Sustaining a Life of Mission…Prayer: Part 1
I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, but being in and leading a good missional community is hard work! This is an exciting, world-changing, fun journey that we are on… but it is not an easy one.
One of the regular features on this blog will be a series looking at how we sustain such a life and continue to grow communities that don’t crash and burn. Last week we reblogged Kathryn England’s great reminder not to forget the “up” dimension to life. This week I want to build on that a little and focus on prayer.
Prayer is essential for your life and for the life of your community. This is a lesson I have learned again and again; I think I might even go as far as to say that it is one of the most important things you can do with your community and is the place where mission, activity and everything else is birthed. Developing a good rhythm of prayer, that helps you regularly connect to God, changes the situations you face and it changes you and your community. Let’s just explore those dynamics a little more.
- Prayer changes situations
We’ve recently begun a new Young Adult missional community. One of the things we are consciously trying to develop is a faith that prayer is effective and powerful and it is a lot of fun seeing how this is developing. As members of the community have asked us to pray together about the challenges and situations they are facing we have started to have the thrill of seeing God answer us together. People have experienced healing, challenges at work have become easier, lost wallets and passports have been miraculously returned.
Of course, you can say these are small and trivial or even choose to believe that they are simple coincidences but we choose not to! And the more times that they happen the more we learn that God is interested in us and that he responds! As we’re seeing God answer these personal prayers we’re getting more courage together to ask for bigger things; friend’s salvation, greater healing signs and wonders. These things aren’t more, or less, important than the other stuff, they just seem bigger.
- Prayer changes us
Of course, this kind of praying isn’t just about a request line to God. It’s much deeper than that and prayer changes us as well. Again, we’re finding this again in our community. We’ve said for a while that we want to reach Young Adults in our area and show them God’s love but, if we’re honest, we all find that a really hard thing to do. As we’ve prayed about these together, using loads of different and creative ways, we’ve started to feel differently.
We’ve started just to encounter his amazing, loving, changing presence and learn to recognise what it feels like to have him with us. We’ve remembered all the times the bible talks about God using small, weak people to do amazing things, we’ve started to feel like we care more for our friends at college or work, we’ve started to believe that maybe God can do something through us.
- Prayer is mission
It’s easy to allow the Up, In and Out elements of life to get separated out too much and forget that we are integrated people and communities. In so many ways the praying we do is part of the group’s mission, bringing our friends, our neighbourhoods or our workplaces before God, on our own or together is sharing His love with them.
You can of course push this link out even further, prayer walking round certain areas, offering healing prayer or prophetic words on the streets, setting up prayer spaces or stations in public areas are all great ways of reminding us of this. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that prayer is “just” the background work for the community, something for the spiritual ones or for those who don’t like getting “out there”. It’s essential to the community and the mission. In many ways it is the mission.
Tomorrow I’ll post about some practical ways to develop prayer in your community.
For now though I want to stop here with a couple of questions:
- What have I missed – why do you think prayer is important to you and your community?
- Have you got stories of ways prayer changes situations, or has changed you?
I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below!
Ben Askew lives in Deal, in the far south-east of England. He is married to the beautiful and talented Helen and they have two children. Ben and Helen have been involved in leading missional communities for the last 10 years and are particularly passionate about seeing the emerging generations discover God’s love. Right now they are working for a church in Deal whilst Ben is also training for ordination. You can connect with Ben more at benaskew.tumblr.com