Prayer Changes Things

Prayer can take many forms arising from the needs of our hearts. In the end, though, prayer is a conversation with God.

Sometimes prayer involves asking God to provide for our needs. Answers to prayer come in startling, miraculous ways, showing evidence of God’s care for his people.

Here are some stories that illustrate this ongoing conversation and God’s responses to the prayers of his people in the Christian Reformed Church.

For seven years, members of Jacquet Christian Reformed Church in Haiti prayed to God for land to build a church.

Last August, the church broke ground for a new building—a building made possible through God’s work in events, members, and other organizations.

The Jacquet church began in 1987 as a church plant in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Five years later it moved to the Jacquet area of the city. The church met in the second floor of the pastor’s house, which he had built specifically for that purpose.

As the years passed, more and more people began coming to the church. They squeezed into every available space, crouching in corners and even standing outside.

As the church grew, the people began asking God to provide a new place to meet.

“The prayer request was basically for a miracle because the high cost of land in Jacquet was far beyond the reach of the financial resources of the congregation,” said Zach King, a Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionary in the region.

In faith, church members began setting aside money for a new church property. Every offering not used for diaconal work went toward the project. Even the pastor’s salary was redirected to the church fund.

At the same time, an organization called SON-BEAM International (SBI) began in Michigan after a group of people spent several months praying and discussing how God could use them to serve others.

The group felt led to help congregations in the developing world build churches. Members decided they would raise money to buy building materials while the recipient churches would cover labor costs.

The group partnered with CRWM, and soon SON-BEAM was working with the church in Jacquet.

In 2007, the church found land but the deal fell through when another party proved ownership. The search began again.

The need for land came to a head in early 2011. The church had been meeting in a tent since the January 2010 earthquake had damaged their meeting place. Although the house had been repaired, people still were reluctant to enter it. Moreover, the founding pastor had moved to the United States and wanted to sell the building.

Finally the church found property. The next step was to raise funds to buy it.

Several thousand miles away in Goderich, Ontario, Trinity CRC also was starting a building project. Like Jacquet, Trinity had outgrown its space. Trinity members had heard about another church that tithed out of its building project and felt led to do the same. They contacted World Missions and began praying about where to give. Jacquet was one of three building projects Trinity supported.

At last Jacquet was able to purchase land to build a church. God provided for the church’s needs through the sacrificial gifts of its members and through donations from SON-BEAM, Trinity CRC, and two other Christian Reformed churches: Lakeside CRC in Alto, Mich., and Calvary CRC in Holland, Mich.

“Although it has been many years in coming,” King says, “God’s faithfulness in answering his prayers is evident in Jacquet. [International partners] and one very motivated Haitian congregation have come together with the Holy Spirit to build a facility urgently needed for gospel proclamation.”For seven years, members of Jacquet Christian Reformed Church in Haiti prayed to God for land to build a church.

—Sarah Lin, Christian Reformed World Missions

Many Ways to Pray

There are many ways to pray and a range of words, spoken and unspoken, that you can use.
One approach is to pray by reading your way through Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible. The psalms contain every emotion that we feel and poignantly direct us to God. John Calvin called the psalms “an anatomy of all parts of the soul.”
Here are some other ways to pray:

  • Contemplative prayer is setting aside time to pray to God in quiet and especially listening to what God is saying.
  • In prayers of petition we ask God to care for and bless other people as well as ourselves.
  • In prayers of confession we come before God to honestly and fully admit our sins and to ask for the forgiveness that is already ours.
  • Prayers of thanksgiving involve expressing our gratitude to God for all he has done for us, for our families and friends, and for those we don’t know.
  • Sometimes prayers are set to music in songs and hymns, often sung during worship.
  • Memorizing Bible verses is a form of prayer that entails taking in Scripture and making it a deep part of ourselves.
  • Intercessory prayer focuses on others and on situations that require God’s saving grace.
  • Spontaneous prayer allows for speaking out, usually in community, using our own words to pour out our hearts to God.

Coming Events

  • Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit conference at Camp Geneva in Holland, Mich., March 11-14.
  • Christian Reformed Church Prayer Summit at All Nations Church near Los Angeles, Calif., April 15-17, 2013.

A Woman of Prayer

Nancy Hinga Kimani is a woman of prayer. There is very little about her work in Malawi with World Renew (formerly the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) that Kimani doesn’t bring before God in prayerful petition.

“We pray a lot,” she said. This includes middle-of-the-night prayer vigils for friends and colleagues who are suffering with sickness. It also includes prayers for organizational frustrations.

“With one of World Renew’s partners, I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer around the process of change,” Kimani said.

Their accountant had been mismanaging funds, but the staff was reluctant to fire him. In Malawian culture, she said, it is difficult to fire people because of the loyalty managers feel to employees and their families.

“People also tend to avoid facing up to problems,” said Kimani. “After months of the organization doing nothing despite my urging, all I could do was pray.”

That’s what she was doing one night when her phone rang.

“As I was finishing my prayers, I received a phone call from the board president. I shared with him my concerns. This time he took action. He called the general secretary; they posted an advertisement for the position right away and laid off the accountant that week.

“This would not have happened without prayer. I could see God’s hand removing obstacles that were standing in the way.”

Later, as she was driving a newly hired community development facilitator to a meeting to launch a new program, she said she felt the urge to pull over to the side of the road to pray.

“We were going to pilot a new village savings and loan program and had hired a woman named Grace Swira to run it. I had taken her to the training and bought the resource kits she’d need for working with community members. As I was driving her to visit with the first village, God told me to pray,” said Kimani.

“We stopped at the side of the road and asked God to take leadership of the program.”

They spent several minutes in concentrated prayer, laying the matter before God and reminding themselves that the work belonged to the Lord; they were simply his agents. They asked for God’s leadership and blessings on the program.

At the village, Swira presented community members with an overview of the program she hoped to start. She encouraged local women to consider joining a savings group where they could pool their funds to invest in each other’s small businesses.

From that one visit in September 2010, the new village savings and loan program has grown to 68 community groups.

Another community organization has seen the good work and established 12 more groups, bringing the total number of those who have been reached by the project in two years to 80 groups and nearly 2,000 people.

“I encourage everyone to surround their work with prayer,” Kimani said. “Identify someone who has an inclination to pray and then pray with them. It makes a difference.”

—Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, World Renew

Prayer Opens Doors

Followers of Jesus in the Hindu stronghold of Chhattisgarh, a state in northern central India, face hatred and hostility. But through prayer, God has opened doors for the gospel to take hold and for seekers to come to faith in Christ.

“We knew people in Chhattisgarh were listening to our broadcasts [in the Hindi language],” said Stephen, the Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) ministry leader in India. “We occasionally received letters from listeners asking for discipleship materials.”

BTGMI staff in India tried to bring Bibles and Christian literature into the area, but were stopped when their van was pelted by rocks. Hindus living in the area refused to allow any Christian teaching.

“Our media ministry team felt an urgent need to make face-to-face visits with the listeners,” Stephen said. “We believed the Lord wanted to manifest his power, that people would see God at work and come to faith in him. So we prayed. And God opened doors.”

In 2010 the ministry team gathered a group of prayer warriors—more than 60 people from many denominations—who were committed to praying that God would open doors in Chhattisgarh.

There are few churches in this predominantly tribal area of India. Maoist radicals stir up violence in order to gain control. Christians are ostracized and sometimes forced to leave their villages. In some places worship is forbidden. Women face abuse and physical attack.

But listeners kept pleading for BTGMI media missionaries to meet with them to answer their questions. In May 2012, BTGMI received another letter from a listener in the region begging, “Please help us. We want to study the Bible. Can you bring us Christian literature?”

In response, the BTGMI prayer warriors—retired pastors, bank managers, school teachers, social media experts, leaders of the YMCA, and members of other Christian ministries in India—gathered for a time of intense prayer.

“In faith, we made plans to try again to visit these villages,” said Stephen. “The next time we tried to visit Chhattisgarh (in late summer 2012) we met with no resistance! The Lord answered our prayers and opened the way for us to travel throughout the area to meet with groups of listeners.”

Visitors from the outside are rare; people in the villages warmly welcomed the ministry team. Because they have little access to Bibles, hymn books, or other Christian literature, they gratefully received the resources BTGMI provided.

News of the visit spread widely. BTGMI staff worshiped with several listener groups and met with interested seekers.

“We told them about our radio program. Many of the seekers had never heard it,” said Stephen. “Listeners testified clearly how God’s Word proclaimed through our radio program changed their lives.

“We witnessed the physical healing of some who attended. Believers were strengthened; seekers came to faith. Prayers were answered as we saw the hand of God at work in Chhattisgarh.

“By the grace of God, Christians in this area pray for those who persecute them,” Stephen said. “They continue to provide witness to reconciliation, love, and service.”

—Nancy Vander Meer, Back to God Ministries International

Prayer Resources

  • A prayer guide for the agencies and ministries of the Christian Reformed Church is produced monthly. Sign up for a weekly or daily prayer email or download a printer-friendly version at crcna.org/prayer.
  • CRWM’s weekly ePray is an electronic newsletter of praise and prayer items from missionaries worldwide. Sign up atcrwm.org/membership.
  • World Renew’s monthly electronic newsletter includes stories from the field, program updates, and specific needs you can bring to God in prayer. Sign up at worldrenew.net.
  • Join the BTGMI prayer team and receive specific prayer requests from seekers and believers worldwide who have responded to our ministry.  To sign up, visit BackToGod.net/get-involved/for-you/#prayerteam or call 1-800-879-6555.
  • Join Home Missions in praying for North American ministries. Sign up for weekly prayer requests and praise announcements at crhm.org/prayer.
  • Sign up for the Office of Social Justice prayer list at crcna.org/pages/osj_newsletters.cfm
  • You can pray with the Calvin College community at calvin.edu/faith/prayer/.

On Fire for Prayer

After returning from the Christian Reformed Church prayer summit last April, Rev. Stanley Jim was so on fire for prayer that he decided to gather local church leaders in Classis Red Mesa, a regional group of churches, for weekly prayer meetings.

The summit kindled in him zeal to pray and especially to pray with others in the area where he lives and ministers, Jim said.

He wasn’t sure what to expect when he contacted Christian school administrators and church leaders, asking if they would meet for an hour on Mondays to pray. But he needn’t have worried.

“When the call came out to pray, church and school leaders answered it and really went into prayer,” said Jim, a member of the Navajo Nation who works with Native Americans as a regional ethnic team leader for Christian Reformed Home Missions (CRHM).

The group of church and Christian school leaders meets from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday afternoons. Leaders who can’t attend have been asked to set aside that hour to pray wherever they are; several have agreed to do that.

“I’m excited that we can pray like this. There is something that is precious about prayer,” said Jim, adding that the prayer summit gave him a refreshing new perspective on prayer.

Jim is one of many people whose lives were touched and changed through the prayer summit. Others include a pastor who has begun a time of early-morning prayer in his congregation.

Another pastor showed a video of the prayer summit at his church and found members who were inspired and interested in spending more time in prayer. Still others have turned to personal and contemplative prayer as a way of listening to what God is saying.

The next prayer summit, set for April 2013, will set aside time for people to tell stories of how prayer has touched their lives, said CRHM director Rev. Moses Chung, one the coordinators of the summit.

“We will be asking that some of the stories be told,” said Chung. “They will testify to the righteousness of God that happened through prayer.”

In Red Mesa, people often pray out loud, asking for the Holy Spirit to be there with them. Located mainly in New Mexico, the classis has 15 organized churches and five emerging churches.

“We pray to our God who works wonders,” said Jim. “We are clearing the time so that we can ‘waste time’ together with God.”

They also take time to pray for particular ministries. At one point, Jim and others asked God to bring more people to Red Mesa churches, including Jim’s church, Fort Wingate Christian Reformed Church.

Not long afterward, new people started showing up. Numbering eight in all, including young people, they have shown interest in the church where Jim is one of the ministry leaders.

Although this was a welcome answer to prayer, his church is not putting pressure on the visitors. “Right now, we’re not pushing,” he said. “It is a matter of them getting interested in what we are doing.”

Ministries also have emerged as a result of praying and looking to find things that God wants them to do, including a firewood ministry to help elderly people fuel their homes and a proposal for opening a bicycle shop for the community.

On one occasion, said Jim, he prayed with a young man who was afflicted by evil spirits, helping to ease the man’s difficulties.

Jim says he will talk about the power and significance of prayer when, as regional leader for CRHM, he starts to visit other churches in his region in 2013.

“This is the first time I’ve prayed like this,” he said. “I’ve learned that, if you pray, God will show you some things.”

—Chris Meehan, CRC Communications

The Church at Prayer

  • Praise God for Jacquet CRC’s growth. Pray that the church may continue to draw in others who do not yet know Christ. Pray that the church may continue to rely on God’s faithfulness and presence in every situation.
  • Praise God for the success of the Village Savings and Loan program in Malawi. Pray for World Renew staff around the world as they work with churches and communities in need.
  • Pray for the prayer group in Classis Red Mesa and that God will use the people and churches there to reach their communities and bring people to himself. Pray also that the April prayer summit will ignite a renewed passion for prayer.
  • Pray for BTGMI outreach in northern India and in many other places around the world where the gospel is forbidden. Pray that people will hear God’s Word proclaimed and come to faith in Christ. Pray for the safety of staff who travel to meet with seekers or to disciple new believers.
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