“Be always on the watch, and pray.” Jesus, Luke 21:36
All around the crowded room, there was a sense of urgency in the worship and prayer. These workers who had come away from their marketplace ministries in the Arabian Peninsula spoke their prayers in concert, united in their call to mobilize others to pray for Christian witness in the region. Those of us who had joined them from outside the region could not help but notice the greater sense of urgency and dependency on the Holy Spirit in prayer. Every story we heard referred to an urgent and unrelenting hope that Jesus was on the move - and we simply needed to be ready and prayerful.
Shepherding a group of 10 people from ECO churches on a vision trip in this part of the world, we were invited on our first full day to a corporate fast. As a way to unite and intensify prayer, we set aside 12 hours for fasting and prayer particularly for the people of Yemen.
I’ll be the first to admit that fasting is not a regular disciple of mine, and that skipping one meal (and morning coffee!) didn’t seem like much of a big deal at first. Looking back, I am struck by how much more urgent my prayer life became during that day. My empty stomach and caffeine headache was a constant nagging issue. I had to work hard to pay attention to what was happening around me, and kept offering silent prayers for God’s help. As I was recognizing my own needs to depend on God more urgently in prayer, I remembered to pray also for those in greater need. I soon saw the value of fasting as an expression of our urgent cries for the needs of the people in Yemen.
Each person with whom we met in the region embodied this urgency and dependency on God in some way. Whether it was a need for greater security or for more witnessing opportunities or for wisdom in a discipleship relationship, our friends urgently depended on God daily for their ministry. They were watching and waiting for God. Urgent dependency on God’s provision in prayer was a foundational part of Jesus’ ministry, as well as his call to the disciples to “be always on the watch and pray.” I was awakened by my time with friends in the Arabian Peninsula to live daily with a sense of urgency in prayer and witness.
As I’ve been reflecting on how my own life needs to be reshaped by this sense of urgency about what is ultimately most important – the life of Jesus being made manifest in the world – I wonder how to share this with my church. Could we be awakened to a greater sense of urgency? Could we live in such a way that the gospel was our urgent calling? Could we pray in such a way that we might more fully depend on God’s leading and provision for our witness?
Particularly during this season of Advent, when we recognize the longing for Jesus’ return, I am urgently praying that it might be so. May we wait for Jesus with prayerful anticipation, watching for opportunities to herald his coming into the world even now!
If you would like to learn more about this vision trip and friends we met in the Arabian Peninsula, contact Jen Haddox at firstname.lastname@example.org.