The City No Longer Forsaken

"They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted." ~Isaiah 62:12

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

If my people will humble themselves and pray

I just came home from setting up the fifth prayer room I have been privileged to participate in or lead. Our 10 days of prayer will start early tomorrow morning.

This journey has probably been more rocky than any of the other prayer rooms I've led. The whole process started with discussions about who should lead it. Tears. Trying to get the church council to accept it. No dice. And, in the end, the decision to be faithful to the call to pray, even if there were very few people along for the ride. Also, the decision that we as missionaries needed to seek God about our own issues before we started trying to push others into prayer. We decided to pray on our own. Last Sunday, however, the pastor pointed to me and asked for an update on the prayer room. I wasn't really prepared to present the idea to the congregation (thinking we had settled that that *wasn't* what we were doing!), but the pastor very firmly declared that it was the five missionaries plus he and his wife who would be doing it. We told the church that there was room for them to pray too. We'll see who God brings!

All my other prayer weeks have been 24/7, and this one will be close. But unless God decides to bless my socks off, this week will probably not be non-stop. Though the space will be set up for 10 full days, and we'll get all the time with God that we can fit into our schedules. :)

I was strangely reluctant to leave the church tonight after set up. With everything set up to pray, I was feeling eager to dive in even after a very long day of (procrastinating, last-minute) set up. And I was reflecting as I walked home on some of the amazing blessings that God has given to me personally through times of extended prayer.

The first prayer room I ran was how God taught me that I could trust Him to be my partner in whatever He called me to, even if no one else was there to help me. In the weeks leading up to this first prayer room, I was given two gifts randomly that amounted to $200--the only monetary gifts I have ever received for mission work and within $20 of the exact amount I needed to run the room generously. I had crazy chance meetings with young Christians who joined us to pray. I unintentionally walked into a board meeting of a Japan Christian organization that just happened to be discussing the Global Day of Prayer, and the news of my prayer room was broadcast out to all the Tokyo churches with lots of other Global Day of Prayer events. I had a mysterious man I only met one time sign up to pray from midnight to 4am every single night of the week. I never saw him again after that. There was exactly one slot in the whole week that it looked like was going to be empty because of a last minute cancellation. I was ready to go on positively even without having made it perfectly when a non-Christian student of mine who had not shown up to pray earlier in the week walked in the door at exactly that time asking if he could pray. He was the only random drop-in all week and just happened to be in the only slot that needed someone for our prayer to continue. So I *know* after this experience that God can provide whatever is necessary for His will to be done.

Each prayer room has been drastically different. The second was much harder work than the first. I needed to spend many more hours praying to fill time slots. On top of that, it was an incredibly emotionally exhausting week. While my heart was nearly bursting with joy throughout the first prayer room, the second prayer room seemed to be all sorrow. God used that time to pile up many hard situations and emotions that eventually pushed me to make a prayer request from the bottom of my heart that I had rarely (if ever) uttered in any kind of seriousness before. It's the only prayer I can remember from hours and hours in that room: a 3am heart-cry for God to give me a husband. That prayer scared me at the time, because I knew that I had Meant it. More than meaning it for myself, I knew that I had Meant it for the sake of God having His way with me. That is a kind of prayer that I have never had go unanswered, and usually the answer is swift. That was July of 2008, so, the wait was a little longer than normal. ;-)

The other two aren't quite as memorable. One was a prayer room at a church I was only loosely connected to, and I had a great four hours wandering around their sanctuary talking with God. I remember being blessed by a simple line that someone had written in the notebook of prayer impressions: "God wants to do so much more with us than He is doing now." By the final prayer room I know I was getting tired. We were praying in an environment that was prayerless and isolating. We had less help, it felt like. After running this prayer room, I was ready to be done praying 24/7 for a long time.

Somehow, though, after years of just feeling an inner grown when thinking about 24/7 . . . I have found myself *so* excited to be back in this again. After setting up the room today, I think this is only the second time that a prayer room has really had my heart. In the end, Joel and I planned it together, with several parts added in from our missionary friends. We're praying in the church sanctuary instead of in a small room, so we got to have fun creating different prayer stations.

The first stop is a simple alter that we've placed in front of the door with cushions for kneeling. We're asking that people go no further until they've laid down anything that is between them and God, and then that they enter His presence free of shame, with confidence.

Next we're going through the Bible, reading one chapter or more at a time and then passing the Bible reading 'baton' on to the next person.

The prayer room itself has spaces to be tucked away and feel more 'closed in', but the room is big, and so we've left room for pacers to walk around the space. We have an art corner tucked away with paints, a scrapbook for impressions of what God is saying to us, and origami paper. We have a board for intercessions and have gathered many different colors of ink so that people can show they are praying for others by putting a fingerprint on the request.

I'm not sure what God will do with this time. The past few months have been tumultuous and confusing. I am often comforted that the earth is still shaking here. I should give the disclaimer that I have *always* loved earthquakes. Don't get me wrong, I was deeply saddened by the deaths after the Big One. But earthquakes are a frequent event here--deaths are not. The earth shakes probably about once a week, often more, occasionally less. I've tried to put my finger on it for a long time--why the earth shaking brings me a deep sense of peace. Usually it seems like the earth is giving us a good shake to remind us that it is not the steady rock we're standing on--God is. And I think that is part of the peace. But beyond that, I think it is because so much is being shaken for me right now in terms of identity, community, family, and jobs that the earth shaking feels like it fits right in. The earthquakes make me look up at God and say, "Yep. You're still shaking the world all up." So much in my life can still be shaken, because so much of my identity still rests in earthly things. But as He shakes, more and more, I feel like He is drawing me more into the identity that rests on the Solid Rock--into the peace and identity in Him that cannot be shaken. There is so far left to go, and I pray He'll keep shaking until I'm fully His!

But what a better moment than this to spend lots of time in His presence. I hope that many others will come to the prayer room and be blessed. But even if it is only me and the handful of people who also want to come along, He's taught me to have a high sense of expectation when we clear our calendars and give all our free time for a short season to Him. Whether the blessings are of the tangible kinds you can point to--or the silent kinds that move mountains in secret places inside one's heart and Spirit--you know He loves it when His people pray, because He shows up!

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