Sunday, April 8, 2012

Prayer Walk

Have you ever been part of a prayer time that was so intense it rattled you to the deep marrow of your bones?  A time that you prayed for hours to God and heard his voice as God spoke back to you? A time that was so intense that you went to bed, exhausted afterward, and God kept waking you up saying “More, my child, I still want to hear more from you.” And when your sleepy, tired eyes did wake for good in the morning light, you found you already were in prayer that day as well?  Intense.

If you are thinking, “Uh, no, I haven’t felt that,” It’s ok, because I hadn’t either. Until now. On Good Friday.  On the day we celebrate the saving death of our Lord I was praying with a number of other Christians for so many lost souls in the “red light” districts of Phnom Penh. 

I heard about the prayer walk a number of weeks ago but I dismissed it, not wanting to go when I saw it was from 9-11:30 at night.  I knew we couldn’t get a sitter and both go that time of night and I didn’t feel safe going alone.  Then, the morning of Good Friday I kept feeling a strong urge from God to go to that prayer time.  He was pushing me despite my many excuses. 

But it’s not safe for a woman out at night, Lord.
I will protect you.”

I don’t know anyone there!  What if I’m the only one who knows English?
I will be there.  And I created your language.

But my head hurts.  I have a massive headache and I know messing up my sleep cycle will make it worse.  I haven’t seen past 10pm in ages!
These girls you will be praying for have pain in so many more places than their heads, my child.

Okay.  Hard to argue with that one.  I agreed to go.  And I did know people, and I did not ever feel unsafe.  

It turned out to be a prayer tuk tuk, not a prayer walk.  That just meant we rode in tuk tuks instead of walking.  And the “red light district” was pretty much the whole city of Phnom Penh. 

The event was organized by two groups who regularly go into these areas.  One is called Precious Women.  Every other week they send outreach teams into specific bars to build relationships with women in order to bring restoration, hope, and dignity to them, and eventually bring them to choose freedom.  The other weeks in between, a group called MST goes out and has a completely different approach.  While there are several groups similar to Precious Women in PP, the approach MST uses was unheard of to me.  They talk to the men.  Yes, as in the men seeking sex from these young women.  See, their view is that these men who are looking for sex are hurting and in need and seeking to fill their emptiness with love and intimacy.  So they go and buy sex. The MST outreach teams try to bring God’s redemptive and transforming love to these men.

I was shocked to hear this.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before.  These men are just as broken as these women.  As I sat there on Good Friday, just over 2000 years after our Savior was beaten, nailed to a cross, mocked, stabbed in his side, and lain in a tomb, all for the sins that I so easily commit every day, I realized the truth: He died for these men too.  He died for the whole world.  I always knew that yes, but I knew that as my tuk tuk, jam packed with people lifting up prayers to our Almighty God, circled the capital of Phnom Penh that night, I knew that I would look at each face differently.  I wanted to see these people as my GOD saw these people.  I wanted to passionately and compassionately lift them up in prayer.

So I did. 

I prayed for over 2 hours as we drove by karaoke bars, restaurants, beer gardens, massage parlors, and girls standing on the street prostituting themselves. Everyone in my tuk tuk prayed out loud in their own language and it was a beautiful sweet melody that I’m sure made my Jesus delighted.

I cried.  I cried as I saw so many desperate needs on both sides of the street, too many to count at times.  I wept as children younger than my children – children who should be tucked in a bed at this late hour - ran to our tuk tuk and asked for money or tried to sell us goods.

And I heard God’s voice as I prayed.  I heard him whisper “that one” as we passed a certain girl or “look there” as we slowed to pass a specific place.  I felt him nudge me to look at a certain man to pray for.  I saw specific faces that I went to sleep later still thinking about and praying about, praying that they were still sitting where I saw them, not in some back room doing things my innocent mind can’t even picture. 

I felt especially led at one place in particular to pray for rescue.  I mean, that’s what we are here for, right?  I prayed that IJM would get intel that would bring freedom for those being held captive in this location.  I prayed for rescue in general as we drove, but at this place I felt strongly that I should pray specifically for rescue.  My whole prayer at that stop was rescue, freedom, redemption.  

When we finished we went back to the church for a time of debriefing when people shared anything they had felt or seen that night.  Visions, pictures, feelings, things they had from God.  My favorite part was when one person shared that she, too, had seen a vision of rescue... at the very same place I was praying for that, out of the 50+ places we saw.

God is big, but He desires intimacy with us.  I felt that tonight.  I won’t be surprised or in awe at all if He brings rescue to that place.  I, in fact, will be surprised if he doesn’t. 

I went home still tearfully praying.  I woke in the night thinking of the handful of faces I had seen that weren’t a blur, the ones God showed me, and praying for them.  I woke in the morning still praying and remembering that Jesus died for each of these.  He rose again so that those who believe could be free one day in heaven with him. 

I pray now that these precious ones could live a life of freedom on earth as well.  That is not too big a prayer for our God.

PS – IJM is having a Global Prayer Conference on 13-15 April.  That’s an annual time when people all over the world pray together for injustices around the globe.  If you’d like to join in, you can sign up online to receive updates and watch a webcast.  Maybe you’ll have a prayer experience that changes you, too.  I, myself, can’t wait!

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