My Story: Prayer like Oxygen

I hadn’t been following Jesus that long when I wheeled my bags onto a West Africa-bound jetliner. For seven months, I lived with an unreached people group. Together with other global workers, we were teaming up to create an oral Bible.

Suddenly, I tumbled into a world where prayer no longer seemed like a “good” thing to do. It felt a little more like…oxygen.

When someone came to my hut, I asked God for the words to speak to be able to communicate. When someone asked me for money, I prayed for God’s wisdom how to respond. When a stranger asked me to marry him, I prayed for grace. I prayed for the strength to make it through the simmering 140 degree heat of a bone-dry Sahara afternoon.

Jesus in the Sand

One day, my teammates and I headed to a different more remote village we had only been to once. We had marked the coordinates on our GPS; there were no roads, no street signs, no directions. Leaving early to ensure our return before dark, we drove awhile in deep desert sand.

I can’t pinpoint for you the exact moment we realized we were lost. The best solution seemed to be following our tracks back where we came from. That worked well…until our jeep murmured to a stop. Climbing out to assess the situation, we found both back tires were half-buried in sand. Being the snow-experienced American girls we were, we cupped our hands and curled our feet, hauling sand with every available appendage. Try again: key to ignition.

It buried deeper.

I mentioned I can’t tell you the point we knew we were lost. But I do know that at that point, we started to pray. Wisdom, Lord. Please. And please. Send help. 

We were in the middle of nowhere; walking was not a good option. We hadn’t seen a person or a village for hours.

Please. One small cell signal, Father. Let us get a phone call out. 

A good hour passed when we saw a group of people walking in the horizon. Jesus, please let them be friendly and helpful.

On Second-Guessing Answers

As they approached, our hearts fell. There were five to six boys, maybe seven or eight years old.

Oh, Father. Why would you send us young boys who probably just want a ride?

Through charades we explained the problem and began digging again. The boys immediately got down and were stopping us from digging. They started pushing the sand back under the tires. For a few moments it was a tug-of-war with us, them, and the sand: They truly wanted us to pack the sand under the tires! Whatever you say…

We worked together for what seemed like forever. Then the boys motioned us to get in the truck. The young boys all got at the back to push.

We prayed from inside the truck: Jesus protect them. And please, help us get out.

We burst out of the buried sand to our screams and shouts and hand clapping and praising Jesus. We didn’t stop, but waved and shouted out the window to the boys who were almost gone by then.

Strange. They appeared out of nowhere and disappeared almost as fast.

The Air We Breathe

Were they God’s seven-year old angels? Maybe. Truth is, in the United States, it feels like we can get by day-to-day without praying (which I don’t suggest by any means!).

But when nothing around you is familiar and you don’t understand, language, culture, how to dress or even eat (it’s a lot like being three years old again)–you suddenly realize that you need God’s power through prayer hundreds of moments everyday. Before West Africa, I knew the importance of prayer. But I’d never really experienced its power.

What if God is as vital as the air we breathe?

Did God answer our prayers, powerfully and wonderfully and in a totally unexpected way? Absolutely! Even eight years later, I cherish that moment, like a small stone I can rub my fingers over. In the faces of those boys, I remember my encounter with the face of God–and the unmistakable power of calling on him.

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