I recently attended a children’s eisteddfod in De Aar and was reminded of how privileged we are to be living in the Karoo.
What prompted the awareness of being privileged was not the Karoo’s wide-open spaces, silence, scenery, or lack of rush-hour traffic, but the manner in which the eisteddfod started and ended in prayer.
In this down-to-earth part of the world, prayer and glorifying the Lord is not restricted to Sunday morning church services, but is extended to many kinds of gatherings; from sports events to business and farmers’ association meetings, and children’s cultural occasions.
The eisteddfod impressed on me that all who live in the Karoo are blessed to bring-up their children in an environment in which prayer and the presence of God is so much part of every-day life; for one of the ultimate challenges of every child of God is to relate to Him and be aware of His presence throughout the day.
Marie Visser, one of the organisers of the eisteddfod, confirms how much a part of life prayer is in the Karoo.
For example, she says every eisteddfod organising committee meeting starts with prayer and some of the meetings have been devoted purely to prayer.
“While all the organisers of the eisteddfod have busy lives and much on their agendas besides the eisteddfod, beginning our meetings in prayer makes us still, calm and assured of the Lord’s guidance.
“We would not be able to function successfully without prayer.”
Marie, whose husband farms between De Aar and Richmond, says much of her time is spent in travelling the 140 kilometers to De Aar and back to the farm with her two children, but they use the time to pray together.
“Our children have learned that prayer is part of who and what we are,” says Marie.
Colleen Clabaugh, kids youth prayer coordinator at the World Network of Prayer, says a child’s experience with prayer can open the child up to a beautiful relationship with God where they feel safe to communicate with Him and become skilled in praying for their needs and the needs of the world.
She says simply put, prayer is communication with God.
This means we can pray and have a conversation with God at all times, which children should be taught by example; for the more they converse and bring Him into every aspect and moment of their lives the healthier their relationship with God and their neighbours will be.
Dave Turner, who farms in the Middelburg district and is a lay pastor at a local church, says the freedom in which people pray is a feature of life in the Karoo.
“Today, I was at a meeting at the Grootfontein Agricultural College concerning the students’ merino mini-farm. The meeting was started with both prayer and the reading of scriptures.
“Even some of the local ram sales are started in prayer and likewise the farmers’ association meetings,” says Turner.
“Karoo people are not merely religious, but alive in their faith.
“They are not just praying out of habit, but are honouring God and inviting him to be a part of their gatherings. And when you invite God in, then He is there providing His wisdom and guidance, which is a blessing,” he adds.
Turner says the fact that his children were brought-up in an environment in which prayer was part and parcel of life and not restricted to church services stood them in good stead once they left the Karoo to go to boarding school, as they could communicate freely with God and had developed personal relationships with Him.
“Prayer was not merely something that was preached to them, but was something that was lived-out in the family and surrounding community, which they came to rely on.”
Karoo farmer Jako Meyer, who is involved in a broad spectrum of community forums, form the local farmers’ association to school governing body, church, and the wool growers association, says they are all characterised by prayer at the beginning of meetings.
He says the fact that his children have been brought-up in an environment in which prayer is widely accepted has made them secure in the provision and protection of the Lord.
His experience is that when meetings are begun in prayer those attending are more unified, less likely to be involved in conflict and more aware of their higher purpose.
“Prayer has made a huge difference in my own life, as it allows me to be guided by the Lord’s will instead of my own self-interest,” says Meyer.
Rhett Newton, a businessman and farmer from Middelburg says he finds that Karoo people are no longer embarrassed to pray outside of the church or bible-study.
“Nowadays we might pray with our neighbour about a jackal preying on sheep in the area.
“Prayer has become a way of life in the Karoo.”
Rhett says his children have grown up with prayer.
“We try to keep a record of some of the things we pray for as a family, so that we can go back to the details as a testimony to show the children how God has answered our prayer, which teaches the children, through experience, of God’s power at work and how He answers our prayers,” says Rhett.
Andrew Murray, a former son of the Karoo, in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, says, “The Father waits to hear every prayer of faith. He wants to give us whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name”.
Murray says if there is one thing the church needs to learn, it is that God intends prayer to have an answer, and that we have not yet fully conceived of what God will do for us if we believe that our prayers will be heard.
“God hears prayer. This truth is universally admitted, but very few understand its meaning or experience its power,” says Murray.
One might think that it is not possible to communicate with God throughout the day, but is it not worth trying and at least increasing the amount of time we currently communicate with the Lord?
In his classic Christian work, Practice of the Presence of God,Brother Lawrence a Catholic monk who lived during the 17th Century and succeeded in bringing God into every aspect of his life, said we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment.
Brother Lawrence was uneducated, so he had to enter the Carmelite monastery as a layman. He worked in the kitchens and as a cobbler for the remainder of his life. Practice of the Presence of God, details how he gained that constant and comforting connection to God no matter how menial his activity.
Brother Lawrence rejoiced in his everyday tasks by praying continuously, constantly being in the presence of God, and being aware that he was performing his tasks for God as well as the people around him.
Brother Lawrence said it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.
He said his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God and when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God.
The truth of the matter is that we are blessed to be able to enter into the presence of God Almighty freely and at will – all it takes is being aware of Him and if we are not only aware of Him, but grateful too, then I believe we can almost feel Him smile.
We should take advantage of the immense privilege of being able to enter into the presence of the Creator and King of all creation, cognizant of the fact that we are forbidden to enter into the presence of mere earthly royalty, sometimes under the pain of death.
The book of Esther in the Bible describes how in the court of King Ahasuerus, entering the king’s presence without permission carried a penalty of death for the offender.
We can be extremely grateful that we are graced with the ability to enter our heavenly King’s presence without the need for permission or even an appointment.
God is infinitely more accessible than Ahasuerus or any other earthly ruler. In fact He not only welcomes us, but as Murray says, “The Father waits to hear every prayer of faith”.
Flo Shaw, international coordinator at the World Network of Prayer concurs with Brother Lawrence and Andrew Murray when she says: “Bring your presence and prayer into the presence of the Lord and make a difference in the present”.
“God is waiting for you to get into His presence. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Pray in the present. Pray now,” urges Shaw!”
And pray with your children as an accepted and regular occurrence whether at church, at home, watching sport, before a meal, or while going for a walk and communicating to God your gratitude for the glory of His creation.
Pray often, in fact try and pray all the time, for as Andrew Murray says, “Praying without ceasing is the earthly manifestation of heaven”.
The apostle Paul echoes Murray’s sentiment in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 when he says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.