Imagine our workplaces abuzz with revival prayer. All it takes is for each of us to set the pace and set the tone. Some of us, however, may feel a bit awkward about praying with believers of a different age, tradition, or social standing.
That was me, once upon a time. Here’s my story.
In my undergrad days, a renewal movement was sweeping through my hometown, Penang. I was deeply impacted.
Prayer was happening everywhere. Christians from all kinds of churches came together to seek the Lord. Up until then, I never knew that Anglicans, Baptists, Brethren, Methodists and Presbyterians existed. I had never met so many marketplace Christians before.
And then there was Mrs Huang, a lady of influence. One day, she asked if I could be her regular prayer partner. I wasn’t sure how to respond.
Why? Well, age-wise, we were decades apart. She was a 60-something grandma. I was a 20-something campus kid. Talk about generation gap!
In terms of style, Mrs Huang and I were poles apart. She was Presbyterian. She prayed softly, slowly, sweetly. Yes, super politely. I was classical Pentecostal. I prayed like a bullet train. I prayed loudly, sometimes sounding wild and fierce when I got into tongues.
Sociologically speaking, we were worlds apart. She was Mrs Prim and Proper, the elegant cheongsam lady with soft make-up and every strand of hair in place.
She lived in a bungalow in the atas (classy) area of town. Her neighbours were the rich and famous.
In contrast, I was Miss Tomboy in boring down-to-earth gear. My neighbours were mediums, prostitutes, gangsters, gamblers and drug addicts.
Linguistically, we were East and West. Mrs Huang understood English but spoke Mandarin 90% of the time. Whereas I spoke English 300% of the time and understood Mandarin just 80% of the time.
From her, I learned that prayer is not an art, but a cry of the heart…Prayer is about my relationship with God. To pray is to be God-centred, Word-based and Spirit-empowered.
Humanly speaking, we had absolutely nothing in common. My mind informed me that this “prayer partnership” was an insane idea doomed to fail. I couldn’t compromise who I was. I preferred prayer buddies who were my kind, my style, my generation. But guess what. God overwhelmed my emotions.
For no rhyme or reason, I heard myself say to Mrs Huang: “Er … okay, why not. Sure!”
So, on Thursday afternoons, dressed in elegant cheongsam, Mrs Huang would pick me up from my campus in her Volvo. Off we’d go to her classy home. First, dinner with her doctor husband. Then at 8pm sharp (I mean sharp), we would disappear into her prayer chamber.
She would pray in Mandarin, I would amen in English. I would pray in English, and she would amen in Mandarin. We usually weren’t done until past 10pm. Then she would drive me home.
Well, this went on for about a year. And, believe me, it was anything but routine. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Mrs Huang had wanted to learn prayer from me. But it was the reverse. I felt tutored. I was the one being taught.
In her quiet, Presbyterian way, Mrs Huang exuded a restedness in Jesus. She prayed with depth and wisdom, full of grace and truth.
From her, I learned that prayer is not an art, but a cry of the heart. Prayer is the love language of a soul surrendered to God. It’s not about my capacity to put words together. It has nothing to do with the volume of my voice. Prayer is about my relationship with God. To pray is to be God-centred, Word-based and Spirit-empowered. We pray in the authority of Jesus’ name.
Looking back, I would say that Mrs Huang was a God-send. The Lord disarmed my prejudices. I experienced deep change.
Since then, I have no trouble praying with anyone of any era – be it the quiet conservative, the loud charismatic, the cheongsam type or the ripped jeans kind, the high-flying cosmopolitan, or the heartlander Ah Beng. It makes no difference.
God is not prejudiced. God is the God of the generations. God is the God of all kinds. He is our Good Father. We are his One Family, created for community.
In Him, there is neither class distinction nor denominational distinctives. And He has put the same longing in us for the Church to be Salt and Light. For Singapore to turn God-wards. For Antioch missions to travel to the ends of the earth. For this Little Red Dot to glorify Jesus in every generation, in every way!
2018 is the Year of Prayer. Let us pour out our longings in intimate, beseeching prayer. Start a prayer circle or join one.
Come let us go at once to entreat the favour of the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty, I myself am going. Zechariah 8:21
A Singapore that Prays Without Prejudice was first published in saltandlight.sg. Reprinted with permission.