He was from Nigeria, but I met him in Hungary. I was teaching for five days, and he was one of fifty international students studying the Bible in an old communist castle. Over lunch one day, he asked me the question: “Is it right for me to marry an American woman, and expect her to return with me to Nigeria?” I countered, “Why not?” After all the man was tall, handsome, articulate, loved God, and loved his people enough to return to them upon concluding his Biblical studies. His eyes met mine, and he spoke again, “Because it would be a hard life for her there.” He paused. “Sometimes we might go 4-5 days without food. There is nothing available.”
It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. When you first begin to travel outside of the United States, you meet poverty of a different kind. In many places it isn’t just the poor that don’t have food, it’s often everyone.
I spent 10 days teaching an apologetics course at a seminary right outside of Kiev, Ukraine. The pastors traveled 6-8 hours for these courses. They gathered once a month to complete their master degrees. But these men were not only hungry spiritually, they were also hungry physically. One of the pastors shared that while he enjoyed the classes, he really enjoyed the lunches. It was the most food he would have the entire month. I looked down at my bowl of soup, and wondered if I had ever really been hungry.
I had a similar wake-up call in Haiti in the fall of 2010. Following the earthquake a group of us were on a house-building mission. We completed two small block homes that were 10 feet by 20 feet. The average two car garage is twice that size. When I was praying with Jeordan, a single mother of six, she commented, “My friends say my house is a gift from God…after the earthquake I never thought I’d live inside again.”
There’s a good chance that you have never had to go five days without food, because there was none in the village. Though you might have wondered where the next house payment was coming from, you probably never considered the possibility of sleeping outside the rest of your earthly life.
Jesus reminds us that we should ask the Father for our daily bread (Matt. 6:11). Such a request adds a sense of dependence to our prayer. We don’t assume we will eat because there are leftovers in the fridge. We ask God to provide what we need that day.
What if this was our attitude of prayer in all things? What if, when we prayed, we had this 24-hour sense of urgency to our prayers.
What if we prayed that way for our kids? Truly believing that unless God intervened, they would not grow up to serve him.
What if we prayed that way for our church? Acknowledging our deep dependence on the Lord for the work of His Holy Spirit in our midst.
What if we prayed that way for ourselves? Fully realizing that without God we could accomplish nothing.
What if the purpose of prayer is that we might develop a dependence on the Lord, and grow in that daily?