I remember those prayer-filled moments in Latin America as if they happened last week. I was only 14 at the time, on a short-term mission trip with Teen Mania in Venezuela. If we saw an ambulance go by, we would stop to intercede. When one of us was sick, we prayed. At a new ministry site we would pray, go out to invite people to come see our drama, and then pray them into the kingdom. Every moment was fueled with prayer.
How can we capture that kind of fervor for ordinary days?
During our pastor's sabbatical, he has invited us to read Mark Batterson's, Draw The Circle with him. Forty brief chapters, spread over forty days, invite readers to pray, and in so doing to draw circles around areas of life they want to see transformed by God.
I'm drawing circles around my students, my neighbors, family members, unbelieving friends, my dreams, and yes, my dissertation. It's amazing to watch God answer. Did he change the course of history because of my prayers? Or did my prayers simply wake me up so that I could watch him at work? Or is it some of both?
Batterson says that praying makes us "first-class noticers," people who "see things no one else sees" (67). "Prayer," he says, "is the key to perception" (70).
And so I pray for a student who has been absent from class. That prayer prompts me to write them an email. I continue to pray, and they respond, asking if we can talk. Their struggle fuels more prayer (and along with it the sense that we are in this together). Meanwhile, I begin to pray for another student who appears burdened, drawing a circle around that name and asking God to intervene on their behalf. And then I watch and wait. I don't want to miss God's answer!