Every morning at 4:40 am, I wake up and I pray, in English. I am convinced that God understands this language better, I have seen people at home pray in isiXhosa for years but still their children’s lips are circled in what could be likened to a white chalk. However, since I came to varsity, I hear people pray in English and they eat couscous for lunch. I have never heard of or seen couscous in my life, until I came to varsity and made new friends.
So every morning I wake up at 4:40 am and I pray. I pray for my day to go well, for God to stop hunger, to strengthen the church and for God to heal the sores in my mother’s stomach, to give my father patience and lastly, I thank God for all the goodness, well for the goodness I have faith I will see.
Before I left for varsity, my mother told me I should never forget prayer, “It is by prayer that God has shown you this kindness and blessed you with a bursary my child.” My mother is a praying woman, I am an eighteen year old woman already but she is still praying for children. My father wants sons and all my family thinks my mother has not done her wifely duties if she has not given my father sons.
Ever since I was a child, I would hear rumours and my aunts gossiping “unesilonda, uZolisa, unesilonda!” So I have always prayed for God to heal the sores in my mother’s stomach that make it a dry place for any foetus to grow or stay alive. We have even had funerals for siblings I have never seen, one moment my mother is sick, she goes to hospital and the next, it is small coffins, biscuits and tears.
However when I came to varsity, it felt like I was on a mountain, so close to the clouds, almost holding God’s palms because every night I would be in prayer circles. Praying for the world, for the church, for tests, for our future husbands, for peace and all that was good. I befriended people who looked like prayer giants to me, long silky hair, pink cheeks, driving cars, eating couscous, I believed all they had was brought by prayer. Siblings, big yards, chubby pets and little to no financial stress. I wanted my prayers to be heard by God just like theirs.
Once, my friend Jessica came to my res room, after I had been praying for four months for a laptop, she came to show me her new tablet. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for her and when she said with a big smile, ‘God is good, all the time’, I immediately asked her to teach me how to pray. Prayers that God hears and responds to. I wanted my family and people back at home to look like praying people should look, like people with a God should look. Like Jessica and all the other praying giants. Jessica became my prayer partner for a long time after that. We would pray for her sick family members and they would be better. We would pray for her family members visas for visits to different countries to go smoothly
that would happen as we asked. We even prayed for her grandfather’s farm to harvest more fruit and it would, as we asked.
One day we were riding in Jessica’s car and one of her back tyres got a huge hole. We stopped the car; we were just young girls completely ignorant about cars and tyres. The streets were quite and for twenty minutes there was no car
for us to stop and ask for help. Jessica, the prayer giant just started laughing and praying. I was so nervous but also excited. I didn’t want to join the prayer, I thought, this is urgent
and serious, God might hear my voice and not respond. I didn’t want to interrupt Jessica. She got closer to the tyre and began praying and touching the hole on the tyre. I wanted to see this! For like 10 minutes Jessica was praying and touching the tyre, if you have not seen miracles or even believe in them, you will not believe me tell you that I saw the hole of the tyre close up! Like, just close up, like there was no hole to begin with. The hole closed up! Jessica shouted “Thank you Jesus!” We then drove off, I completely believed in God that day. I had seen a miracle and I wanted to see more.
I wanted Jessica to teach me how to pray away the sores on my tongue, nothing I prayed for came to pass. Teach me how to pray girl, I would always say to Jessica. She looked like God heard and responded to all her prayers. Teach me how to pray girl, I would always say, thinking about my father’s desires, my mother’s knees, the sores in her stomach and all sores all over our bodies, the sores on our soil, the sore of being alive and struggling. The sore of white circles like chalk on our mouths, all the sores, the sore of not having couscous
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo