A wise friend once told me that the best time to take a vacation is when you feel least able to do so. I believe the same may be true concerning prayer and worship. If I have learned anything from working at CBE, it is that prayer is the source from which abundant ministry flows. Here are a few examples from the ministry of CBE.
Bags of bread
During our yearly staff prayer retreat, staff members are given a time of solitude to reflect on their particular area of ministry. As I was sitting outside on a crisp autumn day, reflecting on my work as CBE president, I found myself begging God to solve our technical limitations. I told God that if we were to grow, someone would need to send us funds for a new database.
My talk with God was cut short as a woman emerged from the door to the kitchen a few feet from where I was sitting. In each hand she held overstuffed black plastic bags. She seemed eager to give me her black bags.
Walking directly up to me she asked, “Do you want these bags of bread?”
“Sure,” I said.
But what I really wanted to say was.… “What we need is a database!”
As I walked back to our prayer room holding the two bags of bread, I began to wonder if there might be another level of meaning in this experience. Were the bags of bread symbolic of God’s daily provision not only of food, but also the needed equipment to run CBE—a new database?
Several weeks later the funds we needed for a new database arrived! What is even more exciting is that a CBE member and I had been praying for several years for a specific sum of money that would provide for our technical needs. My prayer partner insisted we ask God for this daring sum with a holy boldness! After years of prayer the exact sum arrived and CBE was able to purchase the best nonprofit database available. In answer to our prayers, God moved the hearts of those who sent the funds.
A discouraging diagnosis
Worship and prayer has also opened opportunities for healing in the lives of CBE leaders. Here is one example.
Hours before our second marriage conference, we received a phone call from a beloved plenary speaker and board member, John Kohlenberger. He was having trouble speaking on the phone. John said, “Mimi, I can’t participate in the conference tomorrow. I was just diagnosed with cancer and the treatments begin immediately.”
The news was so shocking and also discouraging! With his diagnosis of fourth-stage cancer, we wondered how we might begin to pray. But pray we did! We organized a weekly schedule of fasting and prayer and CBE board members prayed over John and anointed him with oil.
John’s doctors were equally aggressive. He was selected to enter several clinical trials, the results of which have been astonishing. Thus far his cancer has remained in remission, reminding us of the Scripture that exhorts us to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).
A missing box of Bibles
Let me share with you one more example of joy in answered prayer.
Several years ago, we returned home from a successful international conference with all of our equipment, books, and resources—everything except our NIVI Bibles. The shipment of these expensive Bibles never made it back to our office. We took every step possible to recover the Bibles. Yet, they seemed hopelessly lost.
We finally decided to pound the doors of heaven in prayer! Together as a staff we asked God to release the Bibles, to bind every foe blocking their return. We poured out our hearts in prayer.
A few hours later we received a phone call from a karate school in a neighboring city. The woman on the phone said she had had our boxes in her office for months. She said, “I decided today I must get them back to their owner. Will you come and pick them up please?”
Prayer and reform
Prayer has become such a part of the ministry regular rhythm at CBE, that our staff and volunteers report it as the highlight of their experience here. Not only is the fellowship of staff prayer inspiring, we also resolve many problems this way!
Convinced that we need a million prayers more than we need a million dollars, we decided to incorporate prayer and worship more intentionally in our annual board meetings. This autumn, our board of directors arrived one day early in order to spend half a day in prayer and worship with CBE staff and volunteers. We prayed for every aspect of our ministry and for each CBE staff member and volunteer. We sang songs from Taizé and John Kohlenberger flew out from Washington to lead us in worship. Kevin Giles was in town and led us in communion, while Sally Harrison anointed and prayed for those seeking a special touch from God. We all sensed God’s joy and presence and the experience was so powerful we plan to continue this practice in the future.
Prayer is also part of work of our larger membership. CBE members have banded together in prayer for years, seeking God’s reforming power in their churches, denominations, marriages, and friendships. CBE members assemble to pray online, on the phone, and as groups in their churches. By doing so, they stand in a great tradition of Christian reformers whose efforts, historically, have changed the course of human history.
Something powerful takes place when those who are called to be agents of change passionately devote themselves to prayer and worship. It’s like striking a match over logs soaked in fuel. The equipping power of prayer sharpens the God-given abilities of church reformers as God uses them to bring renewal to the church, glory to the gospel, and justice to the world.
Nearly every reform movement has begun with a careful foundation of prayer. Remember what Mary Queen of Scots once said about John Knox the Protestant reformer? She said she feared “the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” Why? Because when prayer meets God’s reforming work in the church, things change!
Prayer and revival
Prayer and worship fueled the abolitionist movement and the revivals that swept through slave communities. These revivals equipped slaves to be spiritual leaders, first in their own communities but later on the mission field, and ultimately as spokespersons for the abolition movement.
God uses the oppressed and the discouraged as troubadours of worship and justice, and their songs of lament and praise ignite spiritual and cultural reform. Perhaps because church reform is such arduous work, we meet the challenge best with the strategic tools of prayer and worship.
Imagine what might happen if every egalitarian or CBE member joined or initiated a prayer partnership with someone, even someone who may not agree with us on the issue of biblical equality. I frequently pray with my complementarian colleagues, an experience both sides appreciate. That discipline has opened new venues for dialogue, understanding, respect and fruitful partnerships.
What if you began praying with one other person from your church or on the phone? You might begin by praying for one another’s needs, and by asking God to open the minds and hearts of leaders and people in the pews of your church and denomination.
You might also pray for the needs of CBE. Some CBE members and friends remember the 28th day of each month as a day to pray specifically for CBE’s work. Just like Paul in Colossians 4:2, join God’s reforming work through prayer and worship as together we “devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message”—a message the world longs to hear.