Our church had organised a trip to deliver food and clothing to some of the poorest communities in Fiji, but our primary mandate was to pray. Pray for the sick, pray for the lost, pray for the broken. None of us in the group had much experience in praying for these things, but we were all willing for God to stretch us, push us past comfortable faith into dynamic, life-affecting action.
God had used my prayers in the past, but never to the extent that I was hoping to see on this trip. Yes, I was challenging God, daring Him to show up, but I was also challenging myself to put more faith into what I believe. To truly put myself out there, risk myself for God and His glory.
Everyone wants prayer in Fiji
The first thing I discovered about prayer in Fiji, is that everyone wants it. Everyone we spoke with desperately wanted us to pray to Jesus on their behalf, whether Christian or not. Factory workers, shopkeepers, children in the slums, villagers and hospital patients, Hindus and Muslims.
And so we prayed; prayed for their relationships, their children, their work and their health. We earnestly prayed, not only believing for miracles, but also becoming acutely aware of God's presence in every situation as we did so, giving us confidence to ask God even more boldly to impart His grace to these people.
I had never prayed like I was praying in Fiji. I had never taken the risks to put myself, my faith and my God on the line like I was there. God was meeting us, on the water so to speak, way out of our depth and out of our comfort zones. He was so faithful to Himself and His word, and to us as we stepped out.
We began to see amazing miracles of healing: the lame walking, the mute talking, hands with severed tendons moving, pain leaving peoples' bodies. We saw a number of people come to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and be smothered (some call it baptised) in the Holy Spirit. But the thing that astounded me the most was the way that God uses prayer to bring people together.
In praying with and for people, I found that I had become connected with them in a very deep and caring way. People that I had not known five minutes earlier had suddenly become lasting and very real friends. Amongst our team, unbreakable bonds were formed through the times we spent in prayer for each other. God drawing us closer to each other as we collectively drew closer to Him.
God truly is a God of Relationship. He Himself is relationship, each person of the Trinity relating to the others in a beautiful harmony of love, honour and faithfulness. He desires just as much for us in relating to Him and to each other. God wants for us to experience that harmony in our own lives and paid with the blood of His son Jesus so that we could.
Thirteen Aussie blokes in a foreign land began to experience that harmony in a small village in the jungle, miles from anywhere. As we all prayed in our own way for the plight of a little child with a disability, something happened. Our prayers were all being made at the same time, but there was no chaos in the noise.
Instead it was almost a melody, a song of prayer, each person adding to it in their own way. Looking around the room, I could see heaven on so many faces as each one of us was carried into the throne room of God's presence. I have rarely experienced such unity, praise and love. It was a truly beautiful moment, one I'll never forget.
My return to Australia has had me thinking a lot. I have tried to put myself out there again in much the same way here, but people just aren't as open to prayer here.
Contrasted with the Fijian people, who readily asked for prayer for even the smallest issues in their lives, I wonder if we in the West tend to rely on God only when we are in dire need. I know that until recently, I had totally underestimated the effect of prayer in bringing people closer together and bringing heaven that much closer to earth and instead primarily used prayer to bring my needs to God.
Knowing now that through prayer, the "...God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans Chapter 15 Verses 5-6).
I'm not going to wait for things to get tough before I ask someone to pray with me.
Russell Croft is the husband of regular young writer Belinda. Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is currently living by faith with his family in Melbourne, Australia.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html