Relational Prayer: Talking With God as His Friend

Relational Prayer: Talking With God as His Friend
praying

We prayed long, desperate, tearful prayers. We pleaded in faith, knowing God could heal her. But cancer was still wrecking my mom’s body and we knew it wouldn’t be long.

She couldn’t open her eyes, but found the strength to reach for my hand as I stood by her bed. Shifting the baby on my hip, I leaned forward to hear her whispered words: “Don’t be angry at God. I’m trusting in the healer, not the healing.”

My mom knew we’d struggle with God’s choice to allow her life to end much earlier than we thought it should. 
My parents were missionaries and had built relationships all over the world. Hundreds of people begged for her healing in dozens of languages.

But all of those prayers didn’t seem to make a difference, so I wondered if God was even paying attention.

After my mother’s death, I wrestled with her words until they gradually revealed to me a major gap in my understanding of the purpose of prayer. Until then I didn’t realize that I viewed prayer as transactional. Focusing on my own desires, I submitted my requests to God and expected that he would either fulfill or deny them. But in that season, I began to learn that prayer isn’t about transactions between us and God; it’s about our relationship with him.

Prayer As a Transaction

Scripture teaches that God is powerful, able to control the physical world and perform astonishing miracles like making a dry path through the sea (Exodus 14:21) and restoring life to the dead (John 11:43-44). And he wants us to ask for what we need: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6, NLT).

God has unlimited resources; it’s easy to want him to be simply our kind benefactor, giving us what we desire. A wealthy woman once confessed to me that she wasn’t sure she had any real friends: “I never really know why people agree to go out to dinner with me. I think they come just because they know I’ll pay.” What a difficult way to live, surrounded by people who seem to care mostly about what they can gain! This woman’s “friends” entirely missed the greater treasure of knowing her heart.

But how often do we approach God like this, so focused on our own desires that we miss his heart?

When we treat prayer like a transaction — an exchange of our pious words for his services — we can justify our anger at him if he doesn’t seem to follow through on his end of the bargain. We become convinced that he doesn’t hear us or care. And if we do that, we miss out on the greater treasure he’s offering: his friendship.

Prayer As Friendship

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about prayer is that it needs to be done a certain way, following a formula with just the right religious words. I’ve heard people say they don’t know how to pray, as if they can somehow mess it up.

But Scripture presents a much less rigid picture of prayer — one that looks like conversation: Moses argued with God about going back to Egypt (Exodus 3:11-14), Elijah complained to him about feeling alone (1 Kings 19:10) and Mary responded to God with a spontaneous, heartfelt song (Luke 1:46).

David’s prayers weren’t rigid or formulaic either; they were entirely conversational. He bluntly asked God: “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?” (Psalm 2:1, NLT). He pleaded with God too, saying: “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow” (Psalm 5:8, NLT). And he rejoiced before God too: “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6, NLT).

Over the course of a few chapters, David went from expressing frustration with the world to pleading for personal help to talking about God’s faithful love. But one of David’s most profound prayers is striking in its simplicity: “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8, NLT).

relational prayer

This is an uncomplicated statement born out of an intimate friendship: “You want to talk with me, and I want to talk with you.”

No pious words were necessary because God knew David, and David knew God. Their relationship was the foundation for the prayers David prayed — even angry ones when he felt ignored: “O Lord, you know all about this. Do not stay silent. Do not abandon me now, O Lord” (Psalm 35:22, NLT).

David felt strong emotions and freely expressed every one of them before God, unafraid of losing his heavenly Friend’s love. And as he vulnerably opened his heart to God, David also experienced the depths of God’s own tender, faithful heart.

When we see prayer as relational rather than transactional, we can reach past our changing circumstances and anchor ourselves to God’s unchanging character. Instead of trying to manipulate God with our prayers, we can talk with him in the same unvarnished way we’d talk with our closest friends, knowing we don’t have to pretend or perform to gain his attention.

He hears us, he cares and he’s big enough to handle even our ugliest attempts at communication. There are times I’ve prayed pretty prayers and meant every word, but there are also more times than I can count that I’ve called God a jerk and thrown a toddler tantrum, complete with hiccups and snot.

And when I’m done, he’s still there. Because prayer is about building a relationship with God rather than getting what we want, he welcomes all of our feelings, thoughts and doubts. In return, he offers us his steady, loving presence. The more I’ve invited God into my unfiltered mess, the more I’ve become aware of his faithful companionship in every hard and beautiful season. I know now that as I spend unguarded time with him, my restless emotions and questions will find stillness in this simple truth: He is with me, and I can trust him.

God wants us to come to him and lay everything — our dreams, desires, struggles, anger, temptation, fear, confusion and heartache — at his feet, not just so we’ll feel known by him but so we’ll learn his heart and develop the deepest, most faithful friendship we’ve ever known.

Your Turn to Talk With God

As you consider prayer as a tool for building a friendship with God rather than just getting something from him, ask yourself these questions and then talk honestly with God about your answers:

  • When and why do I pray?

  • What do I need to talk with God about in an unguarded and open way?

  • What would it look like to for me to pray with the goal of intimately knowing God’s heart?

Pray for the Nyungwe as They Print Their New Testament!

Pray for the Nyungwe as They Print Their New Testament!
Nyungwe man reading the Scriptures

The first words of Scripture were translated into the Nyungwe language of Mozambique more than 100 years ago. After all those years, the full Nyungwe New Testament is complete and ready to print!

Lift up the Nyungwe to the Lord

As translation work approaches the final stages in the process, prayer is critical. Challenges often arise and spiritual opposition can be present. Join us in lifting up these specific prayer requests for the Nyungwe people to the Lord as they prepare to print their Scripture:

  • Pray for the finalization of the text. Ask God to grant accuracy to the typesetters who are often working in a language they don’t understand.
  • Ask for God’s favor in the printing process, that he’ll provide the resources needed to publish and will guard the delivery of finished products.
  • Pray that the New Testament dedication will be an unforgettable day for the Nyungwe people. Local churches are already working with the Nyungwe translation team to plan this special, decade‑in‑the‑making celebration.
  • Pray for the distribution and use of the translated Scripture and its transformational power among the 420,000 Nyungwe speakers. Without God’s Word in a language they clearly understand, many Nyungwe people followed traditional religious practices. They lived in fearful bondage to the spirit world, trusting in charms and magic to protect them. Sadly when those failed, some Nyungwe turned to alcohol. That led to infidelity, domestic violence and family neglect. Having access to Scripture and a clear understanding of salvation will enable the Nyungwe people to walk in hope instead of fear.
  • Lift up the Nyungwe churches as they consider initiating and implementing an Old Testament translation project. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring cooperation among the churches and pray that those outside the church will support them in the best way possible.

Prayer is such a crucial part of Bible translation and a great way to partner with people around the world. As you continue to lift up the Nyungwe, rest in the truth of 1 John 5:14:

Let’s Go on a Safari — Right From Home!

Let’s Go on a Safari — Right From Home!
Mack peeking at some safari animals

When you think of Africa, some of the first things that might come to mind are the beautiful and unique animals that live there. There are so many amazing animals found across the continent (which is HUGE and has 56 different countries, too!). If you ever want to marvel at God’s beautiful creation, just spend some time learning more about the many animals found in Africa.

In this activity, kids can make 3D cutouts of three popular African animals — elephants, giraffes and rhinos. It’s a fun summer craft that will keep them busy for a while as they color, cut out and assemble these 3D animals.

Show Up: A Call to Engagement

Show Up: A Call to Engagement
show up

A few years ago we moved back to the U.S. from a difficult term overseas. I was running on empty, emotionally depleted and more tired than I thought a person could be. My daughter started attending a small Christian academy that required all parents to serve in some volunteer capacity, but I was too overwhelmed to choose which service team to join, so I told an administrator to put me wherever she wanted. A few days later she sent an email informing me that I was on the moms’ prayer team.

I groaned.

I’m comfortable with prayer but I knew being part of this team would require vulnerability. I can’t pray without being real, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of authenticity with a new group of women.

It’ll be okay, I told myself as I propelled my reluctant feet toward the door for our first prayer team meeting. I’d planned to introduce myself and then sit quietly in the corner, engaging as little as possible without being rude. My plan worked ... until a woman burst into the room a few minutes late, spinning in circles as she greeted people before dropping into the seat beside me, breathless and laughing.

Turning with a disarming grin, she introduced herself and whispered, “I’m so glad you’re here! I think you’ll love this group. They’re so real!”

It didn’t take long to discover that my vibrant new friend was right. Those ladies opened their lives, sharing with a vulnerability that invited my weary, wary heart out of hiding. We’ve become like sisters as we’ve prayed each other and our school through emotional peaks and valleys.

Just showing up — even when I felt I had almost nothing to offer — led me into some of the sweetest community I’ve known.

Why Should We Engage?

Choosing to engage with people or service opportunities isn’t always easy. Maybe you feel like I did: depleted and unable to offer much. Maybe you’ve been burned in the past and are afraid to open up again. Or perhaps you feel you don’t have time to invest in one more thing.

So why should we consider getting involved when it can feel so costly?

When we find excuses to avoid engaging with groups or individuals, we’re not just dodging the complications and costs of relationships but also the unique beauty they bring.

Even more important than that, though, is simply that Jesus wants us to love and serve people: “One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’” (Luke 10:25-28, NLT)

If we claim to follow Jesus, we’re supposed to love God with everything in us and love other people like we love ourselves. Investing in people is a core element of the gospel.

But it’s impossible to invest in all seven billion people on the planet or even each person in our community. We have limited time and resources, so we need to consider who and what God is asking us to engage with.

Who and What Should We Engage?

Some relationships come more easily than others. We tend to connect best with people who are in similar stages of life or have stories and values like our own. It can be tempting to invest all our time and energy in these comfortable relationships and only get involved in opportunities that directly impact us. We may even identify with the religious expert’s response to Jesus’ command to love his neighbor as himself: “The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29, NLT)

The religious expert probably expected Jesus to affirm his bias toward the Jewish community; instead, Jesus told the shocking story of a hated Samaritan rescuing a Jew who’d been attacked by bandits and left to die by his own countrymen.

The Samaritan became the unlikely hero when he showed up and responded to someone’s need in spite of the differences between them. He wasn’t searching for someone to rescue. He simply chose to serve the person he noticed in his path.

We don’t have the capacity to be involved in the lives of everyone around us or every worthy cause we learn about, but we can notice the people and opportunities God brings into our paths — both comfortable and uncomfortable. God didn’t give us permission to only serve those like us, nor has he called us to single-handedly save anyone; he just asks us to show up, be present and engage in one conversation or act of service at a time.

As we respond this invitation, what should our involvement look like?

open flower

How Should We Engage?

I once attended a symposium on modern-day slavery, which is an enormous issue in the U.S. and around the world. The statistics were overwhelming and the victims’ stories made me ache. As I focused on the magnitude of the need, my individual contribution felt pitifully small.

We all face situations that feel bigger than we can handle. Focusing on all the ways we feel unequipped to engage issues can be paralyzing, and we can even convince ourselves that we can’t make any real difference.

Jesus’ disciples felt this way too. One late afternoon, they stood in the midst of 5,000 men, plus an unrecorded number of women and children. They had all followed Jesus onto a hillside to hear him teach, but the sun started to set and the people got hungry. Only a child stepped up to meet the need, offering his meager meal for the cause. One of the disciples voiced a valid concern: “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9, NLT)

That little boy brought what he had to Jesus simply because there was a need, and Jesus didn’t minimize the boy’s gift. Instead, Jesus took the food in his hands, thanked his Father in heaven and distributed the bread and fish to the entire crowd.

The entire crowd.

But what’s even more surprising was what happened after the meal: “After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, ‘Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.’ So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves” (John 6:12-13, NLT).

God’s math isn’t the same as ours. He has a way of taking our smallest offerings and multiplying them to impact people in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

This reality allows us to confidently engage the people and causes in our paths by bringing whatever we have to the God who multiplies and trusting him to meet needs. We can hand over our meager offerings — our willingness, humble words, fumbling prayers and limited resources — and leave the results in his hands.

It’s not about what we offer to him. It’s about showing up, giving God the little bits we bring and watching him do what only he can.

Showing Up

As you think about showing up and engaging when God asks, consider these questions:

  • What keeps you from showing up?

  • What relationship or cause has God brought into your path and how is he inviting you to engage?

  • Think about a time someone really showed up for you. How has your life been impacted by that act?

God Hears a Child’s Prayers for Easter Island

God Hears a Child’s Prayers for Easter Island
Easter Island view of sunrise at the beach with ancient statues

At just five years old, Sam Anderson decided to pray for the people of Easter Island to receive God’s Word. That began an almost 45-year connection with the Rapa Nui and the people called to serve them.

Sam’s parents, John and Joy Anderson, were missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. In 1975 they were serving in Nevada and working on the Northern Paiute New Testament translation.

“As kids we were given an allowance and if we did chores around the house, we received a wage from Mom and Dad, a whopping 10 cents an hour,” Sam recalled, laughing.

5-year-old Sam Anderson

Like his siblings, 5-year-old Sam placed a tithe of his earnings in an old metal Twinings Tea box. The money would go toward supporting a Wycliffe translation project somewhere in the world.

“There was a large world map on one of walls near that box where we could stick a pin on a location indicating a [people group] we wanted to pray for and to support the mission team there,” Sam explained.

Sam studied the map and was interested in Easter Island, 2,300 miles off the west coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. He placed his pin on Easter Island and said he wanted to pray for and give toward the translation project there.

There was only one problem with Sam’s choice: there wasn’t a translation project on the island yet. Sam told his parents that he would pray for one to get started.

As Sam lifted up Easter Island, he was unaware of how God was working in the lives of Bob and Nancy Weber.

HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD

Bob and Nancy Weber grew up in Peru and, like Sam, they were children of Wycliffe missionaries. The Webers had married around the time Sam began to pray for Easter Island and were asking God how he wanted to use them to further his kingdom and help bring hope through Bible translation.

Bob and Nancy Weber with their children in the early years of their work on Easter Island
Bob and Nancy Weber with their children in the early years of their work on Easter Island.

Months later, Sam’s parents would receive a letter from a friend in SIL* who mentioned that Bob and Nancy were being assigned to a new project on Easter Island! The Webers were to first focus on strengthening the Rapa Nui language — which was facing possible extinction — and then on translating the New Testament into Rapa Nui.

Bob and Nancy initially learned about Sam through financial gifts that came up on their statement from Wycliffe. “We had no idea that he was just a child [at the time] or that he had started praying for us when he was a very small boy,” Nancy said. “So we wrote our thank‑you notes to a ‘Mr.’ Sam Anderson.”

The Webers discovered that Sam had begun praying for someone to start a translation for the people of Easter Island and had also sold stationary in order to have gifts to send to the Webers. So Bob and Nancy decided to write Sam a thank‑you letter. They told him when they had first been interested in Easter Island — just after he started praying in 1975!

“That really impacted me as a kid,” Sam recalled, “to be praying for something of that importance and then seeing God bring it to fruition.”

A Place at the Table, A 7-day devotional

God in Full View

Are you ready to see how God is present in every corner of the globe? Pack your bags and join us on a great adventure — a chance to see God in full view! Explore 10 countries around the world in our free, interactive travel journal.

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Over four decades of work on Easter Island, Bob and Nancy saw the Lord answer so many of their prayers — from taking care of them and their three children to protecting the translation work in the face of opposition to providing the funds to pay the translators who joyfully and selflessly assisted them.

“Our clear call to the island and to the translation for the Rapa Nui, and the knowledge that many people were praying for us daily, kept us going,” Nancy said.

Sam Anderson and the Webers at Wycliffe USA's Orlando headquarters

In early 2019, Sam and the Webers had the privilege of reconnecting at Wycliffe USA’s Orlando headquarters just months after the completion of the Rapa Nui New Testament!

“It was special to meet Sam and his sister Kara, who is with Wycliffe in Orlando, and also their parents,” Nancy said.

Sam readily agreed. “Growing up as a missionary kid, I knew that a Bible translation project is a huge undertaking and takes a long time,” he said. “It was amazing to hold the Rapa Nui New Testament in my hands and to see living proof of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer.”

No matter your age, prayer is a vital part of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and of any ministry done in his name. As Psalm 65:5a reminds us: “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior” (NLT).

*SIL International, a primary strategic partner.

The 9-to-5 Guide to Praying Around the World

The 9-to-5 Guide to Praying Around the World
The 9-to-5 Guide to Praying Around the World

There are a lot of people in the world.

I’m really bad at math, but I’m confident it’s a pretty big number.

And many of those people deal with a lot of hard things.

Just turn on the news or open a social media app and you’ll quickly be overloaded with information about pain and hurt in seemingly every country; it can be hard to know how you can help. But what if you could make a difference without traveling across the world or altering your daily routine?

The solution is simple: prayer.

If your life is anything like mine, it’s incredibly busy. But no matter what your day‑to‑day looks like, you can still make an impact with the time you do have by making a conscious effort to pray for people around the world throughout the day. Just like everything on your schedule, prayer should seamlessly fit into your daily routine — your 9‑to‑5 life.

Brushing Your Teeth — 30 Seconds

two toothbrushes in a mason jar

I know dentists recommend* brushing your teeth for at least two minutes. They also recommend things like flossing and fluoride. But I’m going to be real: I spend a solid 30 seconds on my teeth each morning. Sorry, Dr. Sherman!

Whether you’re passionate about your dental hygiene or just going through the motions, if you have 30 seconds, you can make a positive impact on the world through prayer. Try sticking this prayer on your bathroom mirror as a reminder to lift up people around the world each morning:

Lord, thank you for the privilege of praying for others. I lift up the men, women and children around the world who are suffering. For everyone who feels burdened — by poverty, loneliness, conflicts or isolation — ease their pain. Draw them to you and to the hope that can only be found in your son, Jesus. Amen.

*I didn’t actually research this. Statement not approved by the American Dental Association.

Morning Commute — 30 Minutes

Commuting is one of the most mundane parts of the day.

person riding orange bicycle wearing a helmet and backpack

You pass the same trees, the same stretch of highway and sit in the same frustrating traffic. Halfway to work you realize your socks don’t match and your $5 coffee is actually more creamer than caffeine.

No matter how long your commute is, pass the time by covering the world in prayer as you drive, ride, bike or walk to your destination. You can focus on the five regions of the world by praying for just a few of the issues people that live in these areas experience:

  • Pray for people in Africa, specifically for community development needs, educational needs and management of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • People in the Americas face ongoing disaster recovery efforts, conflict and poverty. Lift up their needs to God.
  • Ask God for political and religious peace in Asia and lift up the people impacted by recent natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and typhoons.
  • Lift up the immigrant communities living in Europe due to displacement caused by conflict, persecution and economic pressures in their home countries.
  • In the vastly diverse Pacific region, pray for youth education and health in the midst of natural disasters and challenging living conditions.
A Place at the Table, A 7-day devotional

God in Full View

Are you ready to see how God is present in every corner of the globe? Pack your bags and join us on a great adventure — a chance to see God in full view! Explore 10 countries around the world in our free, interactive travel journal.

Get the Journal

Lunch — 60 Minutes

Whether your schedule allows you to take your lunch break at noon or at midnight, you have an opportunity to briefly hit the “pause” button on the busyness of your day. As you eat, you can do whatever you want with your unpaid time: Take a walk, return a personal call or even read the Bible.

You probably own at least one copy of the Bible in your preferred language. Bibles are available everywhere — in every church and household, even on cellphone apps! And there are even numerous versions of the Bible you can read too.

But did you know that at least 1.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to the full Bible in their language?

Open Bibles and notes on a wooden table with coffee cups

As you munch on chips or sip soup, consider praying for different regions of the world, but this time focus on some of their Bible translation needs*:

  • Pray for Africa, which is home to about 30% of the world’s total languages! At least 700 people groups in this region are still waiting for translation to begin in their language. Praise God that despite these needs, churches are growing quickly throughout Africa.
  • The Americas already has translations completed in 400 languages, but more than 120 languages need work to begin. Ask God to bless the remaining languages with translation projects and access to Scripture.
  • Asia is a leading partner in advancing the work of the gospel around the world, but there are more than 850 languages that still need translation started. Pray for the individuals and missions organizations that are working together to help achieve the work.
  • Europe has the lowest Bible translation needs in the world, but over 50 people groups are anticipating the start of Bible translations in their languages. Lift up those groups, especially work happening in European sign languages.
  • The Pacific region includes thousands of islands within the world’s largest ocean, and over 400 language groups are waiting for Scripture. This represents the greatest remaining need for translation. Ask God to work in the people and languages across this region to make his name known.
*Statistics from the Wycliffe Global Alliance, October 2018

Water Cooler — 3 Minutes

It’s time to stand up, stretch out and do that thing where you stare into the distance so your eyes can rest from looking at a computer screen. Maybe grab a candy bar if you’re feeling adventurous. A break, no matter how brief, is a great opportunity to refocus and put things in perspective.

man pointing to small globe on an outside table

As you reflect on your remaining tasks of the day, say a prayer for the Bible translators and missionaries around the world working diligently toward the goal of everyone having the Bible in a language and form that clearly speaks to their hearts.

Here is an example of a prayer you can use, but create your own prayers as God leads you:

Lord, thank you for the communities around the world committed to the work of Bible translation. Thank you for their love of you and your Word. Thank you for the missionaries coming alongside local translators and churches. Thank you for the love they feel for the region, country and communities they serve.

Fill local translators and missionaries with wisdom, knowledge, patience, clarity and perseverance. I pray that they continue to draw close to you, even in the midst of trials or exhaustion. I pray for safety and health so that they can continue to do your work. When hope seems dim, let them see your light shine even brighter so that they’re reminded you are our good, good Father. Amen.

Dinner Prep — 20 Minutes

An ipad in a stand on kitchen countertop, displaying a recipe

For me, dinner preparation means putting food in the microwave and hitting a few buttons. Maybe you use a meal delivery service to prep dinner or pull out your mom’s cookbook.

No matter your preferred method, consider how much more difficult the simple task of food prep would be if the instructions weren’t in a language you understand.

Now consider how hard it would be to wrap your mind around concepts in the Bible if it wasn’t in a language you understood. For people who communicate in the approximately 2,000 languages around the world without Scripture, it’s their reality.

So whether you’re waiting for water to boil or just staring at a ticking timer, take a moment during your dinner prep to pray for the people who speak languages where no translation work has started yet.

Lord, thank you for all of the incredible progress that has been made in the work of Bible translation. Thank you for each of the New Testaments, Old Testaments and books of the Bible that have been translated. Thank you for all of the individuals and communities who’ve experienced the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus Christ because of your Word.

I want to lift up the people around the world who don’t have any Scripture available in their language. I can’t imagine navigating a world without the hope we have through promises found in the Bible. Lord, give them hearts that yearn for more — that they recognize that something is missing from their lives.

I ask that you raise up local church leaders and translators to initiate and pursue the goal of having the Bible in their language. Give them the motivation to persevere in spite of any obstacles they might face. Lord, I pray that the translation process brings churches and communities together like never before as they discover new truths in your Word and anticipate the completion of translation projects. Amen.

Before Bed — 1 Minute

As you go through your bedtime routine (Brush your teeth for 30 seconds!) and check for the third time that the alarm clock on your phone is set, end your busy day with a quick prayer.

person in bed with blanket, Bible and drink cup

To make this big world feel just a little smaller, think about the personal connections you have to places and people across the globe. Maybe think about the place your family is from or a friend lives. Maybe there’s a region you’ve always been interested in or a country you keep hearing about in the news.

No matter what God puts on your heart, consider using these points to guide your bedtime prayer:

  • Pray that communities would recognize God’s love for their language and culture.
  • Ask God to give communities a desire to see the Bible translated into their language.
  • Lift up missionaries helping local translation projects.
  • Ask God to prepare the hearts of those still waiting for the Scriptures in their language.
  • Pray that when a Bible translation project has been completed, the people would engage with God’s Word on a daily basis.
  • Ask God for unity among church leaders and language communities worldwide.

Every Prayer Matters

two pairs of hands folded in prayer

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos and mess of our schedules. Commitments pile up. Stress levels rise. But we can pray in any place at any time — and your prayers matter! James 5:16 reminds us that “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT).

Ultimately, it’s God who changes people’s hearts through Bible translation. But we’re called to partner with him in prayer. So as you rush through your day completing tasks and checking things off your list, bring meaning to your routine by praying for people around the world, Bibleless communities and the life-transforming mission of Bible translation!

Every prayer matters.

Look Beyond: A Call to Worship

Look Beyond: A Call to Worship
Jesus worship

The thirstiest I’ve ever been was on the back of a horse named Hard Rock. Seldom one to turn down an adventure, I agreed to go trail riding with friends without considering that my lack of riding experience might be a problem. The horse I rode was well-named — massive and stubbornly opposed to moving — and it wasn’t long before I fell far enough behind that my friends were out of sight.

Under the blazing Carolina summer sun with no idea how to steer a horse, I suddenly realized I was thirsty. Not just a little thirsty. The kind of thirsty that made my hands shake and head spin. Water consumed my thoughts, and I looked desperately around the open field for any sign of a well or creek. The only bit of water was a small mud puddle in the middle of the trail. It took a huge amount of willpower and a mental recitation of all the microorganisms the puddle might contain to keep myself from slipping off Hard Rock and dropping to my knees to drink.

Thirst is a craving like few others.

Intense Longing

David knew thirst. As a shepherd in the arid wilderness, he understood the value of water and was familiar with the desperate feeling of dehydration.

In Psalm 63:1, David used the imagery of thirst to express a different kind of intense longing: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water” (NLT).

What made David ache to stand in God’s presence? The answer comes in the next two verses: “I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (v. 2-3)

David had seen God’s power, glory and love, and nothing less than that could satisfy him.

I knew I needed to ride past that muddy puddle because there was a bottle of clean water waiting in my car. And David knew he needed to look beyond what he could see to a better reality — one that inspired him to worship.

cell--1of2
cell--1of2

There is More

People are made to worship, to be caught up and drawn in by something. And in this world we’re surrounded by beauty that captivates and inspires. Hazy mountain peaks that catch and throw the setting sun. Tiny sparks dancing their dizzy way into the night. Ocean waves rolling out to kiss the sky. Baby laughter. The scent of sun-warmed evergreens. Music that swells at just the right moment. The smile on a beloved face. These are lovely things that can make us ache for more.

And there is more.

Every gift and flicker of beauty is a dimmed reflection of the Creator himself. James 1:17 reminds us of this: “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (NLT).

Our longing for the beautiful things God created is actually a symptom of the true longing within us: a longing for God himself.

girl and bible

Past the Present

God invites us to look beyond the present — past all the beautiful things he’s created and circumstances we experience — to the reality of his unchanging goodness.

God’s steady, faithful kindness exists outside of what we can see. Our feelings and circumstances don’t change who he is. If our focus is on him, we can worship him no matter what’s happening in or around us.

Paul and Silas understood this and set a dramatic example of looking beyond their circumstances and responding with worship. Their bold preaching and miracles in the name of Jesus created such an uproar in the city of Philippi that a mob formed, demanding their arrest: “They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:23-24, NLT).

Paul and Silas reacted to the injustice in an unexpected way — and the outcome was equally unexpected: “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” (Acts 16:25-26, NLT)

Paul and Silas worshiped a God who was beyond their circumstances, and it resulted in their freedom. While we may not often see such immediate results, when we choose to focus on God and proclaim who he is, worship always leads us toward freedom.

From Captive to Captivated

free

Like Paul and Silas, David had many people who wished to harm him. He spent years running from King Saul and faced violent betrayal from some of his closest confidants. It would’ve been easy for David to grow despondent during these times; instead he wrote songs about God’s faithfulness. As he worshiped, David reminded himself of the truth:

“Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. The one thing I ask of the LORD — the thing I seek most — is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music” (Psalm 27:3-6, NLT).

David knew he was held by an eternal God — that he was safe in God’s presence. That allowed him to be freed from fear of his circumstances. Worship moved David’s heart beyond suffering and into freedom.

We may not be hunted by physical enemies like David or imprisoned like Paul and Silas but, like them, we can move from captivity to being captivated by God. He longs to set us above the reach of the things that seek to destroy us — above our anxiety, grief, sin, addictions, illness and heartache — as we remind our own souls of his unchanging character. God’s power dwarfs our problems when we worship him.

Drink Him In

Worship might look like raised hands and harmonies on a Sunday morning. Sometimes it might look like a walk through quiet woods, a conversation over coffee about what God is teaching you, a wild dance party in your kitchen or the creation of something that reflects God’s beauty.

dancing girl
Worship can be woven from color and light, laughter and silence, texture, flavor and story. It can roll hot down your cheeks as tears of hard obedience, lay you on your face in surrender and raise you to your feet to take the next step forward.

Worship declares that our narrative doesn’t end here on earth — that past everything we see is a God who alone can satisfy our deepest thirst. Worship lifts our gaze above lovely things to the radiant glory brighter than anything we’ve known.

God calls his children to worship because when we look beyond our circumstances to him, we understand we’ve barely begun to drink in the depths of his power and love. When we worship, we end up craving more of him.

And we will be filled.

Pause and Look Beyond

Take some time to look beyond your circumstances and worship God as you reflect on the following:

  • What do I tend to turn to in order to satisfy my spiritual thirst? What might it look like to awaken a craving for more of God instead?

  • How can I move from being captive to my situation to being captivated by God?

Finally, read Psalm 19, Psalm 65, Psalm 104 or another Scripture passage that reminds you of God’s beauty, power, glory and love. Speaking words of truth and worship can change the way you think!

Kate & Mack’s Summer Bucket List

Kate & Mack’s Summer Bucket List
Mack with ideas for summer activities

Summer is such a fun time of year. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining and the days are just waiting to be filled with adventures!

Join Kate & Mack as they share 30 different activities your kids can do this summer on a “summer bucket list.” Use the list as inspiration on days where you might not be sure what you want to do or when your kids say they’re bored. You could even invite your friends, family or neighbors to join these adventures, too!

Print out our summer bucket list and put it somewhere you’ll see often (maybe the front of your fridge, by your dresser or even on the bathroom mirror) so your kids can join Kate and Mack and check off items this summer.

Be Owned: A Call to Holiness

Be Owned: A Call to Holiness
Bible

When I was a kid I was pretty sure holiness had something to do with bowl cuts and culottes. It was, after all, the 1980s in a missionary community where we rocked those looks.

While my idea of holiness changed as I grew older, in my mind it was still intertwined with appearance. I’d heard that Christians were supposed to be different — set apart from the world around us — and I thought that meant wearing the right clothes, using the right words and doing the right things to represent God well.

But when my view of holiness collided with the reality of human nature, problems arose. People can be pretty good at pretending. I’ve seen it in myself and others — this ability to smooth the surface, looking holy on the outside while the inside shelters ugly attitudes and hidden behaviors. We can even pack our secrets down so effectively that we fool ourselves into believing we have it all under control.

But we can’t fool God.

Because I Am Holy

I used to cringe every time I read 1 Peter 1:14-16: “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’” (NLT).

It seemed too hard. How could I behave morally enough to satisfy a perfect God? I had a difficult time grasping the idea of living a holy life because I didn’t understand this critical truth: Holiness is less about transforming our behavior and more about transforming our substance.

It’s possible to live morally — to be kind and loving, teach Sunday school or even be a pastor or missionary — without being holy on the inside. Holiness can’t be attained by practice or force of will because it’s not about simply being good; it’s about being owned.

Several chapters of Exodus are dedicated to outlining detailed instructions for creating the Tabernacle, the place of worship for the people of Israel during their desert years. There wasn’t anything magical about the cloth, wood, precious stones and metals used in the Tabernacle’s construction. God made the Tabernacle holy: “I will meet the people of Israel there, in the place made holy by my glorious presence” (Exodus 29:43, NLT).

Ordinary materials in an ordinary place became holy only because God came and claimed them as his own.

Remain in Me

Jesus’ disciples came from a variety of regular backgrounds and professions, unremarkable men set apart simply by their response to Jesus’ call to follow him. He saw their rough edges and ordinary lives, but he also knew what would transform them into bold messengers willing to risk everything for the truth: an ongoing relationship with him.

Justly
Near the end of his time on earth, Jesus told his disciples: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5, NLT).

No amount of moral behavior or good intentions can produce the spiritual fruit we’re meant to bear. Jesus flowing through us brings vitality and growth, giving us the ability to obey him on a heart level. We’re transformed as we remain in him — as we allow his Spirit and Word to permeate our core and fill us with life from the inside out.

Belonging to Him

God calls his children to be holy, not because he wants to chastise us into being better people, but because he wants us to live in the freedom that comes with belonging to him. He wants us to see him for who he is and be changed by his presence, like 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 says:

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (NLT).

Living a holy life as people owned by a holy God will certainly result in visible changes to our behavior as we become more like Jesus. As we lay down our will, God enfolds us into his holiness, where his glory stills our striving and his beauty cheapens every lesser thing we’ve ever wanted.

Pause and Be Owned

As you think about God’s desire for your holiness, consider these questions:

  • What images come to mind when you think about holiness? How might you have equated the word “holiness” with “appearance” in your life?

  • What does it look like for you to remain in Jesus? What specific spiritual fruit is he equipping you to bear as a result of being connected to him?

  • What feelings does the thought of being owned by God prompt in you? Consider a specific area of your life you’re struggling to release to God and take a few minutes to pray for his help to lay it down and let him transform you.

A Book of Wisdom

A Book of Wisdom
JeDene Reeder

It was an uphill battle when literacy work began in the 1980s in the Ifè language group.

Literacy rates among the people were at 5%, very few churches existed and there was little interest in literacy classes. Because these classes helped people read Scripture, traditional chiefs strongly opposed them, feeling their spiritual leadership and power was threatened. Sometimes the literacy coordinators and supervisors were even chased away from the villages! But God continued to open doors.

A 70-year-old Ifè man testified, "I spent my life as the spiritual leader of the traditional deity Dadoumè. I learned to read and write Ifè through the Ifè literacy program. I became a literacy teacher and have taught classes for several years now. Even though I wasn't a Christian, I attended the dedication of the Ifè New Testament in October 2009. I bought a copy which I carefully kept in my room, and got into the habit of reading a few verses of Scripture in Ifè each morning before going out.

"One day, someone asked me why I was so attached to my Ifè New Testament. I responded, 'My dear children, this book is a book of wisdom and of wealth for all of life.' Having learned of this exchange, the Christians [in my village] became motivated to pray for me. To their great joy, the Lord finally won my heart and, in 2013, I gathered the village authorities together to tell them, 'Please name another person to be in charge of Dadoumè, for I now want to follow Jesus instead of this deity.'

"And that is how, by the grace of the Lord and through the Ifè literacy program, I gave myself to Christ, and I serve him today with all my heart."

While working in West Africa, JeDene has focused on coming alongside her African colleagues, giving them the support and training they need to minister to their people. Today most Ifè villages not only have their own primary schools which were started by parents who participated in that initial literacy push, but almost all have their own churches. This year, over 6,000 adults are taking literacy classes!

Literacy Is the Foundation for Discipleship

Without Bible translation, many people may never hear the Good News of Christ in a language and form they clearly understand. But without literacy, many people may never grow in the knowledge of the gospel and apply it to their churches or lives. “Literacy is crucial for discipleship,” JeDene said.

In Burkina Faso, JeDene led a workshop to develop materials for three languages to help people transition from reading French to reading their own languages. After a class transitioning from French to Lyélé, one woman said, “I know how to read and write in French. I signed up for this class to learn to read and write in Lyélé — more specifically, the Word of God. I also want, through this time of learning, to improve my oral expression in Lyélé. Knowing these things will help me improve my way of presenting and announcing the gospel. I expect to share my knowledge of how to read and write Lyélé with the church.”

Literacy materials for three languages, created to help people transition from reading French to reading their own languages.

“When people can take the Word of God and read it for themselves, they can more easily discern what someone else is saying,” JeDene noted. “The more people [who] can read and check Scripture for themselves, the healthier the church will be.”

One Gulma speaker from Togo saw firsthand how powerful understanding Scripture could be in the context of church. "When I didn't know how to read in Gulma,” he said, “I had always thought that everything the pastor said during the worship service was written in the Bible. Ever since I learned to read the New Testament in Gulimancema … I realized that the biblical portions read are shorter than what the pastor spoke on. … I finally understood that the pastor reads ... the Bible passage and then he explains it to us by commenting on the part read."

A Huge Need

Today JeDene is one of just two literacy consultants trying to meet all the needs of Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger!

“In a lot of countries, governments don't care about Bible translation, but they will care about literacy,” JeDene said. “Countries are judged by their literacy rates. We can serve them well by offering literacy.” In addition, many literacy projects lead to community development initiatives, helping the communities in agriculture, clean water, health centers, business and more.

“We desperately need people who are willing to come alongside and fill in gaps [in literacy work], to encourage and give ideas and fresh perspective to our brothers and sisters in Christ who speak these languages,” JeDene emphasized.

Côte d'Ivoire is one country with an enormous need. During recent civil unrest, many literacy materials were destroyed. Thousands of people are still waiting to have literacy classes started and new teachers trained.