There are times God reminds me that I take for granted the blessings and advantages my culture provides me. Recently, as the presiding clerk of United Society of Friends Women International (USFWI), I had the privilege of being involved in a life changing event — a prayer meeting.
Now, when I speak of a prayer meeting, I am not speaking of a normal half hour to hour listing of prayers by a few people in a temperature controlled building. No! I am speaking of a six hour prayer meeting with at least 3,500 women in Africa on a soccer field where there is little shade.
This prayer meeting happened in March 2012 while visiting the USFW-Kenya Triennial. As I had arrived I saw four large tents set up and a place saved for us in the shelter. Women were already in all the seats and were beginning to sit on the grass. As I looked around I saw at least nine busses and many vans and cars. I was amazed as traveling by road is very, very difficult in this area.
Dorothy Selebwa (USFW-K Presiding Clerk) explained the origin of the prayer gatherings. She stated these gatherings began with only a few women taking the time to pray as East Africa Yearly Meeting began to separate. The process of separation caused a great deal of disharmony, disunity and grumblings. Thus in 1991, seven women decided to meet and pray for unity and peace. Meeting in homes, the seven became nine; then, 10; then, 13; and now thousands who are dedicated to continue to pray for the yearly meeting.
One day, the meeting began as 10 women came forward with prayers of gratitude — a powerful witness to the providence of a loving God and the power of prayer. One woman spoke of how her marriage was restored after she and her husband were separated for eight years. Another had her home broken into and the thugs were there for three hours, but she and her family were unharmed. Another was cured of diabetes. The stories were varied, but all gave glory to God and the persistence of prayer.
After thanksgiving, intercession began for various leaders, people, and conditions within the lives of those gathered. Prayers were offered against sickness, poverty, marriage conflicts, and land issues. Prayers were offered for single parents and for those who are grieving the death of family members. Between prayers, choruses were sung.
Then, baskets were passed for people to place their praises. Again, there was a period of gratefulness. One woman came forward to pray and thank God for all the good things he has done. She prayed a very long prayer in her mother tongue. All through the crowd I could hear whispers of, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” As the prayer continued many broke into clapping as an expression of their praise.
I realized as I sat and listened to all of these women, of the contradiction of the amount of reliance of trust and assurance our cultures demonstrate. Those who have so little, realize they must rely on God and are truly grateful. While those of us who have so much, give little praise to the One who cares for us. Their grateful, dedicated trust highlighted my own shortcomings. Can I be as dedicated to prayer as these women?
All came to this meeting with the expectation of answered prayer. These women see answers daily from their prayers. For them, prayers spoken are the beginning of the process of trust and answers are the ending effects of their diligence. These women see prayer as instrumental in change. There is no question each of these women wants to be a part of transformation; and, therefore are willing to gather for six hours, pray and be instruments that God uses to create change.
Yes, sometimes I am convicted of how much I am a product of my culture of advantage and plenty. I see many times that I take for granted the many blessings and advantages of my life. My journey in Kenya was a time when God reminded me that He wants to participate and rejoice in all our lives. I pray I will be more faithful to the times of prayer. It means so much.
Pat is a member of Sycamore Friends Meeting, Indiana Yearly Meeting. She is also the President/Presiding Clerk of United Society of Women International.