Prayer: An interview with Ute Carkner

Melissa Berry
April 09 2024


If you know Ute Carkner, you know that she is a woman of prayer. When she prays, you sense both her awe at being in God’s presence, but also an intimacy that is born of much time spent in the presence of God! She is a kind and gentle soul who prays with boldness, frequently referencing the Scriptures in her prayers.

I had the privilege of sitting down with Ute Carkner, a member of our Outreach Canada team, earlier this year. I was eager to get to hear more from her about how she was first introduced to prayer, her prayer journey, and how she has developed a ministry and practice of inviting others into prayer alongside her!

We started our conversation with the question “Can you tell me more about when your prayer life began?” And Ute jumped in with this inspiring story from her teen years...

September of eighth grade, my family relocated to a new home. Within days and just steps away, a lively stream began to beckon me to its banks. The banks were host to the remains of an old grist mill. Unbeknownst to me, the stream was known as Lover’s Creek. It immediately became my outdoor chapel. It became the place I met the One with infinite affection. My new chapel was a warm, welcome sight even in the depth of winter. So, with Bible, journal, and pen in hand, I would spend many, many days there.

One day, heaven struck! My eyes were taken up, beyond the outdoor chapel with the cry of John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God.” My ears too, were opened with God’s oracle from heaven: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

The Holy Spirit had sparked an appetite for life that day! Creating space to behold the face of Jesus and to listen to his voice became, not only an intentional discipline, but also the highlight of daily life!

Again at age 13, my attention was quickly drawn to matters beyond the temporal world. Being introduced to the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things; seen and unseen” brought intrigue as well as new questions. I initially noticed the unseen world at age three when my mother introduced me to The Lord’s Prayer. German being my mother tongue, it sounded like this: “Unser Vater, der Du bist im Himmel.” “Our Father, who art in heaven.” My immediate response to her was: “Aber Papa ist da!” “But Papa is here. (present in our home!)

From these early days, life has grown into an eternal conversation. Prayer, I continue to learn, is keeping habitual company with the One who is Love.    

Decades later, I found myself reading Joyce Huggett’s book: The Joy of Listening to God. In her preface she echoes my early experience: “This wave of the Spirit of God, for such I believe it is, swept over me. I did not ask for it. It just came. It swept me off my feet and direction of my life was changed: not dramatically, but slowly, gradually, at times almost imperceptibly.”

Hence, this is how things began and proceeded. “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord; Look to the rock from which you were cut and the quarry from which you were hewn.” Isaiah 51:1.

Scripture & Prayer

If you ever have the opportunity to pray with Ute, you will quickly realize that Scripture plays an important role in her prayer life. When I asked her more about the role of Scripture in her prayer life, this is how she responded….

Scripture is the bread of heaven and Jesus is that bread. John 6:33 clearly states this: “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So, daily reading of Scripture has been my nourishment of the day and has led me into this life.

The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 15 says: “Lord, you understand: When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” And I can testify, that there were lots of exciting things in life, but no deeper satisfaction, regardless of what was vying for my attention.

I also discovered that a larger measure was given for important occasions. The first of these more serious occasions was immediately following my undergraduate years. While on a Lutheran Youth Encounter ministry team in India, I was asked to preach. Never having done so, without training, I had no option but to inquire of the Lord. So, I just remember kneeling, and He immediately directed my eye to Jesus’ words in John 17: 21: “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This text found its way into my inmost being, which sparked a lifetime yearning for reconciliation between parties in conflict. The first was the Berlin Wall, which began to be erected August 13, 1961, separating families within one nation overnight. In 1982-83, while I was working in Geneva, the Spirit clinched a seven-year prayer assignment. Again, the Prophet Jeremiah in 20:9, in conversation with Pashur the priest, states: “But if I say, I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.” August of 1983, upon arriving home again (Ontario), I found myself inviting everyone into what I saw as a dire need for German reunification. Hence, every prayer meeting, Bible study, friendship circle… they all heard my cry to bring down the wall.

I have discovered friendship with God, this eternal conversation, not something to be grasped, but rather as a gift of grace. He discloses his secrets to all who fear him! David testifies to this in Psalm 25:14: “The Lord confides in all who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”

The walk becomes sweeter with the years; not always easy – but definitely intimate!

A Story from Geneva

As we continued our time together, I asked Ute if she could share what she loves about prayer. And she shared this beautiful story from her time in Geneva!

I love that prayer is dynamic. It’s an eternal, ever-changing, ever-growing conversation!

D. S. Long says: “When our desires are turned toward God and the good, no choice is necessary.”

During my time at the Baptist Church of Geneva, Pastor Derek created and designated space for congregants, many of whom were expats, to respond to the sermon in prayer. We were encouraged to pray in our mother tongue. I recall 15-20 minutes were set aside during the Sunday morning worship service for this act of faith. One person, one tongue at a time would extend their cries, utterances, praises and petitions. Splendor and majesty were brought before God. It was as if we had been ‘taken to another place.’ We were residing in the beauty of the Lord during those moments!

As if that wasn’t enough - Douglas and Rosemary, a couple within the congregation, hosted a dinner every Sunday evening. They, and two mature Swiss couples, with a select group of keen young adults gathered around their table. We ate and recollected life stories from the week…then immediately got to business.  

I have a very fond memory of Phillipe (a retiree from the mission field) sitting at my right saying: “Ute, tonight we are looking at this text from the Scriptures. I will lead tonight. Listen hard. Take note. You will be leading next week. I will make myself available for any questions you may have!”

This was a profound season of being taken seriously by these elders. The 6 of us young adults that attended these gatherings were well-loved and cared for. The hearts of both generations became more and more supple by the week. Relationships with the Word of God and ‘our elders’ grew. Deep affection took us into deep prayer. It became a life of desiring God and the good above all else.

This Sunday night group helped accelerate the petitions that eventually ‘brought down the Berlin Wall.’ The experience of that year brings to mind the words from the gospel of Mark: “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.” Mark 4:20 MSG… November 9, 1989! (The Berlin wall came down.)

And another, perhaps smaller, yet nevertheless sweet example of 40-year-old fruit from this young adults group would be Julia. This dear friend has been faithfully bringing my husband Gord, and his daily writing, before God’s throne for us to witness the completion of his new book: Towards an Incarnational Spiritual Culture … 40 years later.

As I heard this story from Ute, about her time in Geneva, it is remarkable to think about how God used that time in her life to shape her current ministry today. Ute, along with her husband Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, are currently involved in ministry to Graduate Students. Ute & Gord love connecting with future global leaders within the graduate student community at university. Through hospitality, biblical investigation, prayer and discussions of faith and academic studies, these students are drawn into kingdom concerns and introduced to God’s powerful agape love.

Inviting Others into Prayer

As we wrapped up our time, I had one more question. Not only does Ute have her own ministry of prayer, she also regularly invites others into prayer with her. I was curious to know more and asked her to share about how she actively invites others into prayer.

Ute began by sharing how the process of creating space for God was a discipline she initially learned down by her local stream – it was not something she read in a textbook, but rather a Spirit-led experience. And then her corporate prayer experience with the church in Geneva, as mentioned above, was impactful in her life.

Years later, at Regent College, she discovered a book by Don Postema, called Space for God, which she used as a frameword for her Master’s Thesis. In her own words, here is more about this specific experience of inviting others into prayer …

I invited eight students, four men and four women to participate. It was not a drop in, but rather, a covenant community for one UBC academic year. They were from eight different disciplines … from forestry to law, biology to political science.

We met Tuesday evenings as a community – in the Scriptures, religious art/paintings, reflections, and prayer. I would meet with them one-on-one twice a month for an extended walk. Journaling and prayer became disciplines for them to exercise. They would share their writing with me. What an honor! I would read their writings and pray for them in the in-between times and then respond when we met. The law student, in particular, labored over the theological questions.

The love that developed within the group permitted them to bring their questions and wrestle corporately. A beautiful expression! My thesis question was: What is it that Creates Hunger for God?

My own desperation and hunger, I suppose, drew students into prayer, into friendship with God – this eternal conversation.

This was a unique group of students, however, there were many student groups thereafter. Taking them away for spiritual retreats was another dynamic, creating space again for the Holy Spirit to stir and be among them.”

Ute continued, by talking about how this invitation to prayer should not be imposed on others, but rather nourished.

Prayer is something one desires, longs for, and then experiences. Prayer, when nourished and sustained, is not imposed. A very important thing is ‘the state of the heart’ before God. This was the commencement of a new way for these young students … active participation with God, until Christ is formed within them. There was no greater privilege, than to witness the movement of God’s Spirit in these students. Intimacy and deep affection for the other is key!

Ute also shared about a recent personal example from her own life, of a time she invited other to pray for her…

In January of 2021, as I do most years, I asked the Lord for a Scripture that I could really lean into for that year. This led me into the most profound participation and identification with Christ’s sufferings I could have imagined. It led me into agony in the deepest valleys, yet the vistas from the highest summits that year.

The Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10,11 clearly states: “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

A synovial cyst developed between my third and fourth vertebrae in my lumbar spine. This placed what felt like infinite pressure on the local nerve causing relentless shooting pain that ran down the inside of my right leg for 22 hours a day. I was grateful for two hours of sleep per night, yet nowhere enough. My family and my weekly prayer group were the first to be invited into prayer advocacy.

After three months, Ute was informed by her doctor that all she could do was to offer her more drugs and heavier medication. Ute and her husband decided that she would go off her medication, start a new vitamin treatment, and invite many others into prayer for them. They sent around 200 letters out – to prayer supporters and those connected to them. After 3 months of intense pain, and needing to lie down for most of each day, within a week, Ute began to see improvement, being able to sit up for longer and longer periods of times!

About 3-4 weeks later, when Ute was walking around her neighbourhood, she was deeply encouraged by a phone call with a certain gentleman. She had no idea this man was praying for her. He apologized for not reaching out sooner but let her know that he had been remembering and praying for her every day!

Ute remembers, as she heard this: “I just leaned against a tree in our neighbourhood and I thought “Lord, you are the one who invites people into prayer.”

She concludes, “I mean, we can be a courier or conduit sometimes, and sometimes it strikes, but it’s really the Holy Spirit that strikes the fire within each of us!”

It was a pleasure to get to speak with Ute about prayer, and I hope that you too are encouraged by her wisdom and stories! I’ll leave you with this quote from Ute: “Prayer makes us more aware of God between, around and within us. It is a living relationship with a living God. Prayer is life. Life is prayer.

Ute (along with her husband Gord) loves connecting with future global leaders within the graduate student university community. Through hospitality, biblical investigation, prayer and discussions of faith and academic studies, these students are drawn into kingdom concerns and introduced to God's powerful agape love. Ute is passionate about prayer and facilitates and participates in many prayer intitiative on campus and beyond. 




Melissa Berry is the Digital Content Coordinator at Outreach Canada. Her favourite part of her role is getting to share stories - the stories of OC people, & the stories of how God is working! If she had a free afternoon, you'd probably find Melissa on an adventure with her husband & two children (with a chai tea in hand, of course).

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