{This Sacred Everyday} Tanya Marlow

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to encounter and get to know Tanya Marlow through her writing and her friendship in the blogosphere. Every time I connect with her I have been encouraged and cared for. She is kind and humble and I’m thankful to have discovered her and her writing.


Sometimes I tell God, ‘Look, you chose the wrong person to be housebound with an autoimmune illness. You should have chosen someone more spiritual who would have liked all this quiet and opportunity for prayer.’

My mind drifts back to a childhood memory. As an eight-year-old, I walked into our lounge, only to be confronted with a loud, passionate, disembodied female voice telling me I should pray.

My mum was on the rocking chair, listening to a ministry cassette tape. A pentecostal-sounding African woman was talking about prayer, her voice terrifying and passionate. Even mediated through my parents’ fuzzy stereo system, you could practically feel the spit hitting your face with each syllable.

“When you pray, DON’T just say ‘we pray for sister Sue.’ NO! You say, ‘Oh Lord, we PRAY for sister Sue, and we pray AGAINST all that will harm her ministry, and we pray for the BLISSING of God Almighty on her family, and we pray for EACH ONE of her family in turn, and we pray for Sister Sue’s FINANCES and pray that you would bring your BLISSING on her abundantly, and give her all that she needs, the daily bread for whatever she needs today and we pray for Sister Sue’s HEART and mind this week and…”

The voice was at once irritating and compelling.

My Mum, sitting in the chair, looked awe-inspired. “This is sister Sue,” she said. “She’s a Prayer Warrior.”

It was an excellent description. If I had a spiritual army, I would have had her at the front; a fiery, sword-whirling Boudicca, stirring up the hearts of people to do battle.

Her method for prayer sounded thrilling, but exhausting. At that moment, I knew in my soul: I am no prayer warrior. As far as prayer goes, I’m not even a prayer Morris-dancer. It’s all just a bit too much like hard work.


I don’t like this long, stretched-out quiet, these days of endless opportunity for prayer. I like loud and people. I reason with God again, “don’t you think this condition would suit someone else rather better?”

I have M.E., an autoimmune neurological illness, which affects my mobility and concentration. For the last two years, it has been so bad that I can’t walk more than a few metres and I spend most of my days in bed. I have adjusted, but I still crave social interaction.

Last January, my concentration improved to the extent that I could read again for short bursts, and I feasted on the opportunity to correspond with people via Twitter, to form friendships, make connections, read and write blog posts. My world felt a little more colourful.

Now I read and respond to emails, tweets, friends’ news on Facebook, and every time I read something that asks me to pray, I pray for it. I pray then and there; a quick, earnest, clumsy prayer, delivering the situation into the arms of Jesus

Then last week, a chance remark by a friend:

“I was talking to Anne, and I was saying, ‘why don’t you tell Tanya about it?’ She’s a prayer warrior, she can pray for you.”

Hearing that label applied to myself brought me right back to that day in the lounge, embarrassed and slightly terrified. I giggled to myself as I considered her image of me as a prayer warrior. Tanya Marlow: Prayer Warrior Extraordinaire, at your service.

My prayers do not feel like war. They feel like bulky packages, thrown to me in each blog post or tweet, where I momentarily feel the weight of the need alongside that person, and then quickly throw them on to Jesus.

But it makes me wonder: isn’t that what spiritual warfare really means? It is foolish to fight ourselves when we have a champion. The Holy Spirit prays with us in wordless groans, and the Son is continually interceding for us at the right hand of God the Father. This gives me confidence that my feeble words, entrusted to my God, will have power.

I read my Twitter feed, and smile. Today I will fight from my bed.


Over to you:

- How does prayer feel to you: like war, or throwing parcels?


Tanya Marlow was formerly in Christian ministry for a decade and was Associate Director and lecturer for a university-level Bible training course. Now she reads Bible stories to her toddler as she learns what it means to be a mum who is housebound with an autoimmune illness. She blogs at Thorns and Gold, on the Bible, Suffering, and the messy edges of life. Follow Tanya on Twitter or like her Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Taramisu at Flickr

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  • ro elliott

    I got the same remark from someone in an email…”thanks my prayer warrio”r…I too had many years quiet…(well 3 small children)…but many days no energy to talk out loud…so I talked silently with God…from those years…God and i have a running dialog through out the day…those quiet years built a place of deep communion with God…and just maybe that is where prayer warriors are built. blessings and grace as you rest in Him~

  • http://kfsullivan.wordpress.com kim

    “My prayers do not feel like war. They feel like bulky packages, thrown to me in each blog post or tweet, where I momentarily feel the weight of the need alongside that person, and then quickly throw them on to Jesus.”

    Mine, too. I love all you have to say here. Thank you.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Tanya, this resonates. My mom is a prayer warrior and my prayer life does not reflect hers at all. I’ve always felt I struggled with prayer, particularly praying out loud over someone or something. Though I tend to talk to God throughout the day, I don’t have long sustained prayer times. I am certainly a parcel thrower, not a warrior. But I suppose it’s semantics, really. My “Lord, have mercy” reaches God the same as Sister Sue’s lengthy prayers.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Since having a child about, I’m learning to use my Divine Hours prayer book to help guide me back to God since I don’t have long set amounts of time to pray each day. Even memorizing a few prayers has been so life giving for me.

  • http://joannadobson.wordpress.com/ Joanna

    Just to say this was a great encouragement to me today Tanya. Thank you.

  • http://soulstops.com Dolly@Soulstops

    Thank you, Tanya, for sharing how God has used you illness to make you into a person of prayers…it is encouraging. God has taught me to lean on Him in prayer through times of forced stillness due to an injury or illness…Blessings to you :)

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    ‘those quiet years built a place of deep communion with God’ – wow, that’s really beautiful – both the content and the way you express it. It reminds me of that verse ‘in quietness and trust is your salvation.’
    I hope that I will have similar fruit in my relationship with God…

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Thank you so much for your encouragement. :-)

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Thank you, lovely Leigh! I think it is really cool that you talk to God throughout the day – the naturalness that comes from intimacy and friendship. There is a lot to be said for that, I think.

    Thanks so much for your comment – you are one of those whose bundles I have been throwing God’s way. Much love.

  • Mark Allman


    I pass along notes all the time…. I need to work on putting some boxes in Jesus’s hand. I like the thought you have expressed here. Maybe I can be a prayer runner…. I become aware of a need and take it from the person and run and give it to Jesus.

    Maybe the warrior part is fighting throw all of the chaos of life; staying on the mission without being pulled aside, and fighting to bring the request to the feet of Jesus where you fight to stay there as you cover the details of the communique.

    Tanya Marlow Prayer Warrior ….. may there be more like you….

  • https://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com Charity Jill

    I LOVE this.
    I used to try to really work myself up into an emotional huff during prayer because I thought that how a warrior would pray. It was frustrating and exhausting. I’m realizing that God’s kingdom is so upside-down in contrast to the ways of this world; maybe in His kingdom, the most victorious warriors are the most peaceful ones.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I love the idea of memorising prayers. I haven’t heard of the Divine Hours book – I’ll look it up. I have a ‘baby prayers’ book, and even that I find helpful (e.g. ‘thank you God for this new day / please be with us all I pray’!)

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I’m SO glad!

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Thank you – you are always such an encouragement to me! I like the idea of being a ‘person of prayers’.

  • Jeannie

    I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” I love that and have applied it to many other aspects of life too, such as writing. It sounds like you are already applying it as well.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I LOVE this comment – thank you so much for this blessing.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Working yourself up into an emotional huff – yes!! I know this!
    I love your thought that the most victorious warriors are the most peaceful ones – love that. Thank you, lovely lady.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I LOVE that phrase – and I hadn’t heard it before – thank you so much for sharing. I shall ponder that. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • http://www.inthetangles.blogspot.com Janice

    Tanya, I’m so excited to see you here! And I love this. “It is foolish to fight ourselves when we have a champion.” That is just about the most freeing thing I’ve ever read about prayer. I feel like a theme in my life lately is realizing my humanity and how many divine traits I’ve been trying to muster up my whole life and how obviously impossible they are. But what a beautiful thought that WE are not the warriors. Honestly, in the times I’ve needed to pray the most I have been the weakest. And it’s been paralyzing to not feel like a Prayer Warrior. Like God won’t listen as closely if you aren’t praying passionately and ferociously. So even though I’ve never doubted that God hears clearly even our whimpered prayers, your words have just freed up a little portion of my spirit that has unknowingly held itself up to that Prayer Warrior standard. Thanks, my friend.

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Thank you, friend!
    I’m SO happy that this brought freedom to you – I can totally relate to the paralysing situation of not being a prayer warrior. Thanks so much for commenting! Xx
    P.s. hope you get to write again soon! :-)

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    I never understood what a “prayer warrior” is. Maybe it’s just the radical pacifist in me, but I usually don’t associate prayer–a spiritual, meditative practice–with being a bloodthirsty warrior.

    Great post, anyway.

  • michaboyett

    Yes, I love Mark’s comment too. I love that idea of being a parcel carrier, bringing something to Jesus on behalf of someone else. Sometimes when I pray for someone, the best prayers I offer are moments when I sit with God and offer the image of them in my mind. (A lot of times I don’t trust my words…or my wordiness.) I think there’s so much power in our simple acts of intercession, even if we show up wordless with a package in our hands…

    Thanks so much for this post, Tanya.

  • Handsfull

    Since I’ve become part of a home bible study that includes people from other denominations (including Catholic) I have become aware of the pentecostal habit I had of praying about every. single. part. of any situation… and of the value of silence. I have gotten to the part where I really enjoy the silences between prayers – those are the times when I am most strongly aware of the presence of God. I no longer feel the need to always cover everything I can think of when I’m praying, sometimes there’s more power in brevity than a multitude of words.
    Love this post, and love some of the comments – I also relate to the ‘emotional huff’ :)

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Thanks for your kind words!

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    Yes! I know this too! I’m torn, because on the one hand it’s good to bring everything to God, and bringing the specific things can help us in recognising when God has answered our prayers. On the other hand, it can end up being a little superstitious, like if we haven’t mentioned one aspect then God won’t do it, or we’re tempted to think that we can ‘win God over’ by lengthy words and emotional huffing! :-) It sounds like you’ve got a really good balance.

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • John Boyett

    Your blog yesterday with the guest poster Tanya Marlow was a gift for us. In her post she mentioned that she is bedridden with an autoimmune disorder called M.E.

    Let me tell you how this post affected us. My wife, Donna, has been ill for the last eight years with an unidentified disorder that has decimated her life and thus our lives. We had an early morning appointment last week with the next in a long series of neurologists hoping for a diagnosis or just some piece of an answer. Her appointment was to be at 8:15 AM Thursday, October 18. We had traffic problems and were going to be late so I called to let the doctor know. When it was determined that we could not possibly be there within 30 minutes of our appointment time we rescheduled for 3:15 PM Wednesday, October 24.

    Micha, I read your blog every day and so on Wednesday I read Tanya’s post and read of her M.E., (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I had not heard of this before so I looked it up and began reading the list of symptoms that were exactly Donna’s symptoms. I was more than excited with this answered prayer, but I didn’t want to share it with anyone, even Donna, until after the appointment. In the appointment I approached the doctor with questions about the possibility of M.E. but she was unsure of that, I did convince her to include M.E. into what she would be looking for in her testing. So we do not know what will come but I know God’s Hand is in there.

    Micha, I have included the rest of the family as blind copies and if you would I would appreciate you forwarding this to Tanya.

  • http://ashleymlarkin.com Ashley @ Draw Near

    Tanya, what an encouraging word to me today. What a sense of purpose, joy and gratitude you express here. I feel blessed and inspired. Thank you.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Tanya, you are such a gifted storyteller and writer – and in my book, that parcel-throwing you’re describing? That is warrior stuff. Although I’m sort of with another commenter in not loving that description! I love what Micha chimed in with – I, too, pray with fewer words and more images than I once did. And as I receive requests, I pray with either words or images right there and then, on the spot. And when I go for my daily walk, as I leave the house I ask the Lord to bring faces into my mind and then I just sort of focus on those images as I walk. I also believe that if we go into a small group setting with prayer concerns that it is not necessary to repeat every detail that has been given in the original request. Rather, I suggest that we all open our hearts to the truth that God is right there, in the initial conversation and then we can stop at the end of each request and offer some sort of shared response like, “Lord, hear our prayer.” We talk too much, I think.

  • michaboyett

    Yes, I completely agree, Diana. The person who has had the most impact on my life in terms of prayer was an associate pastor at my church in Philly who taught me how to sit quietly in prayer. Her silent presence brought me into God’s nearness in a way that no talking prayer had ever done. We absolutely do talk to much.

  • michaboyett

    Wow, John. What an incredible story. I’m completely stunned by God’s hand in this. I’ll let Tanya know and I’m so grateful you shared it with us. I’ll be praying for Donna and this diagnosis and I’m certain Tanya will as well. Grace and peace and rest to you both…

  • http://teamaidan.wordpress.com Heather

    Oh I love this and I’ve always loved the thought of the Holy Spirit interceding b/c good grief, my prayers feels clumsy sometimes. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

  • http://hisnlovingembrace.wotdpress.com Mia

    Dear, dear Tanya
    I am a bit late catching this bus, but I arrived at last. I had a gooooood giggle and then giggled some more!!
    I also attended a Pentecostal church and when I read Sister Sue’s battling prayers, I giggled a lot more. Living in South Africa, I know how these dear African people can pray and you are not far wrong when you mentioned the spit. Yes, they are quite passionate people! You should hear the Pentecostals driving out demons. That is now fighting in the front ranks against the underworld’s best soldiers. Wow!! That is truly impressive and quite scary!