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Can my prayer transform the world?

I never learned to pray BIG. We prayed small and sensibly, as Christians living under communism. It wasn’t illegal to pray or believe. The German church stood for too many centuries to be completely pushed off the map. Besides the church provided valuable social services for free. Nevertheless neither faith nor prayer held any merit under the regime. Prayer perhaps was for little old ladies with nothing else to do. No sense praying when communism promised all the answers.

But my family prayed. Little prayers: for missing keys, stalled cars, new bathroom tiles. I begged God for a dog. My tenderhearted brother prayed a truck would deliver food to Africa. Our prayers remained practical and reasonable, politically correct to keep us out of trouble. Most certainly our prayers avoided THE WALL- the concrete barrier limiting freedom and dividing our country. We never, not once, prayed for the wall to be torn down. Conceivably we secretly wished for it. But we never uttered those wishes. It wasn’t safe and would never happen. The powerless aren’t accustomed to uttering requests. Making wishes suits children or others dreamers who let their imagination run wild.

God demolished the wall of Jericho but we could not connect that story to our own. Our wall stood firm and invincible. What would life without a wall even look like? Certainly one day communism would fall, but nothing suggested the end being near in our lifetime. No thread of hope to hang a bigger prayer on. BIG prayers rarely rise from the lips of the powerless.

Then came 1989. Tiny cracks in the Iron Curtain. Seeds of hope springing up into prayer. First, prayers for peace. Then, for transformation. Before we knew it, the wall fell along with communism. Seemingly overnight. Certainly more than we had asked for. Or imagined.

Occasionally I run into thoughtful American who happily confesses to praying for the wall to fall. He’ll be so happy to see me, pat my arm and naturally assume we labored together in prayer for the fall of communism from opposite ends of the world. I’ll debate on whether it would help to admit we never prayed for the wall to fall. (prior to late 1989) Not praying for the wall to fall made lots of sense at the time.

Only the oppressed know that to pray BIG, you have to be able to imagine your freedom. And feel safe in your longings, believing your hope has substance enough to pray big. Praying BIG requires big, God-sized imagination. Thank you, thoughtful American, for stepping in the gap. Praying BIG means entering someone else’s story with no immediate benefit to myself.

One would assume I would return the favor by praying BIG for the powerless. Yet I am still learning to pray BIG. Most of my prayers circle my own little world. Perhaps I am waiting for God to fulfill my little wish list before partnering with HIS vision for the rest of the world…Perhaps I don’t believe my little prayer could transform the world. Surely more is required to end the war in Syria and free the slaves and find the homeless a place to belong.

Or maybe not. Whenever I meet thoughtful, praying American I feel inspired. I actually do want to be a part of something bigger. How many prayers does it take to shake the world? Will mine matter?

What about yours? Do you pray about global stuff? Do you believe your prayer transforms the world?



Image source: Wikipedia

This is part XVII of “Behind the Wall & Under the Steeple”, a collection of personal essays and reflections of growing up Christian in former East Germany. Subscribe via email to my blog or bookmark this page. If you are receiving this post by email, any reply goes straight to my inbox.  Thanks for reading! 

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16 Replies

  1. Whoa. I always find myself speechless after reading your posts, Astrid. This. Is. Powerful.

    This statement stopped me in my tracks: “BIG prayers rarely rise from the lips of the powerless.” I have to be 100% honest with you… I can’t remember a time when this thought would’ve ever crossed my mind. To consider this…. seriously… it makes me… sad. Oh, my heart. I can promise you that this thought will be on my mind daily. I can’t shake it. Wow.

    I also loved this statement: “Praying BIG means entering someone else’s story with no immediate benefit to myself.” LOVE! I’ve been praying big for a friend who lost her infant son in October. Standing in the gap for her. It’s the only thing I can do.

    Thank you for these incredible words today, Astrid (as usual!).

    1. Astrid Melton

      This is the longest speechless comment ever . Sorry to hear about your friend and I love that you pray big for her. It’s hard to pray big from a broken heart too. Thanks for your generous encouragement! ❤️

  2. Tara

    Astrid, this series is bringing forth the writer you were meant to be. Just look back at your archives. Always beautiful writing. But this post? It’s at a whole different level. The vulnerability, the challenge, it’s good. I know lately getting words to page has felt more awkward and circular but perhaps the more awkward the process, the more intense the connection. Lean hard into it! You’re blossoming into the writer you’ve always suspected and hoped you were. One by one those petals are opening into a rather fantastic bloom. 🙂 Sure do love you!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Yup- I’ll go with awkward as my writing word for the year. I was just thinking today that I am getting tired of writing about the past. Thanks for all your lovely writing support-it truly means a lot! ❤️ you

      1. Tara

        Well, you’ve brought the wall down in this series. You’re venturing closer and closer to the present. I’d say this post was a lovely way to apply the past to the present. Maybe the connection between the two will grow more in the coming installments.

        1. Astrid Melton

          Yes- hopefully!

  3. Rachel

    So so well written and powerful. Thank you for sharing, Astrid.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks friend! ❤️

  4. Wow, powerful! And convicting. And inspiring. What a combination! Thank you for sharing this, Astrid. Blessings.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thanks for reading Julie.

  5. Lois

    Love that statement”PrayingBig means entering someone else’s story with no immediate benefit”. Amazing concept how many of us stay trapped behind our own walls never imagining God wants us to pray big and wants to set us free.
    Thanks Astrid for being so honest .

    1. Astrid Melton

      Tunnel vision comes to mind- oh Lord, deliver us from small thinking and even smaller prayers!

  6. Melanie Mellis

    The MOST HOLY PLACE is OPEN for Bussiness:)
    Personally I get face down on the carpet.
    I PRAISE HIM through the Heavenly Gates and Seek HIM in the Heavenly Courts. I claim the BLOOD and Enter the Most Holy Place…. And Pray till I hear HIM talk to me.
    It comes pretty fast now!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Sweet. Perhaps the powerless don’t race to he throne because of a twisted view of authority…

  7. Erin Presby

    This is brilliant and has given me a good bit to think about today on praying BIG as you posed it. My parents often prayed big, global prayers when I was growing up from our tiny rural life and I can see how immensely that has affected me. But somehow doing the same so often feels awkward and silly to me. Thank you for praying some bigger prayers with us for refugees. I’m excited to see where that leads us.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Yes- same here. Good reminder to pray big for refugees!

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