#HopeForPastorsWives, Prayer

2 Specific Prayers That Have Radically Shaped Our Ministry Life


“Wow, you’re a lot younger than I was expecting,” the smiling lady said as we took our places around our kitchen table to begin our meeting. She wasn’t expecting the son of a dying 71 year old to be just 32.

My husband and I exchanged knowing looks. Before she arrived, I had said to my husband, “She’s going to be surprised at how young we are.” We have heard this so many times from various people in our walk of life- a fellow pastor here, an evangelist there, a counselor here, a doctor there.

We’ve now lived 22 years separately and 11 years married. Thankfully, we still qualify for the term “young” even though we fit in best with couples who are twice our age and all of our best friends have children who are grown. We don’t and never have felt young, which is why comments like hers still create irony.

And so it happened recently that we were talking of this very thing as we cleaned up from our breakfast supper. During an unceremonious moment of swishing dish water around the bowl that had held pancake batter 30 minutes earlier, my husband said something that shook me to the core, causing a surge of both joy and grief with a splash of awe:

“You know, when we were at {name of first ministry}, I used to pray a prayer all the time that I almost wish I hadn’t prayed.” He laughed a bit and continued, “I used to beg God to give me the wisdom of a man 20 years older than me.”  As we talked, two things stood out to us about that prayer- a) the obvious fact that God did answer and continues to answer that prayer in my husband’s life, and b) the means by which God has answered that prayer.

I’ve always known that God was giving my husband wisdom that was well beyond his years. Other pastors, church people in ministry, and plenty of random people he’s met through the years have made similar comments, but he hasn’t really felt it to be true {because sometimes others see things in us that we don’t see ourselves.} I’ve watched my husband navigate very difficult matters of life and ministry with poise, grace, and confidence. I’ve watched him fast and pray and handle the Word of God with grace and humility. I’ve watched him pastor his people with true sacrificial love and genuine care. Time after time it has left me amazed and sure of God’s calling on his life. But to hear him recognize the answer to his own prayer was a first. Sabbaticals are wonderful times for reflecting on God’s workings in the past.

My husband continued, “I just never knew He would answer it like He has. I never knew it would be through so much suffering and grief.” And indeed, isn’t that how God grants us wisdom- by leading us through situations and by teaching us how to navigate them the way He would- with His heart, His mind, His Words?

My dishrag went around a few too many times on the pancake batter bowl, and clearing away the soap suds seemed to simultaneously clear my head as I recalled a prayer of my own that I have prayed for years. It began in college, and often with tears I begged God of one  primary request. It’s in my journals in pen ink and it’s written on my heart in stone:

“I had a similar prayer that I’ve prayed a lot,” I said to my husband as he emptied the lower rack of the dishwasher. “I’ve begged God not to let me be mediocre. I’ve felt afraid of becoming an average or apathetic follower of Jesus.”

“I don’t think I knew what I was asking for either,” I said with a half laugh.  When I started praying that, I was studying for ministry, but I didn’t know I was going to be a pastor’s wife yet. Young and naive, I thought I was asking for an extra helping of determination and perseverance.  But I was really asking for pressure and sorrow and loss and trauma. I was asking to be given trials that would drive me deeper into the heart of God. I was asking for a sanctification process on steroids.

What makes us a bit sad concerning these prayers being answered? We’ve had a heavy life. It’s been a life of facing things early and all at once, and of processing things that you never really completely get over because they are so devastating, so violating, so emptying, so breaking.

But what makes us happy concerning these prayers being answered? Well, just the very fact that God has answered so progressively has left us with wonder. Seeing the outworking of the blessing of wisdom and grace and strength to endure has given us great joy.

We’ve always had the sense that God wouldn’t let us go.

 I could share a myriad of stories of God’s obvious hand in our lives, and of how, even during our hardest times in ministry, His gentleness has made us great as He didn’t let us become bitter, didn’t let us not forgive, didn’t let us have halfhearted dedication, didn’t let us walk away all those times when we wanted to, didn’t become shocked when we asked Him if He hated us, didn’t release us from our calling to ministry when we began our sabbatical as broken as they come and continue to be so.

No, instead He has hounded us with Himself, all in answer to our very naive and unknowingly risky prayers.

Two prayers that have radically shaped and changed our life:

“God, give me the wisdom of a person 20 years older than I am.”

“God, please don’t let me be mediocre. Don’t let me be an average or apathetic follower of Jesus.”

You can pray them too, if you dare.  But be prepared for an unsafe answer that radically shapes and changes your life, too.


A Kindred Spirit

1 thought on “2 Specific Prayers That Have Radically Shaped Our Ministry Life

  1. Reminds me of a prayer I prayed near the end of my first year in Bible College. After hearing a devotional on Ephesians 3:14-21, I returned to my room and prayed: “Lord, I want to know the breadth, length, depth, and height of Your love and I want to see Your power.” Didn’t realize what it would take to really understand His love. Nor did I realize that in order to see His power, we sometimes have to be put on the sidelines so we can watch Him work without us trying to help him. Tough at time, but oh, so worth it.

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