The mysterious, yet working, ways of prayer

When my children were little we played a game called, “I Spy!” I'd say to them, usually in the car to promote interesting conversation and create a teachable moment, “I spy with my little eyes God....” I hoped to plant seeds of recognition as they processed the experiences of the day and heighten their awareness that God works all around them.

This week I've played “I Spy!” and it's been all about prayer. On Sunday evening I had the privilege of hearing Tony Campolo speak in Bellingham. Campolo is professor emeritus at Eastern University and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that develops schools and social programs in various third world countries and in cities across North America. Of the many challenges he made to the audience, all intertwining social consciousness, Christian servanthood and the current financial crisis that faces our nation (and therefore the world), he mentioned his regular habit of praying first thing each morning for 20 minutes before his feet hit the floor. His comments came in response to a young social worker who spoke of his own exhaustion and asked how Campolo continues to write, speak around the world, and instruct at a university level at age 74.

Prayer, he said.

Tuesday I switched my XM radio to Dr. Mehmet Oz's daily program and I heard Christiane Northrup, well-known gynecologist and author of the best-selling book, "The Wisdom of Menopause," say something extremely surprising: research shows that hot flashes are significantly reduced in 90 percent of menopausal women who pray and meditate daily.

Prayer, she said.

My third “A-ha!” moment came as I shared a cup of coffee and an hour of fascinating conversation with my friend Marsha Kallander. She is director of the Heavenly Hearts, a prayer partner ministry. It was begun almost 20 years ago when the Navy sent her, her husband and their daughters to Hawaii. Moving away from her network of established friends and longing to create strong connections with the women she was meeting at their new duty station, she talks today about the ministry idea God gave her, there among the coconut trees, sunny skies and aqua surf.

Marsha is what we'd call a prayer warrior. Praying is her gift. And the wonderful part of her story is that God inspired her with a ministry idea that has withstood the test of time and positively influenced the lives of hundreds of women throughout our country. The ministry has guided women to a deeper relationship with God and each other.

If you desire to have a friend who will really listen, care and pray with you regularly, a Heavenly Hearts prayer partner is for you. The elements of the ministry are simple and life-changing.

For one hour each week, two women meet and work through a simple plan.They begin their time together by each reporting two praises. These can include an answered prayer, something each is thankful for, a highlight of the week, a source of joy, and a situation each experienced that is worthy of praise.

Next, each woman shares two prayer requests. These can include any situation each hopes to surround with prayer. Prayers for family members, coworkers, neighbors or friends are all encouraged.

Next, the women are asked to assign themselves two areas of accountability during the coming week. For example, they may set goals to make time for a daily Bible study, write a friend, complete a project, or exercise. The next time they meet each will report how well she met her goals.

Finally, the prayer partners conclude their time together by switching lists and praying for each other's praises, requests and accountability needs.

So how does this begin? Kallander says you will want to start by asking God to bring a woman's name to mind. The two of you can then talk about being partners and decide on a time to meet. There are two important goals to establish at this moment:: that you will meet for one hour each week and plan to pray together for a year. Partners will also agree from the beginning that their time together will be consistent, completely confidential and always caring.

The Heavenly Hearts prayer partner ministry has a website and I encourage you to visit www.heavenly-hearts.com. Guideline materials can be downloaded and contact information is included should you have questions for Marsha Kallander.

Saint Teresa of Avila is reported to have said that “Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” Those who pray regularly say its positive affects reach far and wide.

Let's become a people who pray.

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to faithfulliving@hotmail.com.

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