Great Grief and Earnestness

By: Sarah Morrison

Here in Parma, things have settled down a bit. I’ve been reflecting on our time here, mostly in awe that we even still are here. Not because we don’t want to be, and not because we shouldn’t be, but because the only explanation for why we are here is this: God has sustained us. 

We came up here without knowing if we would be fully funded. We came here having been recently abandoned by the team that was supposed to come with us. We came here knowing it would be hard, but without the foresight to know what that meant. If you’ve walked with us closely you’ll know of the destructions, slanders, deaths, abandonments, and hostilities we’ve walked through. The consolation I receive is purely through the solidarity of other believers who have walked the same road, through the Scriptures that reveal the beatings, shipwrecks, sleeplessness, imprisonments, and stoning of Paul the Apostle. The only way that we are still in this is through the cosmic support of our Heavenly Father.

Our first year here, our prayer requests looked like this: pray for nursery workers, pray for funding, pray for an elevator, pray for our events and outreaches. Our second year they looked similar. This year, we’ve all but been dismantled. Our prayers aren’t for nursery workers, it’s for God to be at work in our church. It isn’t for an elevator, it’s for God to sweep through our community. It isn’t for funding, it’s for God. It isn’t that we haven’t prayed for Him and His work from the beginning, but we’ve slowly been focusing, sharpening, like a camera lens.

Through the years, our prayers have become more and more defined. Our requests have gone from a list of needs to one, foundational need. We need God. We need His hand. We need Him to do the work, because our hands are incapable. We need His Word because ours are sorely insufficient. We don’t need nursery workers primarily. We don’t need new paint primarily. We don’t need events, fundraisers, outreaches, conferences. We need Him. We need Him.

Last Friday night, a small group from our church gathered together over snacks and caffeine for 

a six-hour study of prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of God led by David Platt. The eight of us stayed up until 1:30am, filling in blanks to the 250 some-odd page listening guide. With information thrown at us so quickly, there was little time to reflect and meditate. We gulped from a raging river and only now are we sifting through thoughts, convictions, and musings. 

The meditation on my mind since last Friday has been this: my faith is small, smaller than a mustard seed. It’s a seed I desperately need to grow. It’s a seed that I can’t seem to tend to. I keep a journal of prayer requests, each one dated from when I started. Each still awaiting the end date, the date in which the answer is no longer opened-ended, the day that it lands firmly on yes or no. Lord I believe, help my unbelief

Among many things, I pray for our church to flourish, I pray for workers, for friends, to be sent to us. I pray for our community, and for the work of mine and Paul’s hands to be established by the Lord. I pray for clarity in fog, for help amid challenges, for help in grave circumstances. 

My grief has not led me to pray more earnestly. No, my grief has become an enabler of inaction. My grief breeds sickness in my guts when I look at those blank journal entries, begging for a yes or no. Worst case, my grief has allowed me too much grace and led me to a wasteland of prayerlessness. Best case, poor prayerfulness. But on Friday, I was confronted with a choice—either keep my mustard seed in the back of the cupboard, or pull it out and plant it, confidently, before the Lord. A quote that struck me was this:

“Great grief prays with great earnestness. Prayer is not a collection of balanced phrases; it is the pouring out of the soul. What is love if it not be fiery? What are prayers if the heart be not ablaze? They are the battles of the soul. In them men wrestle with principalities and powers. . .the prayer that prevails in not the work of lips and fingertips. It is the cry of a broken heart and the travail of a stricken soul.”- Samuel Chadwick.

As it has stood, my grief has begotten more grief. But as I hope to pursue, my grief ought to beget larger faith, bigger prayers, and higher hope. Over the past two months, some of you have reached out and asked to be kept more informed about what’s going on with us and ways that you can pray for us. I’d like to propose a step further.

As church planters in the city of Parma, Ohio, we’ve been granted opportunity by God to participate in His work. Our boots are firmly planted on the ground here, and we’re elbow deep in the soil. Just as we have been invited to be participants in the work here, we’d like to invite you to be a participant as well. This doesn’t involve moving or money, but it does require some discomfort. It requires an active mind and heart with us here. It requires a yielding of your preferences for the sake of God’s Kingdom work in Parma, Ohio. Would you consider participating in the plan of God by joining us in a day of fasting and prayer each month?

The element of fasting is sorely lacking in mine and Paul’s lives, and we’ve invited our church family, and are now inviting you, to join us in strengthening this tenant of our faith. Whether you choose to forgo one meal or commit to a full day of fasting, we ask that you’ll seriously consider fasting on the first of each month, dedicating the time you would have spent cooking or eating toward fervent prayer on our behalf and on the behalf of our city and our church. 

However you choose to observe this is up to your discretion, but we long to have you join us in this time of prayer and fasting. To say we covet your prayers in an understatement. We needyour prayers. We needyou to wait with us on the Lord, we needyou to beg that He not delay. We need guttural calls to the Almighty. The only one who can do anything for us.

I’m reminded by Daniel 10 that our prayers engage us in Spiritual conflict. That the 21 days Daniel spent fasting and praying, the angel of the Lord spent combatting spiritual darkness in a physical battle. We are amid spiritual darkness in Parma, and we need your intercession. We need you to be like the persistent widow of Luke 11, not allowing God to rest until He mightily sweeps His hand through Parma. We need you to be the bold, impudent man in that same chapter, asking for some bread in the middle of the night. We need you to ask, seek, knock, on our behalf. Ask, seek, knock. Ask. Seek. Knock. 

If you choose to fast and pray with us beginning this Wednesday, below are some guided requests to make on our behalf as well as some verses to plead to God. We plan to make this a monthly habit, dedicating the first day of each month to prayer and fasting, and we hope you’ll seriously consider joining us. And if you are interested in getting more specific, monthly requests, please email me at sarah@grantwoodcc.com.

For more of God

Pray that our affections for God would grow. Pray that He would sustain us and give us more of Himself. That our trust in Him would grow. That our mustard seeds would flourish beyond comprehension—Psalm 63:1, Acts 17:27-28

The region of Northeast Ohio and other laborers in our city

That the devil’s strongholds on this region be removed—Ephesians 6:12

That the laborers remain steadfast—Galatians 6:9

Pray for Workers to be sent to the Harvest

That spiritually mature believers will be sent to GCC who will selflessly and diligently love and tend to the church—Luke 10:2

Pray for Paul and I

That we would have supernatural endurance and encouragement—Romans 12:12

Pray for our church

That we would grow in breadth and depth—Hebrews 10:25, Philippians 1:9-11

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