Reflections by Maxie Dunnam
Prayer means that no one of us can ever say, ‘There is nothing I can do.’”
I first went to the Soviet Union in 1981 and came away frustrated and confused. I experienced pain to see beautiful churches turned into warehouses, factories, and communist meeting halls. For a long time after that, the picture I had of the Russian church was old women, clad in heavy sweaters and coats, sitting in the dark corners of the churches we visited, sometimes dusting the furniture, or praying before the icons. I kept asking myself, “What can these grandmothers do? How can they keep alive the faith of the church? Where are the young people?
A few years after that, at the celebration of 1000 years of the church in Russia, when someone asked a Russian priest whether it was healthy for the church to be composed of so many aged mothers, he replied with a story: “In the early days of communism, many churches were blown up and the priests, monks, and nuns were executed. Lenin argued that once the grandmothers died, nobody would remember that there had been a church in Russia. But now, Lenin is long dead, and the church is still full of grandmothers who were children when he was alive.”
Then he concluded, “As long as the Russian church has its grandmothers, it will survive.”
I experienced the truth of that dramatically in the Czech Republic in 1991. Freedom had come a short time before. I was in Pilsen at the Maranatha Church. It was one of the most exciting experiences of worship and church life in which I’ve ever participated. The sanctuary of the church had been turned into a lecture hall of the university by the communist regime, but now the government had returned it to the church. Over 500 crowded in. At least 75% of them were younger than thirty—and all of them had become Christians in just the past three or four years.
That congregation had been kept alive by a few praying people. For over 30 years, eight elderly women gathered each week and prayed—week in and week out. As a result of the faithfulness of those “praying grandmothers,” a dynamic congregation was making a powerful witness. I never witnessed such joy, such hope, such confidence, such powerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
Keep that picture in your mind, remembering the word of that priest: “As long as the Russian church has its praying grandmothers, it will survive.” Add to that picture my assertion, “prayer means that no one of us can ever say, ‘There is nothing I can do.’” We can pray.
Prayer is one of the greatest works that Christians are given to do.