"My House Will Be Called A House Of Prayer"
By Javonda J. Barnes
Structure. Time for others. Extensive Bible study. Regular quiet times. Long, in-depth conversations.
These words describe days of a season in my life gone by. In those days I arose early, before punching the clock, for my routine, rarely-interrupted time of devotion and prayer. My after hours consisted of evening Bible studies and input with and from others.
These days gone by are my "B.K." days--Before Kids! In jest, I often reflect and wonder whether that "B.K." person was really me! Now my days are drastically different as a mother with three small children. I spend my waking hours meeting the varying needs of three precious souls. Each day does have structure and a plan, for without these my family’s needs would not be met. Yet, inherent in the words "family" and "home" is the knowledge that often the most priceless of moments, significant in eternal terms, are the moments I have not structured or planned. These rich moments occur only as I balance necessity and spontaneity.
The adjustment from being employed outside my home to my present choice, "household watcher" (Proverbs 31:27), has required personal struggle. The struggle has not been in the obvious job description changes but with a personally conceived fallacy. This misunderstanding held that contributions of eternal value were somehow more rewarding if I were able to be personally involved. Praise God, I am grateful that I now have a clear, concrete understanding of the highest and most significant of ministries. That ministry is prayer. Prayer dispels the error that only "doing" can be significant. Prayer instead places significance on involvement in the ultimate battle between the spiritual forces of evil and God (Ephesians 6:12).
As warriors for God, we consider prayer to be the cadence of those marching in rhythm to the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ parting words told of the battle "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Jesus spoke of the place where He stood (Jerusalem), the home region (Judea), the nearby region (Samaria), and the rest of the world.
It is hard to reconcile His command to go with the demands of one’s role as wife and mother, which means not going. Can a commitment to these opposite actions reside in the same heart? Can a commitment exist that gives drive and passion for one’s home (meals, laundry, diapers, and dealing with the flu), plus zeal and passion for one’s "Jerusalem" (local social needs, education crises, political appointments, churches, and preachers)? Can a heart’s commitment include these while radiating concern for one’s "Judea" (governor, state officials, lottery, and abortion laws) and "Samaria" (unemployment, homelessness, teenage pregnancies, suicide machines, gay rights, and drug trafficking), while not neglecting "the ends of the earth" (3.5 billion lost souls, not to mention rain forests, the ozone layer, pollution, population, civil wars, and drought)? Yes. The commitment to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth is the basis for the ministry of the home prayer warrior.
Tremendous Opportunity to Be a Home Prayer Warrior
The wife and mother has the tremendous opportunity to commit herself to becoming a home prayer warrior. Although her role has physical restraints, it often leaves her heart free to do spiritual battle for the Great Commission. What a beautiful, powerful sight--busy, committed hands with a boundless heart! This mother heart, with its immeasurable attributes of perseverance and faith, is moldable material for the significant ministry of prayer. God can nurture this heart, harnessing these attributes, resulting in an ability for the home prayer warrior to see the world as one’s home as well as one’s prayer responsibility.
The attributes involved in the act of mothering have motivating parallels with the ministry of prayer. For example, prayer requires tenacity. So does mothering. We are determined in our commitment to contribute to the kingdom of Heaven. We persevere even when the odds seem unlikely, as in prayer for the resistant harvest of the Islamic world (Luke 10:5-13). Prayer is serving others. This, too, is a clear definition of mothering. Likewise, prayer is daily choosing to look out for the best interests of another and being consumed by thoughts of others’ needs (Philippians 1:3,9-11; 2:3-5).
Prayer is commitment for the future; we know that our children’s futures result from our mothering today. Prayer, like mothering, requires our heart’s best energies. It is a behind-the-scenes, less-visible ministry. This prayer ministry, as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:5-6, begins in our prayer closets where no one sees but the heavenly Father!
To increase our availability for this behind-the-scenes ministry as a home prayer warrior, we must honestly evaluate our current prayer awareness. How do I respond to situations and thoughts as they arise in my day? Do I respond in prayer to situations, or do my days pass in defeat as I fail to seek heavenly power? Do I succumb to doubt and despair stimulated by specific thoughts? Do I spend long periods of time harboring critical thoughts of others? Or do I, in my desire to bring every thought captive to the lordship of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), respond to thoughts as being promptings for prayer?
Your desire as a prayer warrior is for prayer to become an involuntary reflex in response to the challenges of the day. But this involuntary prayer reflex does not develop without assimilating the words, "I want to pray," and, "I must pray" into your response to every situation or thought. These words help us to follow Paul’s exhortation to "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And these words, when nurtured, can permeate our lives to the point that mundane tasks like ironing become anticipated, effective, and extended times of prayer.
Like many tasks, ironing requires physical involvement and yet it leaves one’s mind free to be engaged in spiritual battle through prayer. So thoughts of individuals, situations, or crises can be utilized as an agenda for prayer. How wonderful to weave prayer into every thought and deed!
Think through a typical day’s sights and happenings. Perhaps as you awake, having enjoyed the blessing of a good night’s rest (Psalm 4:8), your heart can turn to those people you know who are experiencing the pain of the inability to sleep due to a stressful family situation. As you prepare the morning breakfast, your heart can be moved to intercede on behalf of the people whose daily food is not a certainty (James 2:15). As your children prepare for school, you sense God’s prompting to pray for their teachers, administrators, and school personnel as well as for your friends and their children’s school day needs (Philippians 1:3). Often we are aware of a friend whose child faces a specific battle.
What happens in your heart as you stand waiting in the grocery checkout line and your eye catches the headlines of newspapers or periodicals? Instead of succumbing to doubt, frustration, or fear, quickly turn your thoughts into prayer regarding what you have seen. What do you do with your thoughts when you walk down the street and are aware that the teenagers you see are engaging in activities of darkness, unaware of consequential dangers? Begin to intercede for them.
As we pray, we are recognizing our inability to "do" anything about a particular situation, and yet, we are also saying that we believe God is capable and that He loves and understands each person.
We need to recognize that every act of meeting a need or performing a chore can be seen or utilized as a prompting to pray. For a mother, some of our longest hours are those spent comforting an ill child. But the prayer warrior resists the temptation to spend this time in increasing frustration. Instead, she knows that this time can be doubly blessed as she nurses the child and also turns her heart’s thoughts from frustration to the furtherance of the kingdom of Heaven.
If the illness involves sleepless nights, we are able to reflect David’s feelings that the night brings thoughts of God (Psalm 16:7), and we are beckoned to Heaven’s throne on behalf of others. An illness may prompt thoughts of individuals, communities, and countries in various parts of the world whose people daily face horrible physical suffering without adequate medical intervention. Again, we see our prayers as reflecting our heart’s concern for our "Jerusalem," but further being moved for our "Judea" and "Samaria," continuing until we encompass "the ends of the earth."
"Thy Kingdom Come"-- an Encompassing Prayer
When in doubt as to what is best to pray, effective prayers reflect Jesus’ concern: "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). We do not need to be consumed by concern over our inability to frame impressive, power-packed prayers--the issue is the response of our hearts. How precious to God that our hearts plead on behalf of others, "Thy kingdom come." This simple prayer engulfs every creation’s needs.
For example, when you hold a small child whose home does not have the influence of biblical truth and you are feeling overwhelmed, a fitting prayer to whisper on his behalf is, "Thy kingdom come. Please send laborers to touch this home" (Luke 10:2). Without the avenue of prayer and the comfort it provides, the ills of our present day would be genuine causes of doubt, fear, and despair (Luke 21:34-36). But we are not people of darkness; we are of the light. We do not give ourselves over to doubts or fears or despair; we simply bring all of these before the throne of grace (Philippians 4:6,7) pleading, "Thy kingdom come."
If we desire to be effective world prayer warriors, it is necessary to supply our hearts with missions information so we have missions thoughts. Begin to read as much missions-related materials as you can get your hands on. A newspaper or a credible periodical can also be a good guide for world prayer needs. Mothers of newborns should feel free to read only the opening paragraphs and the concluding summaries of articles!
Since mothers are often restricted to specific places, be strategic and have applicable materials available within arm’s reach--under the high chair or near the rocking chair. Think about those critical places where your body is occupied, yet your heart and mind are free and available for prayer. (If your children are older, share insights from the reading and the passion of your heart for the world. These can be timely, superb seeds planted in young hearts.)
Be creative in your approach to grow in your love for God’s world. Recognize your personal strengths as well as your limitations, and work within these. For mothers of infants, having time in which to stimulate one’s mind and experience a sense of accomplishment might seem an unrealistic dream. Nonetheless, there are moments to be grasped and directed into prayer. For me, prayer complements a personal growth challenge to increase my geographical knowledge. It grieves me to admit that prior to living in Europe, I probably would have been unable to locate Eastern Europe on the map!
Given the fact that your desire to be a home prayer warrior is a commitment between you and God, there are no limits to the creativity you might employ. For example, depending on the number of rooms in your home, an idea might be to see each room as representing a certain continent. As you enter a room, pray for the nations of that continent. Perhaps after praying for continents, certain rooms might represent specific resistant people groups. The ideas are limitless! As our hearts respond with willingness, God provides the food for prayer--that’s the beauty of it!
Perhaps the greatest challenge will be to continue in prayer over the long term. Every decision for growth is like the onset of a trip, whether the journey is three feet or 7,000 miles. Both trips begin with the same decision--taking the first step! Such is true for the development of a prayer warrior. We must respond as did the disciples when stirred by Jesus’ clear dedication to prayer. They asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They desired to pray more, but their flesh was weak and too easily betrayed their desire (Luke 11:1; Matthew 26:41).
Accountability Helps to Follow Through
Deciding to make prayer a more integral element of your life is commendable, but follow through is another matter! As with all decision for change, it is imperative to reinforce that choice with accountability, perhaps by telling a friend of your decision to begin. (If your heart’s motivation is pure, God will be faithful to bring the help and encouragement you need.) Ask this friend to remind you of your decision and tell her you would like her prayers in maintaining your commitment. This maintenance system will be especially sweet as you share in victories won by persevering in prayer.
Prayer should be our response to absolutely every situation. Every thought should be taken captive and funneled into prayer. We are committed to praying on behalf of our "Jerusalem," "Judea," "Samaria," and "the ends of the earth." For our redeemed, free hearts, prayer is the first response to Jesus’ marching orders.
While marching to the cadence of the Great Commission, a mother at home--consumed by meeting never-ending practical needs--must recognize she is there just for a season of her life. How glorious for a mother to complete that season fully satisfied, without any regrets, and immeasurably charged, having lived those days with her heart on its knees and having knowledge of tremendous victories won through prayer.
– From A Call to Prayer, By Javonda J. Barnes, compiled by David Butts. Copyright 1992. The Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. Used by Permission.
Javonda Barnes is a missionary.