Thursday, February 5, 2015

Follow up to "We Pray too Much"

I do not often post about things that are non dwarf related, and while the initial "We pray too much" post was about D1 and D2 and their conversational attempt to get out of going to the church wide prayer meeting last night, this follow up post is an effort to share my heart's response to the prayer meeting from an adult perspective.

First let me state that if I have heard it one time, I have heard it said 1000's of times, "you can't judge a book by it's cover".  In the case of people, you have NO idea who is sitting beside you, behind you or in front of you at church, in a school PTA meeting,standing in line at the grocery store.  We all have a story. We all have pain.  We all have grief.  We all have joy.   Last night at prayer meeting this was played out in front of me in a way that I have never experienced. If I had, I was blind to it.   I am grateful that the Lord removed the blinders from my heart last night.  Today my day took on new meaning as my heart is tender for more opportunities to serve, share and pray for others.

Many of you know since moving to our new home we have not had that feeling of really "connecting" with our new church home.  While we feel that God has clearly called us there, we are still unsure what our mission is going to be, or what the Lord wants us to do in service to Him.  We are attending faithfully, giving faithfully, participating in the fringe of things, you know the "easy button ministries" like Thanksgiving donations for the food bank, volunteering to help with some of the activities our kids are involved in, the community outreach events (Trunk or Treat),  coaching the Upwards basketball program, and hosting a life group.  None of which requires nearly as much of a commitment that we had coming from our old church, nor has the relational attachments or foundations that we are accustomed to.  To say that we are starting all over in relationship building and carving out ministry opportunities is accurate.  I believe at this point some of the dwarfs have a deeper ministry and involvement in our church than the Prince and I do.  (Which is of course heartwarming to the Prince and I.)  All of this to say, because of our lack of personal involvement/commitment and strong relationships (which I know will take much more time to build, than the amount of time we have been here in Florida) last night's kick off prayer meeting was a step of our faithfulness in seeking Christ and a step towards our continued growth and commitment to our new church body.

Even after lecturing D1 and D2 last night about the fact that we do not pray nearly enough at  home or during our day, and discussing what praying without ceasing looks like, and why this is a necessary and  foundational principle in the Christian life, I walked out of church last night touched, overwhelmed, blessed, encouraged, and uplifted knowing that I had felt the presence of the Lord during the corporate assembly of  praying believers. 

Our church has kicked off the year with a renewed emphasis on Prayer.  We met as a group last night ( I stink at anything with numbers but I would guess more than 100 + persons)  and spent some time in worship before the staff of the church began to speak to us about their vision for the year and the three ways that we were encouraging us to structure our prayer lives.  I will not go over all the details they shared because, in it's self is just a guide for implementing what they felt the Lord laying on their hearts. The amazing part is what happened next. When the staff walked away and the people began to share.

"Sue" gave her testimony.  A testimony about how prayer gave her hope during a pregnancy for her little girl, that when she was told early in her pregnancy, her daughter would not make it because she was not strong enough.  While the pregnancy continued, with faith and hope, she prayed for this baby.  She was born in the 8th month stillborn.  At the time, she already had three boys. Fast forward years.  A grown son (and a group of his friends) that turned to drugs and for six years tore apart their family.  All her boys lives, she prayed with hope that the Lord would protect her boys and their family from drugs, and alcohol. She prayed to the Lord for her son's deliverance from this stumbling block not willing to loose another child. (2 young men lost their lives in overdoses)  She never stopped her petitions to the Lord, never getting angry, knowing that the Lord was in the details.  Her son is a recovering heroin addict.  Praise the Lord.   My struggles and those of my children are nothing in comparison to her's.   For my spouse, for my kids, for their fears, temptations, struggles, joys. I don't pray enough.

We then were instructed retrieve our prayer card we were given for the church ministries.  Pray for the wisdom of the leaders, the salvation of the lost reached by each ministry, the growth of the believers involved in each ministry, for the provision of new volunteers to the ministries and for the ministries to be build community among them and their team.  The card then listed 33 ministries of the church.  The card we were given last night had one of the ministries marked off, and each person in the room received a different card .... for a period of time we each prayed for the ministry marked off on our card in the all the areas above listed.   I prayed for life groups and the Prince prayed for the women's ministries.   Again, not being good with numbers it is my guess that each of the 33 ministries had at least 3 -5 persons praying for them.  An amazing feeling to be part of a corporate body praying for the ministries that it supports. For those fearless leaders that care for my youth, for the pastors that lead, for the support staff, for the volunteers at the church I attend,  I don't pray enough.

Now, this part is where potentially I felt the  biggest impact. Where the whole "You cant judge a book by it's cover" really became clear to me.   We were instructed to split up into small groups.  To many church goers this is where their comfort meter spins out of control, they are tempted to leave, they start sweating profusely... but the Pastor addressed this also, and indicated that while he knows that not everyone is comfortable with this, that if they tried it, he promised that they would indeed be be okay!  So the Prince and I hop up and gravitate towards a small group of people in the back of the sanctuary.  ( After all we are baptists at heart! )   We greeted one another, and as all of us do when meeting new people, we started to assess the folks that we were combining with.   Two couples, one older and one with a small child and a friend of relative, and the Prince and I made up the group. Everyone seemed "normal" like me...   Assignment - introduce yourself.  Name and where you are from. Period.  No more.  Easy.  The Prince and I, "Sam", "Sharon", "Rich", "Jamie", Rich's mom and his 19 month old daughter.  Everyone still seemed "normal" like me. 

Next assignment for our group share one personal prayer request per person. This is where the blinders came off.  My vision of normal destroyed.

Ten years ago suffered a stroke, still praying for full recovery of the left side
A son in the final stages of his FBI testing
A baby's friend that is six months old with fluid on her brain
Opportunities to witness at work
The most overwhelming request, their all consuming focus:

A mother,  and wife praying for their son/husband battling brain cancer (the father) can't be older than 30. 

Normal?  Hardly. I assumed these folks were just like me, but out of our group of 7, 5 were experiencing what I would determine to be overwhelming circumstances in their lives.    We immediately gathered around this young husband and wife, and his mother and their small daughter and prayed for healing, forgetting that there had not yet another assignment given.  What do I have to contribute to this?  The only thing that I know to do.  Pray.  Heart wrenching, sob inducing prayers to the Lord on behalf of a stranger. 

As we moved through the remainder of our group time and we brought before the Lord the prayers for healing for the lingering affects of the stroke, the strength and endurance needed for the testing, for unique opportunities to witness at work and for a dear sweet baby with some uncertain health issues.  Additionally, praying for the salvation of those that we know and interact with each day that do not know the Lord, our therapists, our neighbors, our cousins, our friends, our children. Ending with a time of prayer for missionaries across the globe, for our president and for our leaders.  I take for granted the blessings in my life.  My health, my relationships.  The leaders of our country, our state.  I have limited God.  I have limited my prayers to what is comfortable, or is situational.   There is so much need in our world.  So many hurting people. Deep, heavy burdens. Their bubbles are touching mine.  They are sitting in the back row of my church.   I do not pray enough.

"Rich" loves the Lord. You can see the peace in his eyes, but the storms ahead are raging.  He has gone through so much already with treatments, and now has to face surgery for this cancer that is in yet another spot on his body.  His ministry for Christ is in the most unusual place (doctors offices and hospitals) and with staggering personal trials and physical pain.  Yet he prays with conviction and hope.  
"Sam" is not loosing hope for his health to be restored. Ten years after a stroke.  In his "disability" each week he has the ability, and takes advantage of it, to be a witness for Christ to his therapist.

I am living a blessed life, it is humbling. There is no guarantee that it will stay this way.  Looking back on the last three weeks of my life one dwarf in particular could have caught himself on fire or been injured in a car accident that would have altered our course in life.  In these reflections I am sure no one afflicted with trials had any insight that they were coming.  While I am able, I need to develop the habit of praying consistently without ceasing. So that when I am going through a difficult time in life, I can do what I have been trained to do, seek the Lord for my strength, and for my peace.  I need to be more outwardly focused. More concerned about others.  More aware of what is going on around me.  I need to pray for those that are in the midst of a  battle, fighting.  I am not faithful enough.  I am not diligent enough. I simply don't pray enough.

These "strangers"  were able to show and share with me last night,  true faith, true commitment to the Lord and their peace that passes all earthy understanding. The condition of great unwavering faith doesn't come from situational prayer.  It comes from conditioned, trained, purposeful prayer.  If the Lord brought me all the way to Florida to show me this, I am grateful.  I am humbled and I am excited about what the Lord is going to reveal to me this year through our new church and it's emphasis on prayer.

Here is to a great year.  Eyes, and heart wide open!  I am so glad that I do not have to make this stuff up!

*Names have been changed in this post.

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