Reflections from SP Middle East staff James Williams on partnering with God through prayer
James Williams, Servant Partners staff in the Middle East, shares these reflections on the power of prayer.
Prayer is important. God can do things we can’t and has plans for this community that will continue long after we’re gone. Indeed, God has been working in the Middle East for millennia, and will continue to work here for a long time to come, so all of our human efforts are just a tiny part of a larger effort. As much as we hope to have a tangible, positive impact on the community in the form of materially improved lives for refugees, we are simply investing in a longer-term, centuries-long effort through prayer. In fact, prayer has been one of our main priorities as a team, from the beginning.
Multiple mornings a week for over nine years, we have gathered together to intercede with the Lord on behalf of this community. It has been a consistent discipline. At times, it was hard, but we’ve always made it a priority and kept it going (using rotating leadership, a variety of styles, prayer books, and other tools). For me, personally, this has been important, because I always find it easier to pray with other people than alone (when I am more distractible), and I benefit from the creativity and energy of group prayer.
We do this because we believe that through prayer, God acts and changes things in the spiritual realm. The city we serve in is a spiritually dark place, but prayer has carved out for us a protected place to be, and I believe that change in the spiritual geography will persist and have positive benefits for many others now and in the future.
We have experienced the power of prayer countless times. Last year, I almost died in the hospital and the doctor didn’t know what else to try–but I suddenly turned the corner and began to recover within hours of sending out a call for prayer. When our community center could have been shut down several times over the years, God provided people in key places who helped us keep it open. Through prayer, we have seen people given visions of Jesus or words from Jesus that have refreshed them with hope and courage to change their lives. And of course, through prayer, we have seen ourselves change to seeking God’s will above our own.
Most recently, I traveled to Ethiopia and shared my experience with a group of young Ethiopians who are doing ministry in urban marginalized communities in their country. After one of my training sessions, we had a time of prayer. The Ethiopians began by praying on their own, gradually getting more verbal until we were all praying loudly together at the same time, all in our own languages. I felt the Holy Spirit begin to move. I felt freed to pray in a way I haven’t in a long time–for myself, my family, and my community.
Then I began to pray for each one of the participants individually, shifting my attention among them. For some, I felt like God especially directed my prayers, though I hardly knew them at all. I sensed that one young man was a spiritual warrior advancing against spiritual evils, so I prayed that he would be equipped and protected in spiritual warfare. That same young man began to pray passionately, and though I couldn’t understand his language, I had the sense that he was praying for God to break demonic strongholds. The next day, we spoke at lunch, and he revealed that he was, indeed, praying for God to break demonic forces in his neighborhood! He explained that there is a lot of demonic activity in his neighborhood, centered on the worship of two local spirits. That was exactly in line with how Go had led me to pray.
The Spirit reveals to us things that are hidden, so that we can join in partnership with God and our beloved brothers and sisters towards freedom and transformation. For all our physical efforts, may we also invest ourselves into the powerful practice of prayer, that God can use in miraculous ways.