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Should we pray unrealistic prayers?

As a student I loved getting prayer letters from a missionary in Milan. He was working to start IFES student groups on university campuses in the Italian city. At that time there were no student groups meeting in any of the universities in Milan. I faithfully prayed for the ministry and for Christian students to be able to reach out to their fellow students.

Then an email came with great news. They had been able to gather a small group of Christian students and they had met to study the Bible together for the first time. It was a wonderful breakthrough and I was so encouraged. Although I was many miles away in the UK, I knew I had been a part of that ministry through prayer. 

But I have not always found praying so encouraging. I have battled with cynicism (does praying really make any difference?) and with priorities (so many other things to do!). 

Well, now I am a missionary, church planting in northern Japan.

In 2016, my husband and I came to work at a little church plant called Izumi. After six years of faithful work by other missionaries here, there were seven members. My husband felt a burden to pray for five more people to commit their lives to the Lord and show this through baptism in one year. He prayed for this every day for that year. I, however, did not have the faith to pray such a prayer. I mean—this is Japan, where the work is slow, where many churches are shrinking, and where most churches don’t see more than one baptism a year. It just didn’t seem realistic to pray for five. Almost like a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle.

The year passed and the Lord did not give us five people. In my heart I thought, ‘of course’. In fact, we only baptised one person in the next three years. But they were very full years. Church members and the missionary team worked hard—we sowed many seeds. The weeks were full of inviting, giving out tracts, putting on events, befriending, holding classes, sharing, and preaching in many different contexts. There were many encouragements on the way, but little fruit.

But God had not forgotten those prayers for five. Four years later God lead five people to commit their lives to Jesus and be baptised. In one year! The Lord’s timing was different to the initial prayer but he did answer that prayer of faith. It certainly wasn’t a realistic prayer, but God is God of the impossible! 

What prayer burden has God given you? Perhaps you would pray for me to have faith to pray for 10 people to come to the Lord in our church!

By Sian, a missionary in Japan

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