Persevering in Prayer
Many of us will go to great lengths to avoid feeling awkward. We long to build bridges that will allow us to share our faith but don’t always know how. What if we say the wrong thing and look stupid or offend someone?
These feelings of inadequacy can paralyze us and cause our world to shrink. Or they can motivate us to draw closer to Christ and depend more heavily on Him.
Mission Residents Carrie and Ashley discovered the blessings and challenges of outreach when they began engaging international students. “I didn’t know how to start conversations,” Carrie said. “I didn’t know if I’d have anything in common with the students. I had little preparation or experience in this. How do you engage someone, who comes from a different country with a different faith, in a significant conversation?”
For Ashley, the biggest challenge was learning to live in the tension between building into the relationship and sharing truth. “Sometimes you’re sitting down with someone for coffee, and you really want to share the gospel but fear it’ll cause a rift in the relationship,” she said.
So how do they know when to move forward and when to pull back? They pray and ask God to allow them to bring up a faith-related conversation.
Prayer has become the foundation for all they do. As a result, they’ve seen God’s hand again and again. For example, one day their team prayed for specific students, five or six, they felt were on the cusp of either continuing to study their Bible and grow closer to God, or walking away. The next day at a coffee shop, Ashley ran into a couple of the students they’d prayed for. Then, later at the university, she ran into three more students—all of whom they’d prayed for the day before.
This experience encouraged them to persevere. “Often, when we’re praying for someone, we have no idea if we’ll ever see fruit,” Ashley said. “When I saw those students, it confirmed to me that God was at work all the time, whether we see it or not.”
That doesn’t mean results have always come easily. In fact, this past fall, it became clear they were engaged in a spiritual battle. “There are groups of students in which we’ve never seen a believer,” Carrie said. “This year, we really started praying for them.” As they did, opposition hit. “Whenever we see progress, we run up against another wall.”
“We genuinely love these students,” Ashley said. “We don’t have ulterior motives other than loving them. For us, as Christ followers, that also means we expose them to what we believe about Jesus, but we’ll love them no matter what they believe.”
At first this discouraged them.
“Recently,” Ashley said, “I was going to host an event for a bunch of girls we’d been trying to reach out to.” Fifteen said they were planning on coming, but then they all canceled. When discouragement hit, Ashley recognized that was how Satan wanted her to feel. Trusting her emotions weren’t truth, she determined to push and pray through.
Discouragement hasn’t been their only challenge. Missions work has caused Ashley to wrestle through some really hard questions. “But through the wrestling, Jesus brought me into deeper intimacy with Himself. He showed me that when I’m wrestling with really difficult questions that cause doubts, He is nearer than I can imagine,” she said. “When two people are wrestling, they literally couldn’t be any closer. So there is beauty in the tough wrestling because we are drawn nearer to Him than ever before.”
For Carrie, their experiences—the hard and the celebratory—show God’s faithfulness. When she started this job, she didn’t feel super equipped and had no idea what she was getting herself into. She realized, “I, as Carrie Lyman, do not have the ability to love these people like God does. Jesus is loving them through me. It’s humbling to think that God used us. There’s nothing we did. We just prayed for it, and God showed up.”
That’s what it means to live beyond belief. When we say yes and follow God’s leading, regardless of how we feel, God shows up and does in and through us what we could never accomplish on our own.