Three moments – thoughts on prayer

Rob Reynolds has been wrestling with the topic of prayer for some time because of three defining moments.

The first:  in a late-night SIM International Zoom meeting we were revisiting our goals; I was reminded of two that particularly inspire me — Dependent on God and A People of Prayer. They go back to our foundational days of SIM where Rowland Bingham’s “By Prayer” motto first showed up on SIM lapel pins in 1935. These values always stir up conversations I’ve had with retirees and current mission partners and feature in missionary biographies — we don’t have to look far to find testimonies of how God has responded to specific needs when our community has prayed. 

     I’m often encouraged when visiting supporters to see our Together magazine next to their bible and opened to the prayer page.

The second moment was a bit disheartening. I was reviewing stats from our SIMply prayer emails, which go out to 312 recipients each week. When I visit prayer groups, I’ll often see these emails cut up into sections for groups to pray through. That’s the encouraging part. The discouragement came when I realised that 55% of the recipients don’t open the email. I can’t help but to do the maths — that means that our office’s active prayer list is only 140 people plus our 14 prayer groups. And that made me think of our recent census and the documented drop in church attendance and affiliation. Even just typing this discourages me.

The third moment was an interview I conducted for a SIM project. I spoke with Jeff Eckart, who leads Claim Your Campus, a student prayer initiative in the US with a vision to see 1 million students united in weekly prayer on their school campus by 2023. When asked what he would share from a personal level, he said he wasn’t a person who was secure in his ability to pray. It’s the last thing I expected to hear from someone who leads a national prayer movement and sits on a national Prayer board in the USA. At the same time, it also gave me some relief and encouragement to pray, whether or not I thought my words or thoughts were good enough.

As I’ve been processing these three moments, they’ve crystallised a few thoughts and convictions for SIM NZ going forward. 

  • I’m not content to accept the current reality, especially since I can see the testimony left by those who served before us. SIM NZ’s future and our ability to join what God is doing is directly correlated with our prayer commitment.
  • This starts with us. It’s easy for me to focus on those who are not praying but I need to start with me. I realise that the pace of our world makes it easy to crowd out intentional prayer. It’s easy to say “I’m praying for you” but much harder to do so more than just in that moment. Instead of pointing a finger, I need to ask, “What am I convicted to do?” As an office, this means we start each day with prayer as a staff and stop to collectively pray as needs arise throughout the day.
  • We need to renew our efforts and refine how we support you as intecessors. I want to make sure this practice is passed onto new generations. This means we need to make prayer a strategic priority and keep looking for tools that help us in this busy world. I’m able to counter a number of weaknesses I naturally have with tools I’ve found, such as prayer apps that you can set up to prompt you. I’ve been playing with Prayermate, and recommend you try it. 
  • We need courage to practice prayer collectively, even if we don’t feel good at it. We’ve posted an article written on prayer by Jeff Eckart, who compares his journey with prayer to his journey learning to play the guitar. The reality is that a conversation with God can feel weird and different from the conversations you have with people present in your life. The reality is that any new habit feels awkward for a season. I encourage you to read it here.

In 2017, SIM International Director Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko wrote,

“By Prayer is not a slogan pasted on the outside of our literature; it is a conviction bound on the inside of our hearts. By prayer is not a clever sound bite; it is a humble posture. By Prayer is not compartmentalised as one duty of ministry; it shapes every aspect of ministry. By Prayer is not an empty ritual; it is an activity that in itself expresses love and compassion for others.”

— Rob Reynolds, SIM New Zealand Director