After he retired, Kayanuma Yasuo led an OMF prayer group in Tokyo for almost 20 years, faithfully interceeding for OMF workers sent from Japan to other parts of Asia. We asked him to share what he learned about prayer along the way:
My name is Kayanuma Yasuo.
The first Shimo –Takaido prayer meeting was held in my home in Tokyo on Tuesday September 7th, 1999 – the year I retired from work. Izu Makino came to lead us and we were seven people, from two different churches.
Ever since, the Executive Director has been coming regularly to share from God’s word and to pass on news of those sent out by OMF Japan. Then we pray – sometimes all at once, or in turn, or breaking up into twos and threes. When the Executive Director can’t make it, then I lead the meeting. Whenever OMF members are back in Japan, we welcome them; they come and report back to us, answer questions, and share with us how they have been seeing God at work – these are wonderful, fresh times of thankfulness to the Lord. It is a great joy and privilege to be reminded of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit with the missionaries and those they are living and working among.
Once we have prayed we enjoy a teatime together – getting to know one another better, and encouraging one another. I want here to thank the Lord who has given us this opportunity of spending these times together – the Holy Spirit uniting the hearts of those members serving overseas and of us who pray for them.
One of the ways we communicate with the OMF members we pray for is by sending a handmade card at Christmas and at Easter every year. We include a photo and message from every member of the group – we’re delighted to hear how much these are enjoyed!
It is a great joy and privilege to be reminded of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit with the missionaries and those they are living and working among.
At the prayer meetings we are also able to spend time on the “Prayer Focus” pamphlet that OMF sends out, with information from the various countries in East Asia. This introduces us to the life, culture and religious situation of minority people groups we’re perhaps hearing about for the first time – and we learn especially about such things as the influence of the spiritual battle in each place, and the difficulties of mission in different contexts. Through workers’ monthly prayer letters we can learn of their prayer needs and can intercede concretely and specifically.
The Shimo –Takaido prayer meeting in the 1990s.
A wonderful privilege
Through the prayer meeting, I have come to see various aspects of the support needed to sustain missionaries over the long term. Prayer needs to continue from the time the missionary is sent out right through until their work is finished.
To take my church, Asagao Church, as an example, we remember missionaries every month – in gatherings either in the church building or in members’ homes. The Lord’s mission never rests! Remembering that, I began at some point to collect prayer materials from my church and from mission agencies into one file, and to take time to pray every morning for them, marking off each item with a red pen as I prayed. As I did that, I realised what a wonderful and surprising thing it is to pray.
Sometimes I would complain that the Lord wasn’t answering my prayers. I would keep on rebuking myself for this lack of faith! But one day I decided not to think too hard about this problem of unanswered prayer. The Lord tells us to trust him, so I decided I should just press on, praying in faith and waiting on him in quiet trust.
Ecclesiastes 11 v1 says “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” and indeed, how many times I have read – to my shame – an OMF worker’s report “in answer to your prayers, such and such happened.” We had prayed – but I had forgotten! It’s a chance to be reminded of the wonderful privilege of prayer and to share in the missionary’s joy!
How many times I have read – to my shame – an OMF worker’s report “in answer to your prayers, such and such happened.” We had prayed – but I had forgotten! It’s a chance to be reminded of the wonderful privilege of prayer and to share in the missionary’s joy!
The Shimo –Takaido prayer meeting in 2017. Mr Kayanuma is on the left.One OMF couple serving the Mien people in Thailand, wrote about a local restaurant that refused to serve them – “Since coming to Thailand and sharing the gospel, it has been rejected often, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the times we ourselves or the way we live been looked down on or turned away – but that incident of being turned away in the restaurant comes to mind sometimes. Somehow it helps me to understand the pain that some Mien people who have been despised and kicked around all their lives feel towards some Thai people. The Lord Jesus took that pain on himself, and we Christians also have the privilege of sharing in the Lord’s pain.” That year, their experience of the joy of Christmas was deeper than ever. They asked us to pray that many evangelists would be sent out from the Mien to share the love of the Lord Jesus. As I read this article, it wasn’t just a report from a far-off place, but spoke personally to my heart, leading me to fresh repentance and thankfulness that Jesus died and rose again for me. I committed once more to follow him.
Reflecting on the mystery of prayer
A front-page article from the OMF News still encourages me every time I remember it, nine years on! A gentleman called Graham and a young lady Sally – who later got married – started a prayer meeting in Gloucester, England that has been meeting continually for over 40 years to pray for OMF workers in East Asia. OMF candidates or people back on home assignment often visit these partners in the work.
Graham speaks of prayer being a mystery – we don’t know how it works but we certainly see prayers being answered. I was surprised to read there are more than 200 of these prayer groups in the UK – just normal Christians getting together and persevering in prayer. I am praying that there will be many more prayer groups in normal Christians’ homes across Japan too. It’s not so very difficult!
Graham says “We’re not doing anything special and all the glory goes to God! All we do is open our front door and let in the people he brings to pray. And then we just watch Him at work!” Simple words, but they taught me what prayer meetings are all about! It’s not a burden, but just Graham’s way – and my way too – of humbly serving a great God. I saw again the attitude to bring to a prayer meeting – expectantly praying the words “Lord, have mercy” and “Come, Lord Jesus”
Finally, I am very aware that we have only been able to carry on the Shimo-Takaido prayer meeting up until now because of the prayers of the Japan Home Council and Field members, the OMF members sent out from Japan, and others receiving the OMF newsletter. It might even be that somewhere in the OMF fellowship and prayer networks across the world others whom I’ve never met are praying for us. Thank you to all of you. One OMF couple once came to the prayer meeting and told us “Don’t say – ‘we’re right behind you with our prayers’ or ‘Let us be your backup support as we pray’. No! You are on the frontline alongside us – we are fighting together.” I will never forget their encouragement – “We are all prayer warriors together in the same battle – in fact, your fight is probably more important than ours.”
Thank you so much for reading this – my testimony of thankfulness to the Lord for allowing us to share in the work of mission through the wonderful service of gathering to pray. Amen
Former OMF prayer group leader
Mr Kayanuma led the Shimo –Takaido prayer meeting from 1999 until December 2019. Mr Kayanuma and his wife Hiroko connected with OMF through their mission-minded church and were asked to write to OMF missionaries serving in Thailand. These workers, Makino san and Izu, went on to become the first Japanese Home Directors, supporting the sending out of Japanese missionaries, in 1995.