Shortly before Christmas, I was invited to participate in an online prayer group. In the busiest week of the year…? Praying corporate repentance on the agenda in between shopping for zesty condiments and personal gifts for Christmas left me seriously wondering about regulating this prayer encounter… Can’t it wait till after the New Year; is this a prayer journey outside of my busy limit?
Nevertheless, I obediently decided to join in and politely ignored my lazy comfort zone. I invited some folk to come along on the prayer journey with me. Their response was captivating. Somewhere between the surface replies of WhatsApped photos of campervans and tents screaming, ‘I’m on holiday!’ to the immediate and determined ‘Yes, please add me to the prayer group’ texts, was a deep unexpected pivotal provoking thought lurking in my heart. One which gave a personal confession a massive standing ovation; THERE IS OFTEN SOMEPLACE I AM, AND I WANT TO GET OUT OF IT!
It seems like much of the year 2020 we’ve been running from a place we just didn’t want to be in – The noise of the world: Pandemics, plagues, cancelled plans, unexpected destinations, abolished hugs, unrealistic expectations, political unrest, closed schools and beaches. Economic consequences and psychological pressure has burst a volcano inside of some of our closest friends. The desperate cry for corporate worship persists. It’s no wonder the festive season brings pure opportune delight to forget our reality for just a moment.
But despite our festive time and focus constraints, those friends who chose to journey in prayer with me have agreed that they’ve found the tangible presence of God with a clear motive as we’ve prayed – We are being called to repent of our sin, pray for our healthcare frontliners, and God CAN dim a rampant enemy on the run! Irrespective of my valid concern with ‘I’m not sure about the timing of conjuring up momentous repentance prayers and prophetic words while Christmas and New Year is approaching’, the timing of these corporate prayer encounters has been crucial and perfect. It is a place where I’ve personally sensed God’s voice above the noise of the world. Crazy, yes! God gets the standing ovation on this one because it speaks of a deep uncovered mystery; IN YOUR BUSIEST MOMENTS, PRAY!
I’m so grateful I was invited on this prayer journey. Shortly after I accepted the invitation to participate, I received yet another of the year’s dire phone calls. “Uncle Franz has been intubated and is now in ICU”. Franz was the second member of our family to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator due to Covid-19. Sadly, on Christmas Day, Uncle Franz passed away. What is labelled a festive season for some, has become a merry crisis for others. Facebook’s Christmas condolences of many a friend’s lost loved ones can truly break our hearts. But are our hearts genuinely soft? I have to confess: what a hard heart I had to consider thoughts of ‘poor prayer timing’ during a pandemic, over the love of Christmas and New Year. And perhaps my biggest confession is born from the understanding that Jesus would never stop praying in a crisis, even for a party. I’ve come to realize, I love Christmas too much and God not enough! Jesus would never leave behind a wake of a place He didn’t want to be in. He was always ALL IN! In the book of John, Jesus prayed at the wedding feast in Cana. He prayed at a banquet of note! The party was unbelievable and the guests awesome. Have you ever thought of praying at the height of a friends wedding celebration while looking into the eyes of the most important people on the entire planet in the room? Son, there’s no more wine, Mary said. Jesus didn’t go home then, he prayed! He turned water into wine (John 2: 1-12) – This was His first miracle. Perhaps we should be following the example of Jesus in this scripture in our prayer life. Let us not neglect to pray for a miracle when we are busy, or running completely dry. Or when we feel largely intimidated by extent or hierarchy and just want to run away from it all and hide away from the goings-on in some isolated place.
This year we invited Jesus into our Christmas Day while an uncle stopped breathing. The same day I thanked God that my precious brother-in-law could finally breathe without assisted oxygen for the first time in four critical weeks. Bittersweet. This Christmas, there were no gifts exchanged. We shared our hearts, stayed out of the shops, participated in corporate prayers of repentance for our country and the world, and raised a ‘hallelujah’ for our health care workers. We then loved upon two Jewish girls whose dad has been retrenched recently. The girls taught us to make their traditional Challa and Shawarmas, and we ditched our red and green attire to wear blue and white with them.
One thing is certain, prayer affects our performance! May we enter 2021 all in, and praying. And may we not forget to leave 2020, praying. Prayer turns our wandering into walking a positioned life, with Christ in the lead. In a world of wandering and wanderers, the only security we have can be found in the intimate place we go to with God. We all have a God-ordained destination. A destination only God can sovereignly point us to and surprise us with when we walk on his feet and hold tight his fingers. Will you join me and those others in stepping up your prayer life in this busy time of crisis.
Imagine being a totally loved child, standing on your Father’s feet and raising your hands, to hold onto His. He grabs you, turns you around, and begins to walk you forward, never letting go, with his hands securely holding your hands and with your feet fixed to His feet. If we choose Him and daily walk with Him in this kind of intimacy, perhaps our destinations will look different? Where will He take us?
As we journey through the busiest and the driest and the most intimidating times of our crazy lives, surely this is the only place to be! Very close to Him. My prayer for you is that our Father will move you to set a daily ‘walk with Him’ date. And as you step up to pray and move with Him, may He begin to fill YOU with NEW WINE as you walk to wherever He wants to go! He has prepared the table before you. He chooses you. And THE CUP IS SET TO OVERFLOW!