Canvas | Issue 88: People of Prayer

Unlike some on these islands, I am not a regular visitor to high altitude. Except for my travels on Air New Zealand and the occasional jaunts on hills around the country, I’m rarely too far above sea level. Following my recent visit to Ecuador, where I spent time with Ruth Hicks and her family and spoke at the CECE national camp, I have a newfound admiration for those who live life at higher altitude.

As I visited Quito, the highest capital city in the world (its elevation in the Andean foothills is 2,850 metres), I found the effects of altitude sickness more significant than I expected. It was nothing too major – an ongoing headache, and on occasion, noticeable shortness of breath, but the effect was real. For the first time in my life, I was reminded of the necessity of breath and the impact of decreased oxygen supply.

The exposure at high altitude to low amounts of oxygen causes a negative health effect that immediately sends signals through one’s body that everything is not as it should be.

Whilst experiencing these challenges to my breathing, I was taken back to simple words penned by newspaper editor and hymn writer, James Montgomery some years ago:

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air.”

As Christians, prayer is supposed to be as crucial to us as our daily breath. It is meant to be our familiar air. And yet, I write to you as one who freely admits my own struggles to breathe this “native air”.

I’m struck how in Scripture, prayer is presented as something we find hard. Think of the disciples in Gethsemane, where three times they fall asleep rather than praying with Jesus! As Jesus says of them, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40–44)

In Luke 11:1, one of the disciples asks, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It’s something that doesn’t come naturally, something we need to learn, something in which we need God’s help.

In Romans 8:26–27, Paul tells us that, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

It is wonderfully comforting to know that in something we find so hard, where frequently we fail, God meets us in our weakness. He knows that our “flesh is weak”.  He knows we need his help. He knows we need his teaching. And so, by his Spirit, he helps us in our weakness. When we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

As TSCF, we recognise that prayer is our vital breath. We know that we need to pray more. As I write, the world is struggling to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surely, our first response must be to turn to prayer? This issue of Canvas comes out of a desire for us to pray. As TSCF, we need to be a people of prayer – as students, supporters and staff. And so, this is a call to prayer.

Would you join us in praying that students would meet and encounter Jesus on our campuses in New Zealand? Would you pray that they would be changed for life by him? Please pray for answered prayer in Auckland, where we urgently need staff to join the work. Please pray that across the campuses of Aotearoa students would be used mightily to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath.” Take a deep breath and let God be your source.


Ben Carswell, National Director