It’s the National Day of Prayer, and our country and its president have never needed our prayers more. Please pray for my friend @GregLaurie, and for his courageous stand in the face of intimidation not to pray before the nation at this event in Washington. I respect his courage, rooted in the story of Daniel and officials’ attempts to stop Daniel from praying. (See yesterday’s Christian Post.)
Is prayer a significant part of your spiritual life? I have a sermon to prepare for this weekend that I am very excited about, meetings to attend that deal with important matters, and much more to do, but today prayer has to have first priority. Prayer has been a huge part of my life; a blessing in some seasons and a survival mechanism in others. Thinking about God, or reflecting on spiritual matters is not necessarily praying. I try to hold myself to this legit prayer test: Was my prayer 1) alone? 2) kneeling? 3) out loud? 4) fervent? 5) with a written list of specific petitions? I praise God for the faithful youth ministers and workers in our church. I got my prayer start when I was a high school student with a wise youth pastor who recognized our rookie prayer habits and, thankfully, got us with some veterans.
On a particular Sunday after church, the high school and college people gathered in the basement for a lunch with the seniors. To this day the idea sounds bad, even boring, but for me at least the outcome changed the course of my life. We sat around tables in seats that were assigned, and I had lunch with a woman who exuded class, no doubt a great beauty in her younger days. She was classy, articulate, even persuasive in her manner, and her name was Evelyn White. When the meal ended, we heard a message on prayer and were told that the saint beside us had been assigned as our prayer partner.
From my summer visiting, I knew the potential of this gift and hoped that Mrs. White had the powerful kind of prayer life I wanted to emulate. In God’s kindness, Evelyn was a prayer giant, dwarfing even some of those I had visited. Widow to a pastor, she was living with a friend, and though impoverished materially, she was profoundly rich in the Lord. She met me regularly, prayed for me fervently, and gave me her husband’s Bible. Talking to God as a friend, she spoke words of faith over my ministry dreams that exceeded my capacity to trust the Lord at the time. So great was her impact that thirty years later, I returned to the homestead where Evelyn prayed, where I had taken my fiancée to meet her. As I walked around the property, I felt afresh the power of her prayers for our future service to Christ and was warmly greeted by the current occupant, a woman who knew Evelyn and listened to me daily on the radio. Wow! I was so excited to tell her that my ministry fruitfulness flowed in large part from the hours of prayer prayed on the property where she now lived. She was astounded.
A second woman who knew me longer and loved me even more was my grandmother, though I could not see it at the time. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife. Demanding and forceful with her opinions, she always insisted that we do more than we felt able and let us know quickly when we were falling short. Her tenderness only came out in her praying. Sitting by her second-floor bay window in chairs that faced one another, she would insist on praying personally for me every time I visited. Taking my hand, she would lean forward, pausing at length to gather her sense of God’s listening before she began. Starting with heartfelt adoration, she would praise and thank God at length before any specific petitions. She prayed for the kind of things that make you very uncomfortable: for God to crush my pride, to reinforce my total dependency, to protect me from temptation given my “great weakness,” etc. I confess to never closing my eyes as she prayed for me, spellbound by the experience of watching her pray. Grandma Eileen lost one eye to a childhood bee sting and had never had the dead eye corrected cosmetically. Her prayers would build to a fever pitch. As her fervency grew, she cried out to the Lord with the closed eye streaming tears while the other eye looked lifelessly ahead. In a scene that resembled The Shining more than an afternoon with Corrie ten Boom, she modeled a passion in prayer that most people can’t imagine. With all my heart I believe I will get to heaven one day and learn that any good accomplished through my life was 100 percent in response to the prayers of Evelyn and Eileen.
Does someone pray for you like that? Do you pray like that? I have had to learn to, and it took a while. Get started today. As our nation focuses on prayer, who should be praying more or more fervently than the followers of Jesus?
FG_AUTHORS: James MacDonald