About 10 women sat in a circle poised to pray. Needy women. With broken families. Broken bodies. Broken marriages. Longings. Pain. Women like me.
One by one, each woman sat in a chair and shared what hurt her heart. Open. Willing to receive. From her sisters. From her God.
I braced myself for the onslaught of needs. I knew I couldn’t meet them. That lesson was deeply entrenched because of God’s work in my heart. I knew I couldn’t meet them, but I was still prepared for them to be overwhelming.
I never thought I was good at giving others compassion until God used my circumstances to show me my own need for compassion. My need to receive.
I wasn’t bracing myself because we were in a third world country, where the needs often seem more visible to sheltered, privileged Americans. We don’t like to think of ourselves as privileged because we can always find someone who has more than we do, but we are.
I was bracing myself because I knew I would only be in Nicaragua for 10 days. What could I do in 10 days? The answer is nothing. But my God, the one who knew these women before I even considered them, the one who cares for them more than I ever will, he will complete his work.
It wasn’t the most comfortable prayer time for an American who prizes her own comfort. It was hot. It felt long. Tears were shared. Hands were clasped. It was less intellectual, more emotional. I could hear eight women praying at the same time in Spanish, and I could hear Spanish words that sounded like the French words I learned in high school and college.
It was difficult to focus on my own thoughts, to know what to pray.
All of the Nica women were already praying all at once, at loud volumes. Heads covered with colorful scarves in respect to God. What did one more voice matter? What would I say that would translate into Spanish well?
It was then that I realized the part I play in prayer. It’s an offering to God. It’s not a guarantee. He isn’t required to answer my prayers the way I want him to. He knows the beginning, middle and the end, but all I know is the middle.
But because of the sacrifice of Jesus, prayer connects me to God. Prayer is my part of our relationship. It is a gift.
God has said so much in the Scriptures already. He has said so much in the sacrifice of his son, in the offer of redemption to selfish people like me. And, it’s finished.
I can pray because no matter what others share with me about their circumstances, I know God wins in the end. I know God is about the preservation of his people.
So, I opened my mouth in submission to God’s great work that is forever coming to pass. I talked to God. On behalf of these women. I reminded myself of what is true. I asked God to work in the lives of these sisters. I asked him to redeem their brokenness with the blood of Jesus. I asked him to meet their needs and trusted that he would.
When it was my turn to sit in the middle of the circle, I didn’t expect to feel loved by the unknown hands touching me or moved by words I couldn’t understand. But I did. And, because of our love for God and unity in prayer, I knew we were sisters.
We held hands. We touched one another. Our voices blended toward heaven. Some loud. Some soft. In Spanish. In English. We were a community. We were the church. Even if it was only a moment in time.