Prayer is such a powerful thing. Though I have heard numerous talks about prayer in the past few years, I think the idea that stuck with me most is this: Prayer is not a ritual. It doesn't have to be done at a specific time of day, nor a particular place. God doesn't place requirements on us, just that we come before Him with an open and honest heart. There are many times when we are worried, and think "what in the world am I going to do?". The simple and beautiful answer: pray. Other times we will be walking through the park on afternoon, exhilarated by the warm sun and smiling flowers. What should we do? Pray. Or when we've just had an ugly argument with our mother or significant other? Pray. It may seem too easy and we don't often see immediate results, but prayer does make a difference. God is listening to our heart's cry in every moment. Sometimes we don't even realize how God speaks to us through answered prayers.
I have recently been inspired by the community of prayer by which I am surrounded. In several instances I did not even think about praying, and a companion suggested it or just began praying out of natural habit. It made me really think about what it means to want to be in the presence of God all the time, to have a conversation with Him as we would a friend.
Last week as I was finishing my English class, I went downstairs to eat lunch with the kids. Now, I almost always eat lunch at the school, but usually I wait about half an hour until the line goes down. I take advantage of the quiet empty classroom to grade the homework assignments of my last class before braving the craziness of the cafeteria (FYI: there is no cafeteria duty here!). However, on this day, I didn't have homework to grade, and I needed to leave sooner, so I went down to eat immediately after the bell rang. To my surprise, one of the ladies who works in the kitchen was praying with the students. It turns out that she prays with every class before serving them their lunch. This act of love and example to the students touched me. Although this is a Methodist school, the kids have not received regular Christian education classes. Yet this small act of sharing faith reminded me of the impact we can have on children through our words and actions, however small.
Just a few days ago, we were in Quito for a two-day workshop on Christian education. I roomed with Blanca, the pastor I work with, and Laura, a pastor at another Methodist church. I love spending time with these ladies. Though Laura is married with two kids, and our life circumstances are very different, I feel a strong connection with her. (In September we went to Peru together for a retreat, and she was one of my first friends here!). I am constantly inspired by both Laura and Blanca in their devoted prayer life. Each morning that we were together we gathered to pray to start the day. One of us would share a devotion (from the Upper Room or a Bible verse), and we would ask God's blessing on this day. In Peru we also prayed to go to sleep. This reminds me of how my parents would pray with me as a child before going to bed. We were not doing it as an obligation, but out of a desire to thank God for everything he had given us in this day.
Prayer is radical. Prayer changes things. When we trust completely in our heavenly Father, we are giving up the need to worry or complain. We are submitting ourselves to His will, allowing Him to have control over our lives. Only then can God work in us and through us. So pray, pray, pray. And believe that God answers our prayers in His perfect timing.