was never healthy,” Vanden Huevel said. “She had prayed for years that the Lord would heal her. But he didn’t.”

Still, her mother recognized the power of prayer in her own life—sharing with her daughter and many others about the sense of spiritual renewal she felt at the end of her life.

“Her heart gave out, but her spiritual heart was vibrant and fresh when she passed away,” Vanden Heuvel said. “No matter what, God will always provide and make all things new.”

Prayer Resources

  • Sign up to pray for CRC efforts around the world at crcna.org/pray.
  • Become one of more than 6,500 prayers supporting ReFrame listeners and readers by receiving weekly requests at prayer.reframemedia.com.
  • Sign up for Resonate’s weekly Prayer Points email at resonateglobalmission.org/pray.

About the Authors

Brian Clark, Back to God Ministries International

Cassie Westrate, Resonate Global Mission

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