Power in Prayer

The year after I graduated from college, I worked as the full-time youth director in the church I grew up in. That summer, I carried on the tradition of taking a group of students to church camp in the Texas Hill Country. The camps were set up so that pastors and youth directors traveled and stayed the week with the students from their church, while the students alternated between all-camp events with counselors and staff and small group time with their church groups. I had some time to myself as a result of this setup, and it was a remarkably refreshing week. As a camper, and even as an adult, it is one of my favorite places in the world.

Being a youth director was challenging and humbling. There was enough work for three people (at least), and managing it all was consuming, not to mention overwhelming at times. I wanted nothing more than to be a positive influence in the faith lives of the students I came into contact with in ministry, but it was exhausting. It's amazing how that experience helped prepare me to be the wife of a youth pastor, but that's a story for another time.

I remember returning to camp that summer to volunteer during a few days off, and spending time with Jana, a camp counselor and friend from college. One afternoon, a pastor approached Jana as we were talking together outside. As I recall, neither of us knew him all that well. He wanted to let her know that he had been praying for her every day over the past year, asking God to bless her in her ministry with campers, encourage her in her studies at school, and grow her in her own faith life. She of course was very gracious and appreciative of his words, and we continued on in our day.

I was deeply affected by that pastor's words that day. Maybe not his specific words, but by his heart for the work Jana was doing to impact youth for Christ. More than anything, I wanted someone to tell me they were praying for me, particularly since I was so overwhelmed with the work I was doing. My heart needed the encouragement and affirmation. The truth was, I had taken those few days off to escape from my work and spend some time in a place that inspired me to grow closer to God.

Life went on, and nearly a decade has passed since my time out at camp that summer. I moved across the country, started teaching, got married, and have birthed three sons. My time as a youth director and the words of that pastor to my friend became a forgotten memory of the past.

Until a few weeks ago.

It's incredible how encouraging a few words can be. At least for me, a little positive reinforcement goes a long way. I admit though, I am a people pleaser, and I often care far too much about what others think. Despite that, others' affirmation, not their approval, is what is most uplifting.

Callan has been a tough baby. He very likely has colic, and spends a good deal of time crying each day. Thankfully, this seems to be slowly waning as he gets older. Managing his fussy temperament and still finding time to do housework, spend time with my other boys, and sleep has been a difficult task. (Aside: I know, blogging takes up time too, often late in the evening when I could be sleeping. But I've found that the benefits I gain from writing are worth it.) There are days when I am so overwhelmed by all the tasks before me that it can be crippling. Hence, my increasing determination to trust God and find joy in these everyday trials. Read more about that here.

Singing and leading people in worship has become one of my life's passions. Standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people and speaking, much less singing, is not something I ever envisioned I would be doing, and it certainly isn't something that comes naturally. As an introvert, I am completely out of my comfort zone. But it is something I feel called to do, and I believe my feeling inadequate motivates me to pray and open myself to being used by God.

But even doing what I love often leaves me overwhelmed, despite my determination to be joyful. And of course, I don't always turn over my frustrations and feelings of being overwhelmed to God. More often than not, I try and conquer them on my own, a quest that leaves me depleted of energy and feeling defeated.

So when an older lady in our church approached me the other day in between services to tell me she was praying for me, it made all the difference in the world. Truly, it was an answer to a prayer I hadn't even uttered. God knew exactly what I needed to hear. She told me she'd felt burdened to pray for me since I returned to the worship team after Callan was born. She said she knew that mothering three small boys, one of them a newborn, was exhausting, and that she appreciated my continued commitment to sing and lead despite those challenges. She said she believed I was making a difference doing both, and that God had led her to pray for continued strength and endurance for me.

I nearly cried, and I immediately thought of Jana and my desire to be prayed for all those years ago. I don't know this woman very well, beyond her name and the fact that she attends our church. That she would empathize with my struggles, pray for me, and then seek me out at church to tell me these things was precisely what I needed right in that moment. And, her words of encouragement have carried me through many a tiresome, trying moment these past two weeks.

The lesson in all of this? Well clearly, if we hear God calling us to pray, or go, or do, or be, we do those things. But specifically in prayer, if you are led to pray for someone and God gives you the opportunity to tell them, tell them! You may never know exactly what they are going through or why God has called you to pray, and it may not be evident to you when you tell them, but the weight of your words of encouragement may be exactly what they need to hear. And it may give them just the strength they need at just the right moment. In my case, simply hearing that someone I hardly knew felt strongly enough about my ministry - both as a mother and as a worship leader - to lift me up in prayer not just once but daily, has motivated me and given me strength to face each trial with joy.

Indeed, there is power in prayer.

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