I Did A 30-Day Prayer Challenge & This Is What Happened

Life & Travel

I've always been told to never underestimate the power of prayer.

I've been a witness to answered prayers in forms I never would've imagined but I must admit, there were times I felt as though my requests were falling on deaf ears.

One day I came across an image on my Instagram feed that promoted a 30-day prayer challenge. The theme was to pray for someone that we may not have the best relationship with. I had just moved back to St. Louis after graduating from college and the people that I had the luxury of not “having to deal with" while away, were now in my space at any given time. Something prompted me to look more into this prayer challenge, as I wanted to have a stronger prayer life and get rid of the negative energy that I was exerting towards other people. The challenge, included a "30 Day Power Prayer Packet" that helped guide me through the challenge, as well as a scripture, a matching prayer prompt and devotional to assist in writing my prayers for the day. The challenge called for prayer for one person but instead, I chose three people: one being a married couple.

I purchased three cheap binders, two packs of college-ruled loose-leaf paper, and some fancy pens. I'll be honest, the first few days felt more like an assignment that needed to be completed before the day was over as I was filling out three different prayer journals. The journal consisted of me pouring out my emotion about why I felt the way I did about these people and why I wanted it to change--a lot of me admitting my frustration and bitterness of why we couldn't essentially get along and why I wanted to get to the bottom of it. As the days passed and the more I incorporated scriptures about peace and forgiveness into my prayers, the easier it became. I wanted to clear the air and initiate the reconciliation of our relationship.

The creator of The Prayer Project, Saunya Shelise Hudson, created the Prayer Project 30 Day Written Prayer Challenge to help people “push past their normal everyday prayer routine and help them begin praying more focused and specific prayers for others just as people do for themselves."

If taken seriously, there are three things that can be accomplished by participating in the 30-day prayer challenge, and I can attest to this.

Strengthening of your prayer life and your relationship with the Lord.

This challenge held me accountable in reading the word and making sure I was spending much needed time with the Lord. I had been so focused on completing everything I needed to do in order to graduate that my prayer life had been put on the back burner. I still acknowledged Him in the morning and sending up some prayers over my food, but was nowhere near the type of prayer life that I desired to have. Setting aside that time had to be intentional: just like school and work.

It softens your heart to hurt and anger by allowing you to release those burdens to God.

Shifting the focus from self and what's been done to me to how I can intercede on behalf of others was a game changer. By taking the time to concern myself with the problems and burdens of others (not in a worrisome way), it allowed me to shift my focus from anger to actually wanting to see this prayer get answered for someone else. There is power in forgiveness and it is way more than just a word. Forgiveness is a daily act and that intentional pursuit of forgiveness helped soften my heart one day at a time. Besides, staying angry requires too much energy.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."– Psalm 55:22

It helps your attitude toward people improve.

Listen, praying for people whose ways I am not too fond of was and still is one of the hardest things I could ever do. It is much easier to talk down to and complain because that's the first thing my mouth wants to do. Directing the conversation from gossip to prayer helps remove the tension and shifts the atmosphere. The people I chose to pursue this challenge for were people that I had the hardest time with, but as a believer, it is my responsibility to intercede on behalf of others. These individuals were so used to conflict being the theme of our relationship that when my reaction became prayer and peace, it softened their hearts as well. God knows good and well that all these people He put on this earth that we all are not going to get along but He also made it a point to say, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." – Romans 12:18

At the end of the 30 days, I presented the journals to all three parties for their own keeping; All of which were very grateful that I had taken the time to pray for their needs and wants, some of which they never told me directly, but the intensity of the prayers touched on every need they were seeking. It helped me view them in a different light and see that our “conflict" wasn't because we wanted to be in conflict, but largely attributed to what was going on in our lives and how we responded to it. And to be honest, a lot of the conflict came from miscommunication. So many times we assume the intentions of other people and can be completely wrong. Most of the time we are completely wrong. After giving these people the journals, they were able to expound on their current situation so I could understand more and vice versa. I can't say that we all are the best of friends today, but the challenge helped me see past the problems and focus more on mending relationships and reconciliation.

How we react to certain people says a lot more about us than the person we are reacting to. This challenge will provide so much clarity about your self. It really does work.

If you are interested in joining the Prayer Challenge, you can sign up www.aloveperfect.com.

Follow the founder of The Prayer Challenge on IG @Saunyaaa and on FB at The Prayer Project.

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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