July 8, 2014

The Issue With Prayerline

By Brittany Tedesco

I spent last week in San Antonio, Texas, sweltering in the sun yet enjoying precious moments with my family whom I rarely get to see. I got to experience a few days in the life of my sister, a stay-at-home mom with two little ones. I´ve always appreciated stay-at-home moms. My mom was one of them. It´s an important, but mostly thankless and exhausting, job full of breaking up fights, coordinating activities, making meals that are picked apart and complained about, and answering questions... lots and lots of questions.

My niece climbed into my lap to ask me what the word “important” means. Without pausing to think I began “Well Sweetie, the word ‘important’ means something that´s very impor—” I faltered, trying to think of a word she would understand. “Necessary”? No. “Essential”? No.

After returning to Virginia, I told my husband how I struggled to explain the word “important” to a 4-year-old. He suggested I could´ve given her examples of things that are important. A few things immediately popped into my mind: eating, sleeping, studying... prayer.

A few years ago, prayer probably wouldn´t have ranked very high in my “things that are important” list. In all honesty, I saw it as a last resort. Something you do when you´ve exhausted all other possibilities.

Here at Christian Aid Mission, we send out a monthly prayer guide called Prayerline. For every calendar day, we include a prayer request from an indigenous ministry we assist. These prayer requests have dollar amounts attached to them. And every now and then, this becomes the focus of a staff discussion.

Should we include dollar amounts in a publication called PRAYERline? Is the word “prayer” just a thinly veiled attempt to get people to give money? Maybe it should be called Moneyline. Wouldn´t that be more honest?

“Maybe it would be” I would´ve answered a few years ago. We´re not a prayer ministry, we´re a fundraising ministry. We equip native missionaries with the tools they need to spread the gospel. Real, tangible help.

I´m chuckling now. “Real, tangible help”? As though prayer is nothing. As though our money is everything and prayer isn´t 90% (or more) of what´s really needed.

While in San Antonio I visited my sister´s church. The pastor, while teaching on Jesus feeding the multitudes (a group of 5,000 and another group of 4,000), asked a question: “who fed those people?”

If you'd answered "Jesus," you would´ve been wrong. Correct answer? The disciples.

“You give them something to eat!” Jesus says to them (Mark 6:37). The disciples balk. “Really? We´re supposed to just magically come up with the resources to feed them?” they said (paraphrased by me).

This is sort of the way we feel sometimes here at Christian Aid. We throw a need out there. Sometimes the need is as big as 5,000 people needing to be fed somewhere in the world. “You give them something to eat!” we say to our supporters... and then we wonder if we´re placing a burden on them. The needs are endless. Do we endlessly ask for money? We don't want to overwhelm anyone.

Back to the story, which I´m sure you know well. With some persuading from Jesus, the disciples hand Him the raw material: a small lunch of five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes it. He PRAYS over it and the food keeps miraculously multiplying.

But the disciples´ work doesn´t end there. They take the food from Jesus and distribute it. They feed those people.

I´m sure my analogy is obvious. God could meet all of the needs in Prayerline and then some... but He chooses to use us: our “small lunches,” yes, but most importantly, our prayers. It´s prayer that opens the door to the miraculous.

As the pastor summarized it, “Prayerlessness leads to powerlessness, which leads to unbelief.” To drive home the point, he sliced a loaf of bread into about 20 small pieces, poured the pieces into a basket and passed it down the aisle, telling the congregation of several hundred to “eat and be filled.”

We´ll delude ourselves if we think we can meet all of the needs in Prayerline each month by human effort alone. Sure, we can compile needs, print, and distribute Prayerline every month. We can gather in the donations and distribute them to the ministries overseas... but without real, actual prayer, we´ll look like the pastor trying to fill hundreds of bellies with one loaf of bread.

Prayer is important. It´s not a last resort and it´s not just a nice sentiment. It moves the heart of God and it´s what makes Prayerline work.

We need your prayers.

Tommie - posted July 14, 2014
Amen and Amen! As I read this I am preparing to enter support raising as I begin full-time ministry for the first time in my life. Sometimes I feel as I do this it is just a "thinly veiled attempt to get people to give money". Money is part of it, but it is so much more as you so aptly pointed out! Prayer is the currency of the Kingdom. The support raising training that I am working through stresses that giving others an opportunity to participate in a ministry, by prayer or giving is a ministry in itself, allowing others to contribute to Kingdom work where they might not otherwise be able to. Thanks for all you do at Christian Aid Mission!