Every church has them. They’re the people who devote their energies to the humble and vital work of petitioning the Lord. They would never call themselves “prayer warriors”, but they faithfully attend prayer meetings and remember the names of the babies at church when they ask God to watch over them. Who better to ask about prayer?
We spoke to six Christians who are faithful and fervent in their prayer lives to see what lessons we could learn.
Frank and Robyn Hawkes - Springwood-Winmalee
Former missionaries Frank and Robyn Hawkes are convinced prayer is powerful and necessary. “Our work wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the solid core of people praying for us,” Mrs Hawkes says. “That’s what moves us to pray, because we know it is so essential.”
She recalls working in Papua New Guinea with a local man on the translation of the New Testament when a problem struck his family. With the whole project potentially about to crumble, the Hawkes’ received a support letter from Australia. “The letter said, ‘I felt God prompting me to pray about a problem up there, and I prayed for it,’ and it was at the very time this problem had come up,” Mrs Hawkes says.
"I felt God prompting me to pray"
The project was able to continue, so they wrote back and thanked this supporter for his prayers. What he said in his reply shocked them. “He wrote back and said, ‘I was about to give up on the faith when I got your letter about how God answered my prayer!’”
Since suffering a stroke some years ago, Mr Hawkes has found it difficult to read his Bible at times, but has found great joy in prayer. “Sometimes I would lie on my bed because I wasn't doing too well; God just seemed to say, ‘Talk to me!’ I felt this freedom to go through all sorts of things and pray about them. God gave me this in a tough time. Prayer is a blessing to me.”
Adds Mrs Hawkes: “Frank’s found a real ministry in contacting people in ministry and asking them what he can pray for them. Sometimes people in their 80s say ‘Well, I can’t be active. I can’t do what I used to do, all I can do is pray’, as if prayer is second rate. If only people realised what a wonderful ministry praying for everyone was. It’s not just what you do when you can’t do anything else.”
Gordon and Jean Robinson - Gymea
The example of godly parents has had a great impact on the prayer lives of Gordon and Jean Robinson. As a child, Mr Robinson observed his father kneeling in prayer every morning before leaving for work.
For the past 20 years the Robinsons have also begun each day in prayer, praying for mission organisations, friends, family and world issues. “We finish our prayer time with a chapter from God’s word,” Mr Robinson says. In the evenings, they focus on praying for the persecuted church.
Adds Mrs Robinson: “Prayer means a great deal to us, because we are doing as our heavenly Father has asked us to do. It is a privilege, brings great comfort, peace, hope and encouragement knowing that ‘our times are in His hands’.”
The Robinsons also regularly attend prayer meetings when they happen. They diligently show up at their church’s prayer nights each term, and have been members of a monthly prayer group for South America that has been going for more than 50 years.
Their motivation to keep going? Mr Robinson explains: “It’s good to talk to God about all things… he understands and he answers prayer, so we should pray! There have been times when family and missionary friends have expressed appreciation because of the peace and assurance they have experienced knowing that we, and others, have been praying for them.”
Wendy Philpott - Narellan
Prayer is all about learning to depend on the Lord. A variety of health issues have helped Miss Philpott to rethink the way she uses her time for the Lord.
“For a long time I was a very bad sleeper because of pain,” she says. “Orthopedic pain can keep you awake. A Christian mentor said to me. ‘Why don’t you use that time for God somehow? Use it for prayer.’ So I do now, and not just in the middle of the night either.”
Often being low on energy, Miss Philpott finds it hard to show hospitality or cook meals for people. Instead, she has taken it upon herself to be the person who prays for others.
Even as she drives to work daily, her time in the car is used for prayer. “One of my key Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9, where he says, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness’. It’s not [in] my strength that I do things, but in his. I come with nothing; many days I come with nothing with my health at different points, but God can still use me as his vessel in different ways.”
"God can still use me as his vessel"
Depending on God also involves watching and celebrating his work in answered prayer. Miss Philpott longs for people to not only regularly share how they can pray for one another, but also to share what becomes of those prayers. “I love it when my friends get back in contact with me and tell me how God answered that prayer. It’s so nice to be able to send out praise points and praise God for answered prayers. I don’t think we talk enough about that.”
Kristy Stalder - Gymea
Prayer expresses the relationship Mrs Kristy Stalder has with her heavenly Father. “I’ll talk with God about what is going on in life, like you would in the closest of relationships,” she says. “Prayer gives me intimacy with God. It changes my perspective, and lifts my eyes up upon Jesus. It changes my demeanour as he gives me peace and joy when I may have been sad or stressed, in handing everything over to the Lord.”
Her passion for prayer comes from the joy she experiences when speaking with God, and from seeing God work through her prayers. She recalls one evening feeling led to pray and reach out to an old acquaintance she hadn’t contacted in years. “They replied instantly saying they were in Emergency in a lot of pain. It was a moment where God showed his incredible love for that person, and they felt loved and upheld by prayer. I felt privileged that God would invite me to do so.”
The prayers of the Psalms have helped Mrs Stalder approach God confidently, ready to pour her heart out to him. “If David can talk with God like that, then so can I as his child,” she says. “I also noticed as my Dad and my Nanna prayed, they each had their own special relationship with God. Their prayers were personal to each of them, and they didn’t sound different speaking with God as they did with me. They were themselves when they prayed.
“The Lord already knows what is going on in our hearts and in the world, but he wants us to tell him about it. It’s a beautiful invitation to be near, and to be part of what he is doing. Talk to him like you would a loved one. Be honest and vulnerable. He is kind and loving and gentle. And he can handle whatever it is you feel, or are burdened by, and he cares about it all.”