I’ve been on a journey for years. It began when I was born into a strong faith family who sought after the ways of God since before I was born. If you’ve heard my story before, you’ll remember that I grew up in a missionary home. My parents served in missions as pilot and teacher for as long as I can remember. They taught me how to pray to God. They taught me to trust in the God who loves us and takes us through all kinds of situations, so that we trust Him.
I remember, as a kid, when my parents would invite friends and neighbors over to the house for dinner and prayer time. I thought the dinner and play time with other kids was fun, but standing around at the end of the evening watching my parents close the evening with our guests in prayer often felt awkward.
It wasn’t until I began to become familiar with this pattern of prayer in my parents with their friends that I began to appreciate it. I began to see that my parents would long for that prayer time with friends, even more than dinner, laughter and jokes at the table. They would ask if guests would like to close the evening in prayer and then something would change in the room.
My parents would encounter the living God in prayer, and I bagan to feel it’s effect.
There were some evenings when tears would flow because a request for healing, or a need to mend a broken relationship, or reconciliation.
I began to notice the emotion shared in prayer and began to see that God was moving in our midst. I remember too, how families would share with my parents about answers to prayers over time.
I went off to college and started to encounter “real” relationships with friends who cared about God like my parents had. We were normal college kids who played, got in trouble and had to work to pay for school too. Something was happening to my spirit as some of these friends began to teach me the power of praying together for real issues in our lives. We’d play together after eating together, and then the mood would change and someone would say, “hey, let’s pray together before we go.”
I lived with 7 guys in a rental house off campus for our last year of college and learned what it meant to be disciplined in prayer. My roommate was a basketball referee for local high schools and would work all kinds of crazy hours. I was working at a local dinner & theater restaurant called Medieval Times in Buena Park. We’d each get home to the other guys and sometimes pray together as a group. Each night though, John and I would end the night, no matter how late, with prayer for one another, for our families and for the day ahead. John taught me the discipline and practice of prayer each day as a mentor and friend.
I lived with a family for a year prior to getting married after college. Bob was not only my landlord, he was my boss at the Scripture Press warehouse where I took online orders for books and packaged them for shipping all over the world. Bob was a pillar of prayer. He would be off to work at 5am each morning just so that he could have 90 of prayer prior to the team showing up for work. Bob would pray through a list of 200 names listed on paper taped to his pull-out board at his desk. He was an intercessor and warrior in prayer. He taught me the meaning of diligent, methodical, calculated petitions in prayer for missionaries, pastors, friends and family.
I got married in 1993 and began working in youth ministry in Northern CA. Learning to work with other staff members in churches taught me to pray for greater requests than just my personal needs. I was called to serve in a church in Orange, CA for 6 years and honed my prayer discipline further by learning to pray with a weekly prayer partner. Dave and I would meet for 6 years, walking together each Thursday morning from 6-7am around many blocks and neighborhoods near the church. Dave taught me to pray and walk.
We moved to Chicago for 4 years of graduate level seminary school at North Park Theological Seminary. I remember the first day of class with peers who were learning pastoral skills together. I had come off of an ugly departure from youth ministry and poured my heart out to this little group of friends. I took most of the time sharing about my pain, and they circled around me and prayed over me. This refreshing prayer reminded me of the kinds of prayers my parents would pray over me and guests in our home. I was beginning a healing process that would forever change the way I would pastor other people. Most people have been hurt along their journey of faith, sometimes by the church and often by people of faith. I began learning that I don’t have to be a pastor that leads that way, I can lead with humility and ambition to find healing for people along the way. Prayer is the key component of this humility.
We moved to a town near Seattle, WA and I received my last call into youth ministry, not that I knew it at the time, but God would use this as a way to shape my final days in youth ministry. I served for 7 years at Pine Lake and was introduced to the idea of prayer room experiences, or prayer stations. We set up youth rooms and the entire sanctuary one year for people to experience prayer by walking to stations. Some stations would have candles burning softly and a prayer would be spoken or written for a lost friend. One station would have soft music for meditation. One station would have a pile of rocks and a bucket of water. Write your sin, rubberband it to a rock and sink it in the water. Another station would house paint, or markers for expression of faith to God. These prayer rooms began to be the new expression of prayer in youth ministry.
I learned from my friend Andrew how to take HDR photographs with a new camera I received for my birthday. Andrew took me to some remote places around Seattle to view the city and take some shots of my own.
I learned that “perspective” is everything in life, and ministry… so I began to pray through the view of God’s lens for my life, and the life of others. I began to “see” in prayer that God is viewing life from another angle and wants us to enjoy the panorama along with the close up view of our problems.
Prayer has been forming in me since my childhood. Some will ask me now as Lead Pastor in Greeley, CO “How do I learn to pray?” My response, “Let’s walk this journey together by faith and learn together along the way.”
There’s no right way to pray, but there are more effective ways to pray than others.
If we humble ourselves, confess our sin before God and to one another (James 5:15-16), God will hear our prayers and bring healing. We are called to be bold in our prayers (Acts 4:13), not wimpy and soft. We are told to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus (James 5:14) and anoint with oil. We are told to pray privately for specifics as well (Matthew 6:6). I read this in Scripture, and remember that this was modeled to me as a child, a teen, in college, young married and even now. I’m learning how to pray as I grow and trust the Lord. Thank you mom & dad, college friends, John, Bob, Dave and our small group in seminary. You’ve taught me how to pray and trust in the God who hears us. I am better because of you.