What Do You Prioritize?

In January, 2002, I traveled to Senegal, West Africa, to be the spiritual emphasis week speaker at Dakar Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids. I also spent several days in the bush country outside of Dakar (a huge city) with two missionaries our church supports. They’re also great friends of my office manager, Joyce Penninger, who was with me. Mary Anne Lattin and Marilyn Escher had been there about 25 years, translating the Bible for one of the tribal groups of Senegal.

When going to different bush churches on Sunday morning, we met an older woman (a mother/grandmother) who came to Christ about 9 months before we met her, on the day her believing husband died. Her son is the pastor in their small community. This woman was baptized just two weeks before we met her. She asked us into her home where we found a double bed, two small chairs, a bookshelf, and a pile of things in one corner. The floor was cement, the walls were brick, and the roof was tin. (They only sleep inside. They do everything else outside.)

Joyce and I sat on the bed and Mary Anne and Ndeba sat on the chairs. Mary Anne introduced Joyce and me as women from the church in America who pray for her church. Through Mary Anne’s translation, I told Ndeba we would continue to pray for her and her people and I asked how we could pray specifically for her.

To be honest, because it appeared to me that she had nothing and I knew they were suffering through a drought, and because I’m from the materialistic western world and she knew that, I expected her to ask me to pray that she would be blessed with money, food, and “stuff.”

When people ask how they can pray for you, what do you ask them to pray for?

I can’t adequately describe my reaction when I heard Mary Anne translate this woman’s response. She asked us to pray that she would walk rightly with her Jesus. (“Dear Dr. Kathy, lady from America, please pray that I would walk rightly with my Jesus.”) She smiled as she said it. I was immediately humbled and tears formed in the corners of my eyes.

She continued talking, and I remember thinking that her second request would be for money. Wrong! Second, she asked us to pray for protection and she used an important pronoun: “Dear Dr. Kathy, lady from America, please pray that we would be protected from the evil one.” Now my tears began to fall as I realized I was in the presence of a very mature woman who had her priorities right!

Here’s her third request: “Dear Dr. Kathy, lady from America, please pray that my faith in my great God would grow.” My tears continued.

Mary Anne then asked me if I would like to pray for those three things for Ndeba right then and there. Oh, my! I was so honored to do so and to have my words to God translated into her language. It’s one of my top ten honors.

Ndeba appeared to have nothing, but she had everything that mattered: A desire to walk rightly, knowledge that God’s protection in the middle of warfare is essential and the wisdom to ask for it, and a desire to have more faith in God. How do I compare? What do I prioritize? What are my goals?

Ndeba is one of my role models. I will not … I can not … forget her. I carry a picture of us in my purse at all times. Now, when people ask how they can pray for me and I hear myself talk about our need to fund a new product, my writing projects, or whatever else, it’s as if I hear Ndeba’s voice and I stop talking. I then might say that although all of that’s true, I’d really appreciate prayer that I would walk rightly with my Jesus; that He would protect me, Celebrate Kids, and those I love from the evil one; and that my faith in my great God would grow. This is right.

I’m grateful to God for introducing me to Ndeba. She will always have an important influence on me and my prayer life. This is how I consistently pray for the people I love – and you!

Pray that I would walk rightly with my Jesus.

Pray that we would be protected from the evil one.

Pray that my faith in my great God would grow.