In Which I Ask God to Take Back His City

by Elizabeth

Over New Year’s, I received my “Word” for this year — a word I am very excited about, a word that brings together everything I have learned about missions so far. But to explain this year’s word, I need to go back to the first time I chose a word for the year, back to January 2011.

In January 2011, we were preparing to attend the Kairos course as part of our missionary training. I felt that my word for that year was “Listen.” So I packed my bags and my listening ear, and headed to Kairos. There, we talked about the Great Commission. We studied the history of Christian missions. And we learned the utmost importance of prayer in bringing the Kingdom on earth.

But I have four kids, and I homeschool them. I cannot do much to bring the Kingdom on earth. That week, however, as I listened to God, I realized I could do something. I could pray. The leaders that week had taught us new ways to pray for unreached people groups, and I began to pray in new ways.

Later that spring I started listening to music from the International House of Prayer (also known as IHOP, but not the pancake place). I listened to songs about loving God intimately. Songs about God setting the captives free, about God as King. Songs about the marriage supper of the Lamb (or, less poetically, Heaven.) Songs about the Throne Room and God’s holiness. Songs about belonging to God forever, and being captured by His love. About pouring out our love for Him, even if that seems like too small an offering.

These songs were heavily emotional and seemed to convey a love for God entirely different than I had ever experienced or even heard about. {If you want to get to know the songs that changed my life, you need to find these two IHOP albums: Joy, and Unceasing. These are not the only IHOP songs that help me connect to God; they are merely the first.}

I had other amazing experiences in 2011 as a result of the word “Listen,” but those stories are for another time. I didn’t have a word for 2012, which was the year we moved to Cambodia. Maybe life was just a little too hectic for me to even think of asking that year. But I did have one in 2013, and God confirmed it in a really amazing way (which again, is a story for another time). By the end of 2013, though, I knew I wanted a word for 2014. I just didn’t have one yet.

Then I went to IHOP’s yearly onething conference at the end of December. Worship times with IHOP are driven by Revelation and the idea of all nations being in the Throne Room, worshipping the Lamb. It is driven by desire for intimacy with God. And it is driven by a passion for missions. In that place, prayer, worship, and missions join into the same thing. So when I went to their conference over New Year’s, all these themes I had been learning about for the past few years surfaced.

One night at the conference we sang “All the angels cry out, Holy is the Lord God, All the earth replies, Holy are YOU!” from the Jesus Culture song “Alleluia.” This is something I want SO much. Just think, all of heaven and earth worshipping the Lord God.

And I finally got it, this connection between worship and missions that I had missed before. My husband had always wanted to be a missionary, but it wasn’t really my thing. In fact, when he first shared with me Matt Redman’s song “Let Worship Be the Fuel for Missions’ Flame,” I thought that was the stupidest phrase I had ever heard. (Ironically, I now love Matt Redman’s worship songs.)

I can be somewhat contemptuous of an idea if at first I don’t understand it, and I most certainly didn’t understand the connection between those two things. I had always loved worshipping God in song, but I had no interest in missions.

But now, when I think about being with God forever, and worshipping Him always, I want all people to be there. I see that connection between worship and missions. And I finally understand why the International House of Prayer is dedicated to prayer, yet appears to be this non-stop worship service: they are praying for all nations to be in Heaven, worshipping the Almighty for eternity, just as they are doing now.

That night the conference speaker spoke about sexual purity. He said he believed Christian’s sexual purity was in crisis, and that we would never get the Word of God out until we are free from those sins.

I sat in my chair, nodding my head in agreement, because I live in Southeast Asia, hotbed of sex trafficking problems and home to many unreached people groups.  I’m also familiar with the research that says many Christian workers fall to sexual sin, including prostitution, so clearly, this is a big problem in the missions world.

It was that night that I learned my word for the year: Pray. I am praying for Phnom Penh. I am praying for the missionaries and the sexual addictions that handicap their work and ministry.

I am praying for the Cambodian people to receive grace and forgiveness. I am praying for them to receive power to overcome their alcohol and gambling addictions. I am praying for love to break the destructive cycle of gender violence, and to stop the forced prostitution.

I am praying for emotional healing from the trauma of the Khmer Rouge. I am praying for freedom from anger, and from paralyzing fear and anxiety. Nothing in this world can relieve fears but the name of Jesus.

I am praying for Cambodian Christians to reach their own people with the Word of God. I am praying for miracles and signs and wonders to confirm that Word.

The earth and everything in it is the Lord’s: Phnom Penh is His. I am asking Him to take it back.


I cannot save anyone. I cannot change the world. I cannot even change a small part of the world. But I can participate in the move of God that does change the world: I can, and I will, pray.

What if my prayers don’t work?? What if I don’t see change, and I’m disappointed?? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that we won’t see this happen if we don’t ask.

When I said a fearful “yes” to God’s call to overseas missions, I knew He wanted me to go, and I knew He would be with me, but I did not yet understand the true heart of missions. It’s a heart that wants all people groups to worship God for all eternity, because He is worthy.

It’s a heart that believes that the true answer to the oppression and chains of this life comes only in His name. It’s not only about saving people from hell, or about alleviating poverty. It’s also about seeing God’s power restore people’s lives in the here and now. This kind of world transformation is accessible without any money at all — all you need is the Spirit.

The heart of missions, and the heart of Christ, is about healing pain and suffering. It’s about rescuing us from the effects of sin on this earth, and it can only be done in His name and by His power. It’s about seeing his Kingdom come and His will being done on earth, as it is in Heaven.

This city is Yours, God. Take it back.


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