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Conversations on Prayer

If you’ve studied scripture for any length of time, the theme of prayer comes up often. But prayer is a bit of a mystery, right? How does it work? What’s the best way to pray? How do you know if God has answered your prayers? This spring we spent some time with a few members of our faith family to ask them questions about what prayer means to them and how it impacts their life and the lives of others. Before you begin, take a moment to pray and center yourself on prayer and what God might want to teach you through the people in your community.

Who did we ask?

  • Three members of McFarlin’s weekly prayer group: Eve Hawley, Nancy Burton, Teddi Herr
  • A group of eight elementary Sunday school kids
  • Austin Leeviraphan, Director of Student Ministries 
  • Three team leaders from 2023 Spring Break Mission: Travis Reiger, Emma Decker and Caleb Lane

Some common themes emerged from these conversations, and we’ve categorized the answers into four themes: Conversation, Relationship, Empowerment and Intention.

Prayer is a Conversation: Speaking and Listening 

Kids respond: 

“It gives Jesus a message for other people.” 

“It’s a way to talk to God about what you feel, what you need, whenever, wherever.” 

“It’s something that helps you get closer to God and Jesus.” 

Travis shares how prayer is just like any other relationship: 

“Prayer is mainly just being with God, you know, just spending time with him everyday. Like in a relationship, you have to spend time with people. You can’t just say “hi” sometimes, that wouldn’t be a relationship.” 

Emma shares Travis’ feelings on building a relationship with God through prayer: 

“I like prayer because it helps me stay close and have a relationship with God. It’s having one-on-one time with him, where he answers prayers in the form of thoughts and in the actions of other people.” 

Caleb views prayer as a way to share his thoughts and worries with God: 

“It’s a way for me to talk to God, but a lot of times my prayers are about when stuff is troubling me. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray when good stuff is going on, but a lot of time it’s ‘hey this is happening, please guide me, use me the way you want to use me so that the situation gets better’.” 

Nancy participates in McFarlin's weekly prayer group.

Nancy sees her prayer life as having authentic conversation with God no matter her mood:

“For me it’s just connecting with our Creator again. It’s my time where I kind of block out the world and focus on my time with God. I think of Tevye in the Fiddler on the Roof where if he’s angry, he’s talking to God, if he’s happy or rejoicing, he’s talking to God.”

Austin relates to Nancy’s idea of conversation, and recently his posture has been that of a listener more than a speaker: 

“Currently my prayer life has been a lot more about listening. It’s still communing with God, but my prayer life has been more about silence now and trying to be attentively listening. I still actively pray about the things that weigh on my heart, but I have found more and more of my prayer time spent just trying to be attentive.” 

Prayer builds relationship with God and with others

Kids respond:

“When we’re all together, it feels like Jesus is actually listening” 

“When we pray together, we are all one person; one body together with Christ” 

Teddi knows the power that prayer offers in communing with God: 

“Prayer is connecting with God and his work in our lives. It’s just foundational to what we do as Christians, it’s a time to connect on a personal level. It’s communing with God, feeling the power of the Holy Spirit and confirming his love for me.” 

Authentic communication has become a vital part of Austin’s prayer life and has deeply impacted his relationship with God: 

“What I love about prayer now is that each and every morning when I pray, it’s never the same thing as it was the day before. And there’s nothing off limits in prayer. I’ve learned more and more. I’ve been angry in prayer and didn’t feel like God was going to smite me afterwards. It’s just the most freeing, communing relationship I have in my life.”

Being a leader of McFarlin’s prayer group, Eve knows how powerful it is to pray with people: 

“Having somebody you know you can pray with is special. You can share concerns in your heart and because we don’t have all the answers, you can go together in prayer. When I’m in prayer with another person, I kind of lose myself. It sounds kind of strange, but you realize that it’s not really about you anymore. It’s about what God wants to say to you and also what God wants to say through you.” 

Our relationships with others can be strengthened when we pray for each other, as Caleb testifies: 

“At the end of the week during Spring Break, the handwashing and prayer service is a really vulnerable moment where the team leaders wash the hands of each team member and pray over them. There are a couple people that I’ve gotten really close to over the years, one of them being Pastor Trey, so it was powerful to me to be able to wash the hands of a pastor who has done so much for me and my faith in his time here.”

Students hold hands as they pray together during Spring Break worship.

Broadening the story of the handwashing and prayer service, Austin pinpoints just how powerful community prayer is when we are vulnerable with each other: 

“We’re never as close to the community as we are when we are together on Friday night. It’s because what we’re doing is naming and lifting up those things about each other that are God-given and things that we rejoice for. It feels closest to what the Kingdom of God looks like because we choose to be vulnerable in the act of prayer together.”

Prayer empowers you to make a difference in the lives of others and the world  

Kids respond:

“It doesn’t always make [the situation] better but when I pray to God I usually pray about my grandma and afterwards I feel better about it.” 

“There aren’t a lot of specific ways that I can very clearly see that he answered my prayer, but I know he answers our prayers because every night with my mom I pray that the next day is better in one way or another and it always is.”

Nancy is taking up the legacy of prayer that her uncle passed down: 

“My uncle had a prayer room in his home in Virginia and it had pictures of my family and all his kids on his walls. When I was struggling with something, I would call Uncle Bob and he was just so faithful in prayer. Now, as a mother and grandmother, I feel like I’m growing into Uncle Bob because I just have all these people I want to cover in prayer. I don’t want to worry, I don’t want to be a worrying, anxious mom, so I lift them up to God.” 

Travis shares an experience he had on this year’s Spring Break Mission. Arriving in the middle of the week after attending his grandmother’s funeral, Travis felt lost and confused. He struggled to feel the positive impact his team was making and it wasn’t until Friday night that Travis experienced the deep, healing love of Jesus through his family of faith: 

“When you’re on the mission trip you can see all the work you’re doing, conversations with the families you’re helping. I felt deep gratitude for my team. Having that community praying around you allows us to feel confident and encouraged. The way I experienced being closer to God was being vulnerable and knowing I was doing the right thing.” 

Prayer is being intentional, even when it’s a challenge 

Emma has found specific things that help her focus and connect to God in intentional prayer, including a nightly reflection prayer about her day.  

“I usually pray around nighttime before I go to bed. I lay in bed and fold my hands. Saying it out loud helps me better. I pray about my day, how good it’s been or if it was bad, I just reflect on that and ask God to show me the reason behind that. Something that motivates me to pray is knowing that I can ask God to help me be a blessing to others by remembering them in my prayers.” 

Sometimes the challenge of prayer is not knowing what the answer is. For Eve, it’s all about how God offers her assurances about whatever the prayer is about: 

“Most of the time I don’t think my prayers are answered immediately, you know? But our assurances are immediately answered. If it really is a conversation with God, then it’s okay to ask God for an assurance of who God is or that things are going to be okay. And I think God gives you those immediate assurances through peace. Maybe it’s a word of peace that comes to mind, or an audible word you hear, or a feeling. Or it could be a person that comes by and says something that was exactly what you needed to hear.” 

Prayer story 2023-2697
Teddi listens to the prayers being said during McFarlin's weekly prayer group.

For Austin, intentional prayer plays a central role in all youth activities:  

“We open with prayer as a reminder of why we’re here, and to invite the Spirit to be part of whatever it is we’re doing. During small group time, we’ll have time for prayer requests where people can offer up prayers to pray as a community. Sometimes it’s things that are pressing on them in a sense, where it’s hard for them to bear alone. Sometimes it’s bubbling up and they’re super-excited and want to share those requests as well. And then we close in prayer just thanking God for our time together and to send us forth to wherever we’re going next.”  

 As followers of Jesus, our prayer life directly affects our relationship with God, with others and the world. And as Eve shares in the closing words below, if we want to make a life-changing difference in the world through Jesus, prayer must be the anchor to the God of all love, hope and grace.  

“A church that desires to exemplify to its congregation and to the community and world who God is, really has to make prayer a foundational part of that. Otherwise, we think we know what God wants us to do, but we haven’t really checked in. Without that prayer component, it’s easy to drift or think we know best.” 

Would you like prayer for something? Send us a Prayer Request.
Want to know more about McFarlin’s prayer group? 
Contact Eve Hawley, Director of Connection Ministries.

Eve Hawley: or 321-3484 ext. 180