The Power of Prayer

By Hephzibah Penumaka


The idea of giving ashes on a cold Wednesday morning for two hours seemed a little out of my comfort zone.

However, the voice of my preaching professor, Dr. Cleo LaRue, reminded me that the Christ never intended the church to be a building in which we wait for the people to come to us. Christ always went to the people, and that is where the church is. Therefore, our mission as the church is to go where the people are. If there’s anything we have learned from the disciples, the mission of the church requires us to go out of our comfort zone.

After ten minutes, an individual came up to Pastor Danielle to receive ashes. Pastor Danielle added a liturgical piece in the imposition of ashes by praying for the individual’s needs before drawing a cross on the individual’s forehead and saying the Ash Wednesday mantra: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Two minutes later, a woman came up to me and I followed in suit. At the end, the woman told me she was happy that she didn’t have to go to church today. My heart sank. If anything, I thought receiving ashes would encourage us to attend a church service so as to understand why we were receiving ashes, which marked the start of the Lenten season. As a someone who has attended church for 26 years, I still needed that reminder as to why we celebrate Lent.

An hour later, we had given ashes to almost 20 people. Right before pastor Danielle told me to go inside and warm up, a young woman came up to me. After asking for her name, she requested for a prayer concerning her fight for the custody of her daughter in court the following week and was trying to save money to pay for the case. I was taken back by her prayer request. How often do we live by our own needs and desires and as a result, forget the existence of those around us? How often do we get upset over the littlest things and realize there is greater sadness in the world? I remembered a quote from a novel I had to read for my Pastor as Person class. “You’re fine. You’re not starving, no one beats you. Your parents are still alive. There is real sadness in the world and yours is pathetic, you whiny insignificant cow.” There I was internally complaining about the cold, not realizing the struggles of others such as this young mother who was fighting for her daughter. After I prayed for her, she thanked me and told me how much the prayer meant to her. It’s amazing how prayer can have an affect on someone.

Prayer is such a beautiful gift that God has given us to communicate with God but it makes me wonder how much we make use of it. Christ prayed in the desert for 40 days before he began his ministry and Christ also prayed for hours before he was taken to be crucified. I realized that prayer was more than just a petition for the things we need and want, prayer gives us the strength to face the challenges before us. The past month had been difficult for me as I faced rejection from the schools I applied to, dealing with the lack of representation of Asian American voices in my school, and figuring out what I wanted to do after I graduated. I found myself finding solace with friends and family, new documentaries on netflix and even sleep. Although these things helped me feel better for some time, I still felt sad and weak. However, participating in the Imposition of Ashes in the public helped me to realize that the power of prayer. Therefore, I will not be giving up sweets or social media but to spend more time in prayer. I wouldn’t have been able to come to this decision if I didn’t participate in this ministry of giving ashes in the public. I feel that we are all called to serve God in some way and as a result, God helps us to identify and learn of how we can continually grow in our faith journey. Therefore, in this season of Lent, I challenge to you serve in a type of ministry that can challenge you to grow in your faith journey.

Advent Lutheran Church