Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to encounter and get to know Tanya Marlow through her writing and her friendship in the blogosphere. Every time I connect with her I have been encouraged and cared for. She is kind and humble and I'm thankful to have discovered her and her writing.
Sometimes I tell God, 'Look, you chose the wrong person to be housebound with an autoimmune illness. You should have chosen someone more spiritual who would have liked all this quiet and opportunity for prayer.'
My mind drifts back to a childhood memory. As an eight-year-old, I walked into our lounge, only to be confronted with a loud, passionate, disembodied female voice telling me I should pray.
My mum was on the rocking chair, listening to a ministry cassette tape. A pentecostal-sounding African woman was talking about prayer, her voice terrifying and passionate. Even mediated through my parents' fuzzy stereo system, you could practically feel the spit hitting your face with each syllable.
"When you pray, DON'T just say 'we pray for sister Sue.' NO! You say, 'Oh Lord, we PRAY for sister Sue, and we pray AGAINST all that will harm her ministry, and we pray for the BLISSING of God Almighty on her family, and we pray for EACH ONE of her family in turn, and we pray for Sister Sue's FINANCES and pray that you would bring your BLISSING on her abundantly, and give her all that she needs, the daily bread for whatever she needs today and we pray for Sister Sue's HEART and mind this week and..."
The voice was at once irritating and compelling.
My Mum, sitting in the chair, looked awe-inspired. "This is sister Sue," she said. "She's a Prayer Warrior."
It was an excellent description. If I had a spiritual army, I would have had her at the front; a fiery, sword-whirling Boudicca, stirring up the hearts of people to do battle.
Her method for prayer sounded thrilling, but exhausting. At that moment, I knew in my soul: I am no prayer warrior. As far as prayer goes, I'm not even a prayer Morris-dancer. It's all just a bit too much like hard work.
I don't like this long, stretched-out quiet, these days of endless opportunity for prayer. I like loud and people. I reason with God again, "don't you think this condition would suit someone else rather better?"
I have M.E., an autoimmune neurological illness, which affects my mobility and concentration. For the last two years, it has been so bad that I can't walk more than a few metres and I spend most of my days in bed. I have adjusted, but I still crave social interaction.
Last January, my concentration improved to the extent that I could read again for short bursts, and I feasted on the opportunity to correspond with people via Twitter, to form friendships, make connections, read and write blog posts. My world felt a little more colourful.
Now I read and respond to emails, tweets, friends' news on Facebook, and every time I read something that asks me to pray, I pray for it. I pray then and there; a quick, earnest, clumsy prayer, delivering the situation into the arms of Jesus
Then last week, a chance remark by a friend:
"I was talking to Anne, and I was saying, 'why don't you tell Tanya about it?' She's a prayer warrior, she can pray for you."
Hearing that label applied to myself brought me right back to that day in the lounge, embarrassed and slightly terrified. I giggled to myself as I considered her image of me as a prayer warrior. Tanya Marlow: Prayer Warrior Extraordinaire, at your service.
My prayers do not feel like war. They feel like bulky packages, thrown to me in each blog post or tweet, where I momentarily feel the weight of the need alongside that person, and then quickly throw them on to Jesus.
But it makes me wonder: isn't that what spiritual warfare really means? It is foolish to fight ourselves when we have a champion. The Holy Spirit prays with us in wordless groans, and the Son is continually interceding for us at the right hand of God the Father. This gives me confidence that my feeble words, entrusted to my God, will have power.
I read my Twitter feed, and smile. Today I will fight from my bed.
Over to you:
- How does prayer feel to you: like war, or throwing parcels?
Tanya Marlow was formerly in Christian ministry for a decade and was Associate Director and lecturer for a university-level Bible training course. Now she reads Bible stories to her toddler as she learns what it means to be a mum who is housebound with an autoimmune illness. She blogs at Thorns and Gold, on the Bible, Suffering, and the messy edges of life. Follow Tanya on Twitter or like her Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Taramisu at Flickr