Once upon a time, I lived in Oklahoma.
It’s the first line to a lot of great stories, but this story is about prayer.
I had previously been under the assumption that prayers happened mostly by the bedside, that folded arms were required, and that it didn’t work if you don’t say “Thee” and “Thou.” But I prayed a lot of prayers with Oklahoman Christians, and they broke all of the rules.
And do you know what? Their prayers were powerful and efficacious.
Here’s a sample:
We knocked at the front door of a cookie-cutter home in a suburban neighborhood of Oklahoma City. I was there with my mission companion. Our goal was to teach people about Jesus, but since most folks already knew Him, we spent a lot of time knocking on doors and offering prayers.
At this particular door, a man opened the door just a crack and asked what we were about. We asked if we could pray with him—as in, we’ll say a prayer for you. At this, the man threw the door wide open, threw his arms over our shoulders, and uttered a wide-open eye prayer for us. It went something like this:
(insert conviction, sincerity, and a mild mid-state drawl) : “Oh Lord, these girls are trying to do your work. Please, give them a divine appointment! Bless them with power, and love. In the name of Jesus, amen.”
I was taken aback by everything: the embrace, the open eyes, the unrehearsed words. But more surprising were the love, the sincerity, and the spirit. It was a straight-forward petition, and as far as I could tell, the only rule was divine connection.
My prayers have improved since Oklahoma, many thanks to the dozens who prayed with me and for me.
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Prayers are personal, but I’d like to share some of the prayerful petitions that I have seen answered in my life. Maybe these are some things that you could talk to God about, too.
On days when I’m full of self-doubt (when my toddler repeatedly whines that I’m doing it wrong and there is no evidence to contest her claims): “What am I doing right? Please tell me that I’m okay in your book.”
On days when I feel overwhelmed by tasks: “What can I NOT do today? Please show me what doesn’t matter so I can blot it off of my day planner, either for today or for forever.”
At times when I feel inspired by beautiful dreams but unsure of how to make them happen: “Please bless me with a mentor, someone who’s already walked this road. Someone who can introduce me to the words and ideas and people that I need to know.”
At times when I feel lonely: “Please bless me with a friend.” (He has answered this in EVERY place I’ve ever lived. Chances are good if you are reading this that you were an answer to this prayer)
At times when I need counsel: “Please help me know who I can trust with this burden—someone who will respond with sympathy and wisdom. Someone who will help me feel understood and loved rather than judged.”
When I feel distant from my spouse: “What can I do to help Andy feel love and acceptance today? Please help me to speak love in a language that he will understand.”
And every day: “Who needs me today?” This last petition used to frighten me because I worried that God would inspire grand, elaborate service projects. Usually, though, He brings a few names to mind—people to text or call. And in reaching out to them, I am always blessed.
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“Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses ” … “There is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know.”–President Russell Nelson
ps. Speaking of prayer, I love the words and music that David Archuleta prayed in 2018.