Organizing Intercessory Prayer

Does God answer prayer? Absolutely, yes, as both the Bible and our experience tells us. We know from history that serious prayer often or possibly always precedes great revivals. In the Old Testament Daniel was even led to pray and fast as he saw the date approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy–God had promised to bring the people of Israel back to their land after 70 years, and even this promised event was carried out on the prayers of faithful Daniel.

We are longing to see a great work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and to that end, we believe that prayer is the vital ingredient. Ray and I first committed to praying together each morning back in 2011, when we came to the end of ourselves in the ministry. We saw experientially that we can accomplish nothing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until 2018 that we actually developed a system for our intercessory prayer. Although we prayed with passion each morning, the reality was that some important matters slipped our minds, and other prayers became repetitive. Not only that, many answers to prayer that we received went unnoticed because we had forgotten what we had prayed for and in the process we lost the opportunity to thank God and strengthen our faith.

So we began using a system, and as we’ve used it these past two years, we would not want to go back. Our prayers are more focused and deeper and we love getting to write down the answers to many of them. I am going to describe what we do in this blog post, in hopes that it might inspire you, our reader, in your own prayer life.

Prayer Journal

Throughout the decades of my Christian walk, I have always seen and heard about keeping a prayer journal, but had concerns about it being confusing or unwieldly. We haven’t found that to be the case but it did take some trial and error to figure out how to make it serve our needs. What we have done is taken each day of the week and divided it into a category. Here are our categories: Sunday–revival and holiness; Monday–relatives; Tuesday–our church members and raising up church leadership; Wednesday–our children and grandchild; Thursday–nonbelievers; Friday–friends and missionary co-workers; Saturday–missions. I purchased a blank, lined journal and I found that each of these categories really only need about a page with a few notes to remind us who to pray for.

In addition to the weekly categories, we have a section for immediate needs. This is our longest section. I write in dark blue for petitions and in orange for answers to prayer. It is organized by date. I find sometimes an answer to a prayer comes and I realize I never wrote the prayer request down, as not all of them make it on paper. That is okay, I take my orange pen, write down the date and the thanksgiving to God. In this way I can quickly go back and see what wonderful provisions God has given over the preceding weeks and months, and also to pray afresh for any petitions that are still awaiting an answer. This has been a great blessing, to look back and see how God has been at work. Many times He gives a yes answer, and other times a resounding no. We are thankful we have a heavenly Father who doesn’t always give us what we ask for, because He is so much wiser than we are.

Prayer Calendars

A newer but still beloved part of our system is the prayer calendar. So each day we have our topic based on the day of the week, we have whatever immediate petitions to bring before God’s throne, and then we pray for the day of the month in our prayer calendars. Right now we go through the Belize prayer calendar, the Uruguay prayer calendar, a calendar for the missionaries in our region, and then the Mission to the World prayer calendar. Prayer calendars are a wonderful way to remember to pray for what is important to us! I made a folder, as you can see in the photos, to keep our prayer calendars together in one spot. In the past I have hung a prayer calendar up in the kitchen as well, to focus my prayers during meal preparations. I would highly recommend using prayer calendars for powerful intercessory prayer. You are welcome to follow the links for the three I have provided, or find others as well. If you have a favorite missionary you follow, I would encourage you to ask them to make a prayer calendar for their country. The one I did for Uruguay is in a format that can be used over and over, month in and month out. It is a great way to be focused on praying for a country, or people group, or ministry.

Prayer Cards

The last method is one that I have been using since 2016 as a way to use stray moments in my day for intercessory prayer. I have a group of 3×5 cards that I try to take with me so that if I am out walking or waiting in the car, or if I have a few extra minutes in the day, I can use them productively. I have a card for Ray and each of my children and my grandchild, and a few other cards for things very important to me. I change them out about once a year, so I primarily put longer term prayer requests, and verses that I want to pray for each person. After a while, so many prayers get answered, and there are other newer ones to take their place, so eventually I have to make new ones. I also keep any verses I am memorizing in my card envelope.

Conclusion

I can think of no ministry as important in our world today than that of intercessory prayer. I hope some of these ideas might inspire you as you develop and refine your own system. In this blog post I focused on making a system for personal or family intercessory prayer. Of course, there is an important corporate aspect to intercessory prayer and we should seek to pray also with our brothers and sisters in the church and take part with enthusiasm in the pastor’s prayer during the worship service. There is nothing like hearing our brothers and sisters talk to the Lord to stimulate our own prayers, and when 3 or 5 or 10 or 200 of us are all in agreement in prayer there is even more power.

Presbyterian Day School, Belize

We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school.

What if I told you there was an outreach project that would meet the twin goals of economic development and the growth of the church and it’s only catch was that it’s work would be slow and steady over the course of decades? What if I told you the Presbyterian denomination has been involved in such an outreach for the past 44 years?
When Tom and Helen Lacey came here in the early 1970s, they set about planting churches, continuing the work that began with a Mexican evangelist, to begin a new Presbyterian denomination in northern Belize.

They could see that healthy churches need elders, pastor, deacons, and church members who are knowledgeable of the Bible, strong in character, and economically stable. And we can be thankful that they had great wisdom and foresight.

In 1976 they started an elementary school in the village of Cristo Rey called Presbyterian Day School. Today, the school ministry in the denomination has grown to include 4 elementary schools, 6 preschools and a high school. This school ministry has been vital to the growth of the churches. It provides a Christian education for the covenant children in the churches, and a ministry to the families and children in the community who send their children to these excellent schools that teach the Bible, godly values and rigorous academics.

Some of the 2020 graduates


Each of these schools has their own story. Each one is impacting their community for Christ. Today, however, I would like to focus on the very first school that the Laceys began, Presbyterian Day School (PDS). I hope in future blog posts to highlight some of the other schools as well. PDS is special, and not just because it was the first, nor simply because three of our children attend the school. It has the unique distinction of being the only Presbyterian school not to receive government funding. What this means practically is that while they have freedom in what they teach, they also struggle with funding. Each of their teachers see their work first as a ministry, to the point at which they make a salary just over half that of the other teachers in the country. In short, the school needs financial help.

On the way to school on the school bus

In 1980, just 4 years after the Laceys began PDS, missionary Dorothy Mayer left her teaching job in South Dakota to come help teach. She is still here, helping to teach and do administration. One of her former students, Isaias Botes, has since taken over from her as principal. He in turn is principal over a few teachers that he taught as a teacher at PDS. I think it would be safe to say that Presbyterian Day School has exceeded the dreams and expectations that the Laceys originally held for it. The school has been a backbone in the two villages it serves, Cristo Rey and Patchakan. The Presbyterian churches in these villages have grown and been strengthened by bringing in families from the community. The impact of PDS has gone far beyond just these two villages.

Many of the teachers from all the various Presbyterian schools themselves attended PDS; three of the principals in the Presbyterian schools are PDS graduates as is the general manager of the Presbyterian schools. Several of the pastors and elders in the Presbyterian churches started out there as well. In addition, the list of graduates includes doctors, nurses and government officials that are serving all over the country. Although the villages have been historically poor and undeveloped, PDS has played an important role in the economic development of the area.

PDS continues to have an important role in these two villages in northern Belize. These precious little ones that start at PDS as four-year olds are the future of the church and the community. We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school. That way, the cost of tuition stays affordable for all the children in the community.

We would love to see individuals commit to monthly giving. We would also love to see some Christian schools develop a “sister school” sort of partnership as well. This is because we know that Christian schools in the U.S. and the families that support them are also passionate about Christian education. Could you begin by praying that the Presbyterian Day School of Cristo Rey, Belize, would become fully funded?

And second, would you consider if God might be calling you to help out with the need, either by giving monthly or one time? And lastly, would you consider sharing this need with others that you know who have a passion for economic development or Christian education? Thank you.

DONATE TO PDS

Prayer in the Pandemic

A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.

Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:

“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.”

It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?

When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.

All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.

As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

The Influence of a Godly Mother

There has been a lot of controversy in our church circles during the past few years about the role of women in the Church. We hear it said that women’s gifts have not been valued, and that we need to usher in a new era where the church finally frees women to do valuable and worthwhile ministry. When I first started hearing the rumbling of these complaints I’ll admit I was confused, since in most the churches I have been in, women were already playing such a vital role, particularly in the hidden roles of service, helps and working with children – roles that Jesus assures us are among the most important in His kingdom.

Continue reading The Influence of a Godly Mother

Helen Lacey’s Obituary

When Michele and I arrived in Belize we learned about the amazing work of God throughout the years here. As newcomers to this ministry, we have jumped into an ever flowing stream of gospel work for Christ’s glory where the past, present and anticipation of the future join together.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

Tom and Helen Lacey were the first MTW missionaries to Belize and God used them tremendously for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Beginning in the early 1970’s, they were instrumental in helping start Presbyterian churches, Presbyterian schools and a Presbyterian medical clinic. As we visit these churches and the school where our children now study, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and of the hard work and dedication of the Laceys.

Continue reading Helen Lacey’s Obituary

Remembering the Poor

In James 2:14-26 we find the well known discussion of the relationship between faith and works. James gives us an example of how true and living faith ought to (and in fact does) result in good works:

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jam. 2:15-17).

It is interesting that the example he gives has to do with the needy, particularly those who struggle with obtaining sufficient food and clothing. One of the horrible consequences of the COVID-19 crisis has been that many around the world who were on the edge of being able to sustain their families with enough food have been pushed over the precipice into hunger and destitution. I have heard reports of people all over the world going without food. Families in Peru and Columbia have taken to placing a flag in front of their dwellings to signal the government and others that they have run out of provisions. Missionaries in Africa report the widespread sudden lack of resources. The stories could be multiplied on every continent.

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Help Victims of COVID-19 in Belize

Savannah in northern Belize

MTW in Belize will be partnering with the Presbyterian Church in Belize to find ways to help people who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis – especially those in our churches here. Many have lost their jobs or have had reduced incomes. There are many families that struggle to put food on the table under normal circumstances and this has been a severe setback. People are already low on food and basic needs and things are likely to get worse as the disease spreads. There are also many sick and elderly. The churches haven’t been able to meet so tithes and offerings have come to a halt.

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Comfort For God’s People

In times of difficulty and suffering Christians have the advantage of being able to go to God’s Word for comfort. The Bible is a treasure trove of truth, light, and blessed comfort for God’s people. Isn’t God incredibly gracious and loving to have provided such riches in His Word?

It is important to learn and meditate on the truths, warnings, promises and exhortations in God’s Word before challenging times arrive. To the degree that we have done that we will be better prepared to meet the “difficult providences” that God brings into our lives. As we remember and meditate on those things during difficulties and trials God will give us direction, wisdom, and comfort – especially by the power of the Holy Spirit working by and with the Word of God in our lives.

But whether remembering truths already contemplated or learning them for the first time, we will be better prepared to go through dark times. With that in mind I would like to list a couple of the many truths that we find in Scripture. In a future post I hope to list a couple more.

Continue reading Comfort For God’s People

Praying for Belize

We leave to start our new life and ministry in Belize in just 5 days. How do we feel? Excited, nervous, hopeful, scared. Mostly, we just can’t wait to get going! We have been busy packing and preparing. January was full with Ray going to a training on church revitalization and all of us going to an MTW ReConnect conference, as well as presenting our ministry and preaching and of course, packing!

In all of this preparation, the most important part is prayer. There is a spiritual battle raging in this world, for the hearts and minds of the 7.7 billion souls on this planet many of whom do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Who are on the front lines? Not primarily the missionaries who are spreading the good news about Jesus, but those who are on their knees in prayer!

We can tell you from experience that we will be feeling this spiritual battle. Please pray for our protection as we enter into our new ministry. Also we would like to encourage you to pray daily for Belize. Our team has a prayer calendar for the month of February that contains one short prayer request for the ministry of MTW in Belize for each day. It is a great way to help you pray specifically and regularly for the ministry. It is a great way to be on the front lines of extending God’s kingdom in the nation of Belize. Would you be willing to print it out and pray through it each day?