Prayer is a key activity in Cuban churches
Cuban Christians are a people of prayer. Since you have so little control over your life, (unlike here where you can always fix things with a phone call), they know their only hope many times is asking God to intervene in different situations on their behalf. I personally have learned so much about prayer, trusting God, and seeing his power at work when we are helpless.
Right now we are in the midst of Holy Week, following events in Jesus´ life of powerlessness – betrayal, unjust condemnation, suffering and death. We see what a great price Jesus paid for our salvation. Yet this helplessness is followed by a show of power, resurrection power as God raised Jesus from the dead.
I had a recent experience which reminded me of how much I have learned from Cuban Christians – as well as reminding me once again of God´s great power.
In Ephesians 1:18ff , Paul says: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…”
A cousin called my parents a few weeks ago, sharing that her small main-line denominational church was going through a difficult time. In brief, the pastor´s family was in turmoil and an adult son was in the news for criminal behavior related to addictions. A member of the church had a divinely inspired idea. “Let´s have a prayer vigil to support our pastor,” and in the same breath, asked my cousin to head it up. She consulted my parents, since my father is a retired pastor but they didn´t have any experience with a vigil.
Enter my Cuban experiences, which include prayer vigils. They can be fairly short to all-night services. I learned from them and actually put together a number of such services. Again, I felt the Holy Spirit´s inspiration as I wrote down some ideas that could be used. When my cousin called back, she took notes while I walked her through some ideas for scriptures, music and prayer.
Included in the recommendations was a time of praise and adoration of God, and recognition of God´s great power to answer prayer and to change things. I also believe that we need to prepare our hearts – to confess our sins and shortcomings, humble ourselves before God so that He can work in our hearts. Only then can we begin interceding for others. The intercessory prayers also needed to include petitions for restoration (after all, God is for salvation of the whole person) in the church, the pastoral family and their son.
I found the situation intriguing, after all, here I was using skills that I had learned in Cuba to help an American church seek God´s intervention. I was also grateful for being able to help!
Two weeks later, my cousin called to report (for forty-five minutes) on what God had done. She had been so nervous about putting together the program, but she got others involved. She then spoke of how this prayer service had absolutely revolutionized their little church.
First, the expected turnout was thirteen people but forty people came. During the time of confession (which I had envisioned as being personally between God and each one present), a key leader stood up to publicly confess an addiction and asked for the congregation´s forgiveness. Others then spoke in support of this leader, also confessing that they, too, had their shortcomings. By the end of the service, there wasn´t a dry eye in the church. The prayer vigil also spurred reconciliation among the members outside the service. My cousin couldn´t stop marveling at how God had moved so powerfully through the congregation. The proposed purpose of the prayer service was to ask God to work in a “problem” person´s life and those he affected, but instead God´s grace and power were manifested as God changed them all!
Cuban Christians would just smile and rejoice with us over this prayer vigil result. After all, they see it happening all the time as they constantly lay their needs before an all-powerful God. Continue to pray for them as they live out their faith in the resurrected Jesus.
So for this Easter, despite the things we cannot control, I pray that you will know the hope to which Christ has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his resurrection power in your life.