How awkward, heartfelt prayers changed my life on a YWAM DTS
“Teach me how to pray for others, Lord.”
This was my prayer when I landed in Malaysia for my DTS all those years ago. I knew Christians ‘should’ want to pray for others to experience the life-changing love and acceptance of Jesus, but I couldn’t exactly force my heart to feel what I knew in my head to be right. Whenever I prayed for those who hadn’t yet encountered Jesus, it felt rigid, forced, boring.
Not long into my DTS (discipleship training school), I sensed the Lord challenging me out of my comfort zone. It was as if he was issuing me an invitation to rise early in the morning and learn how to pray. In my wildest dreams I’m a morning person, but in reality I’m a night owl through and through. Regardless, I decided I would do my best to say ‘yes’ to this invitation and see if I could get up before the world and begin to learn to pray.
I invited my fellow YWAM DTS classmates to join me if and when they wanted… and one joined me. Once.
But every morning I forced myself out of bed at 5:00am to attend this informal prayer school that God had invited me into. I would pray for the people of Nepal and India whom we would meet during our field assignment.
At first my prayers went something like this:
Dear God, bless the people of Nepal. Would you help them to know your love. Help me to serve them well. Help me to learn from them and to love them even as I serve. Yes God, please bless the people of Nepal.
My prayers were simple and a little awkward, though heartfelt.
Praying for five minutes or ten minutes felt like a stretch when I started. How could I pray for people I’ve never met? I’ve never even been to Nepal or India! I have no idea what to expect! I don’t know what type of ministry we’re going to be doing! I have no part in planning this thing! How in the WORLD am I supposed to pray?!? These were the questions and thoughts constantly swirling through my head.
At first it felt like dragging a wheelbarrow through mud. My prayers seemed repetitive and devoid of power. I felt foolish and novice.
Without a doubt, I would have rather been in bed sleeping.
But something happened after a few weeks of showing up: My prayers started stretching out a bit. My imagination began to come alive with possibility. My heart was expanding for entire nations that I had never much thought of before. I started to feel something for these people I hadn’t yet met—something that felt like love.
When we boarded the plane for outreach many weeks later I thought my heart would explode with excitement and anticipation and wonder. Truly, I had fallen in love with a people and nations I had never seen with my own eyes. God had done such a profound work in me by the time I left Malaysia that landing in Nepal felt like a homecoming for me. My heart was alive with possibility for what God wanted to do during our time there.
We saw incredible fruit from that outreach—but that’s for another story, another time. More than anything, I want to share that learning to pray for others is what God used to change me. Those early mornings in the dark spent on my knees when everyone else was sleeping were what God used to form me and build me and cultivate love in me.
Friend, you may or may not be a ‘natural’ pray-er. (As in, you may not find that focused time praying for others comes easily for you.) If that’s the case, you’re not alone. There are many ways to pray; what I’m describing here is only one. But make no mistake, when you give yourself to God on behalf of others he will do a mighty thing of cultivating love in your heart. I absolutely believe in the creative power of prayer to change things around us, but most of all I believe in the creative power of prayer to form us.
Be blessed as you allow Christ to form you, and know that time spent on your knees is never wasted. May you meet with Jesus today.
By the way, you don’t have to join a DTS to have an encounter with God and learn about prayer the way I did, but if you’re interested, a YWAM discipleship training school can definitely be a blessing on your journey of spiritual formation. Let us know if we can help you connect!