JAC Online

Free To Pray
by Major Danielle Strickland


On January 1st, 2011 (this was written mid-2012) our small community of believers in a marginalized and economically deprived area of Edmonton decided to pray. This was not just a determined or renewed effort in our own prayer life but a communal decision to make our community a place of prayer. We set apart a place (it used to be the leader’s office) and opened a 24/7 ‘war room’. The Salvation Army launched a global call to prayer for justice and when we heard the call we responded. What else can we do? Well, if we are honest we could do a host of things. I’m an action-oriented person. I’ve been known to think that prayer is a waste of time and echo the song of U2 when they sang, ‘Please, get off your knees now’ in a call to move the church from their huddled holy prayer clubs and into social justice. But I’ve learned that this dismissal of prayer is a tragic misconception. Some things I’ve learned along the way:


Only God builds the house. If I’m honest I have a thousand of my own ideas of how to grow a church community, or how to get people saved, or how to reform the neighbourhood I’m in. But most of the time my ideas never work. I lack resources and the ability to make those ideas into real action. But when God opens the door, when He declares the time – things happen that can’t happen any other way. The door can’t be shut. Favour comes. Salvation comes. Resources come. I find it hard to keep up with what God is doing when we are actively asking for His direction and help. Prayer is what made Jesus say those beautiful words of perfect surrender (after a night of prayer), ‘not my will but yours be done’.


Prayer is a habit that challenges hell and changes us. I’ve always thought of prayer as passive. But a better understanding of Jesus and our call to intercession has changed my mind. Prayer is one of the most aggressive parts of our warfare. Committed and passionate prayer has been the marker of God’s moving on the earth. I remember a prayer warrior I know telling me, ‘be careful what you pray. Most likely by the end of your prayer you’ll be the answer!’ And it’s true. Prayer doesn’t just challenge hell (although it does that… ever wonder why the compulsion against praying is so hard to overcome?) it changes us. It transforms my will to desire and love God’s will. I know of many people who wish they were more like Christian giants and heroes of the past yet, most of the time the only difference between them and us is the time we spend with God. You’ve got to pray. Jay Leno once said, ‘I’d do anything for the perfect body: except diet and exercise’. Many of us say the same things about our lack of prayer.


Everyone can pray. Some of the best prayer warriors I know are not ‘super gifted’ people in the eyes of the world. They are surrendered and beautiful, but their gifts are not always the public kind. They might be excluded from communal gifts like music or leadership or organizational things – but when it comes to prayer, they are faithful and they are effective. Prayer is something that levels the ground of community. In our little prayer room in Edmonton, a beautiful women who hasn’t has an easy life, takes the morning shift for three hours, six days a week! If you were to judge her by ‘worldly standards’ you’d think she was homeless, or destitute or at least very lonely.

You would be wrong. She is part of a fired-up team of prayer warriors who together are changing the atmosphere of our city and nation – crying out for justice day and night. She prayers three hours every morning six days a week!! And who better to cry for justice than someone who has been dished out loads of injustice? When Jesus states his mission statement in Luke 4 (the spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me to release the captives…) he’s quoting the prophet Isaiah who goes on to say in chapter 61 and verse 4 “they will rebuild the ancient cities, the cities that have been devastated for generations – they will repair.” The ‘they’ he is talking about are the ones who are set free. What better way to start the prophetic process of rebuilding than through praying together for a better world?


Prayer sustains. One of the most popular questions I answer from people around the world is ‘how do you keep on going?” Now the next point is going to address this as well – but you can be assured that one of the things prayer does is sustain us. It’s a weird thing to try and explain but our Spirits need food. It’s that simple. Jesus said that a blessing was attached to just being hungry and thirsty for righteousness/justice (same root word in Hebrew). Have you ever wondered how Jesus did all nights of prayer and kept on his healing/deliverance/evangelism/justice ministry all the next day? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you weary? Need sustenance? Pray. Honestly. Pray. Regularly. Pray. Aggressively. You’ll find the blessing is yours. The secret is out.


Presence of God. (Sabbath rest is not about watching more TV). The Sabbath is all the rage these days. It’s been a fascinating ‘new’ discovery for a generation with over-developed, toxically busy lives. The trouble is that we work the Sabbath into our own lives instead of working our lives into the Sabbath. Let me explain. The Sabbath is about intentional time to honour God with our attention, devotion, time and energy. It’s about coming as family, community, and ourselves, before our maker – as we are. It’s about leaving the watch and the phone at home and wasting time with our Creator and each other – reminding ourselves that ultimately we aren’t in charge and we weren’t born to be slaves. We are free. This all happens to me in the prayer room. I shut off my phone (most times with the odd exception). I lock the door – I put on some worship music – really loud and dance, lie down or roll around if I want to. I write, laugh, read – poems, sometimes I even try my hand at some art (which I would never do otherwise). I waste my time (much needed time it seems to me) with God. And I remind myself that I’m not in charge. I’m not a slave. I’m free. This kind of Sabbath to the person who hasn’t been part of a prayer room would seem like ‘work’. But for real rest, a deep breath of God’s life into my very being – well, let’s just say, it’s way better than a movie.











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