“The reality is, my prayers don’t change God. But, I am convinced prayer changes me. Praying boldly boots me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.” – Lysa TerKeurst
A pastor at one of the churches I attended believed that an effective and healthy church prays on its knees. When he helped design the new building, the pastor put in kneelers. I remember using them a few times. They seemed like a thing for special occasions. It created a full-body posture and atmosphere for prayer. Eventually, that church moved again and when the choice needed to be made between kneelers or cup holders to be on the seats, the people voted for cup holders for their Starbucks.
In the church I grew up in, prayer looked like hands folded neatly in your lap and your chin tilted towards your chest, eyes closed.
At a Quaker university in Oregon, I really enjoyed the years learning Quaker beliefs. Prayer is one way they are different. Sometimes in chapels or in sermons, there are moments of complete silence—an actual way of carving out time in crowded schedules to just sit and pray. In the churches I grew up around, the band would continue to play softly in the background. But not here; here you could hear a pin drop. And after an undetermined amount of time, if someone had a prayer or felt lead to say something, they could, or the time would be closed out and the service would continue.
This past Sunday, I went to church with my two roommates and prayer here looked any way you felt led. Some people threw up their arms and moved them around but kept their feet in place and some prostrated themselves on the ground. Others just stood or sat with their hands raised.
When I was with a non-profit in Israel at a messianic church, the women we were with pulled out many colorful flags (some decorated and some were plain colors) and danced. They were some of the most mesmerizing to watch. Their graceful movements were a way of using prayer as an outward expression of worship.
In Kenya, some people cry out to God to hear them, to ask for restoration to their health, wealth or country. They urge him to come and help. They weep for the brokenness they see or experience in their daily lives.
In Indonesia, a place where Christianity isn’t necessarily welcome, we pray contextually. Most of the population of Indonesia is Muslim. As an example, we would go out to eat, and before we would start eating, we would pray to thank God for our food, using the word Esau for Jesus, Allah for God (Allah just means God in Arabic; it doesn’t necessarily mean the god of the Muslims). We would pray with hands out, palms facing upwards and our eyes open.
At first, it felt very strange to pray like that and very different from how I grew up praying. I was taught that prayer had to look one kind of way. When you think about it, God created diversity between us. He created our different skin colors, personalities, talents, and languages. He created diversity because he loves it! If our fingerprints are individual and unique to who we are, why wouldn’t he want us to pray and to talk to him in whichever way feels most comfortable to us? An effective and healthy global church prays. What does prayer look like to you?
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. – Psalm 72:11
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, – Revelation 7:9
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