Pastor’s trip to Africa emphasizes priority of prayer

Ten years ago, on a beautiful Sunday morning near the shore of Lake Victoria, I was reminded again of the priority of prayer. I was visiting IMB missionaries who focus on planting churches and training church leaders on the many African islands stretching across the north end of Lake Victoria.

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That morning, the missionaries brought us to a church plant in a small fishing community at one end of the long, narrow island. The building where the church met was made of sticks and mud. Hardened floors and walls were made of dried manure. The pastor of this fellowship gave me the privilege of preaching to my brothers and sisters in this faith community, and I was overwhelmed by the joy of the opportunity.

The worship in song during the service was wonderful. I didn’t understand a word, so I made up my own words of praise to the Lord, joining in — as best I could — with the clapping and singing to the rhythmic beat of the drums. Although our time of worship in song and in the Word was special, the time after the service was especially significant to me. When I expected most would leave for lunch, the people began to gather around us. Many of them fell to their knees. Some began to pray while others just gazed toward us. Our interpreter explained, “They want you to pray for them.”

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In that moment, I was reminded once more of the priority of prayer. And in that moment, my heart longed for more moments like this at the end of worship services in my country. I wished that we would hunger for God, more than we hungered for the Sunday lunch special at our favorite restaurant.

I found myself asking, “Why was prayer such a priority in the lives of these believers on this island in Lake Victoria?” Perhaps it was because of their utter dependence on God. They didn’t have a doctor’s office on their island. There was no pharmacy to get something as simple as an aspirin. There was no Walmart around the corner to grab the food they needed for the week. Their dependence was on the Lord, and their faith drove them to pray.

The believers on that island make me think of the apostle Paul, whom God used to give us some of the most beautiful and powerful prayers in the New Testament. As seen in his prayers, Paul’s faith drove him to pray. He knew that God heard the prayers of His people and that God delighted to accomplish His work through those prayers. Knowing these realities about God drove Paul to also ask others for prayer. Just as the African believers came to us to ask for prayer that Sunday morning, Paul often came to his brothers and sisters to ask for prayer.

Does your faith drive you to pray? Do you hunger for prayer, knowing our need for God to do what only God can do? Paul and those believers on that island in Lake Victoria understood that God is ultimately all we have, and He is all we need!

May we be reminded often of the priority of prayer, for our own lives and the lives of others. Let’s pray for our IMB missionaries, asking on their behalf that our Father would give them His power to proclaim the gospel and His protection in the work of the gospel. Amen.

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