The Humbling of Prayer

The Highland Church is launching a vision that will seek to bring restoration to Highland, Abilene, and the world.  We wish to restore some things in our building and pay off debt; we wish to restore the hurting in Abilene, specifically by bringing an end to systemic homelessness in our city; we wish to restore the world through projects such as building water wells, partnering with Eternal Threads to combat human trafficking, and participating in micro-financing.  It is a lofty vision and one that I am completely excited and honored to be a part of.

In conjunction with this vision, Highland has launched a capital campaign to raise the money needed to help bring about this vision.  The great thing about this campaign:  more money will be spent outside our walls than inside them.  A greater thing:  the more money raised, the higher the percentage of money spent outside our own building.  We are in the midst of 40 days of prayer for this campaign, this vision, and this restoration movement.

Part of the 40 days of prayer included a 24 hour prayer vigil.  People were invited to the building from 6:00 p.m. Friday through 6:00 p.m. Saturday.  There were several rooms set aside for different types of prayers.  There were opportunities to pray in color or to write prayer requests on a prayer wall.  There was a room for intercessory prayer.

I was honored to be in the intercessory prayer room for the last hour of the prayer vigil.  People were invited to come into the room to ask for prayers.  If no one showed up, there were prayer cards with requests written.  As I was in the room, no one came in to ask for prayer, so I started praying over the request cards.  There were hundreds.  Some were anonymous, some had the person’s name on the card, others had a person’s name on the card who was asking prayer for someone else.  The requests spanned from asking for blessing and wisdom on the leaders of the church to unity among the church body to specific requests such as healing, safety for families, guidance in people’s lives, and so on.

As I read these prayer cards and offered a prayer for each one, more people came into my mind.  As I prayed for healing for one person’s illness I thought of so many friends and family members struggling with disease.  As I prayed for one person’s family I was reminded of so many other families who are hurting and struggling.  It was such an overwhelming, humbling experience.  These people filled out cards just asking someone to pray for them or their loved ones.  They stepped out on faith that prayer works.  They did not know who specifically would be praying over their cards, yet they believed that someone (or several someones) would.

When I finished with the cards, I had a few minutes remaining.  There was a list with the names of all the ministers and support staff at Highland.  I picked up that list and started praying for each person by name.  When I got to the bottom of the list, I stopped.  I was again overwhelmed.  I was moved to tears (not surprising, I know).

My name was on that list.

I love what my family and I are able to do at Highland and Freedom and Grace.  I love to play a small role with my Celebrate Recovery class.  The fact that someone thought to include me with the ministry leaders at Freedom and Grace was humbling.  I appreciated it even in my surprise about it.  But then it hit me.

That list had been in the room for the past 24 hours.

Other people had been in that room praying since 6:00 p.m. the previous day.  Other people had picked up that list and prayed for all of those names; for my name!  I had been prayed over for 24 hours without even knowing it.

How overwhelming.

How humbling.

Being able to pray for other people is such an honor.  It is a powerful experience and I am truly humbled by having that opportunity.  To be prayed over by numerous people is also a powerful, humbling experience.

If you are reading this and you filled out one of those prayer cards:  know that you were prayed for; specifically; by name.  And those prayers have not ended.

24 hour prayer vigil.  40 days of prayer.  A Restoration Movement.

Amen.

Why I Hate September, But Not Really

“Jenny’s death was the spiritual earthquake that left me searching through the rubble for the remnants of my faith.”  Beverly Ross, Summit 2011

September is a difficult month for me.  In September 2010, my brother, Robert, died.  The next year, a good friend from church, Teri Simons, also died.  I hate September.

But do I really need to?

In 2010, after Robert died, my wife, children, and I drove from Abilene, TX, to Delmar, MD.  We stayed there for five days.  We shared stories.  We shared laughter.  We shared tears.  People flew from Texas and drove from as far as Vermont to attend the funeral.  People from Robert’s work, members of several churches, and even some of my high school friends arrived to grieve with us.

The outpouring of love was incredible.  The night we arrived at my parent’s house I received a phone call from Texas.  Teri (along with others whose anonymity I will honor in this post) devised a plan to help raise money for my family.  The amount of money they raised was exactly the amount of money my wife and I spent on the trip.  When we got back home to Abilene, I shared that with Teri and this is what she said:  “Paul, I wanted to help you because I knew how much money you had to spend and how much work you and Shawna were missing.  But I only had two dollars.  So I thought if I could add my two dollars to a lot of other people’s two dollars it might make a difference.”

I will never forget Teri’s love and service to my family.  I am glad I told her over and over again before she died.  I cannot wait until I get to tell her again.

So back to my question:  do I really need to hate September?

The quote above was delivered in September of 2011 at ACU’s Summit.  Summit is an incredible experience every year.  In 2009, my wife and I were at a crossroads; trying to determine what direction we were going to follow in our lives.  It was at ACU’s Summit that we started the process that ended up with us moving back to Abilene.

September has been healing.  It has brought tremendous pain; it has also brought tremendous joy.

No matter how much pain I experience when I remember the losses experienced in September, I will also recall the joy and healing that has been offered during this month.

Maybe I should apply that to more of my life.  What lessons have I learned in the midst of pain, sorrow, and struggle?  What joy has been born out the darkest despair?  How many spiritual earthquakes have I experienced?  How often have I found those remnants of my faith and been able to move on?

Praise God that the darkest moments of my life do not need to determine the story of my life.

“I lift my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1,2