In January 2003 I became a man of prayer. It happened in this way….
A few days before Christmas I had received an urgent phone call. A last-minute cancellation provided an opportunity to teach a week-long class on the Pentateuch to a handful of national staff members living in a creative-access country. I had another fairly consuming day job and I would only have a week to prepare. We’d be going six mornings in a row, 8-noon in class, with afternoons open for assignments and evenings dedicated to fellowship and tutoring. Duty and my need for a fresh challenge called, so I accepted.
As is often the case in creative-access contexts, we met in a walled, secluded compound about an hour outside of the city. It was freezing cold – outside and inside. We needed to maintain a very low profile. Once inside the gate, there would be no coming or going for the week. No email. Splotchy cell phone use. Self-imposed isolation. Instant monk.
The first two days I felt antsy. After teaching in the morning and sharing lunch with the students, I had nothing to do while they studied in the long, bitterly cold afternoons. I napped. I read. I cranked through my email backlog. As God would have it, John Piper’s excellent, practical sermon entitled “Be Devoted To Prayer” made it into my inbox before the communication blackout. God had also been working in my heart over the past few weeks in conversations and articles I’d read, creating a deep longing – a yearning – to bring far more of myself and my burdens before him in prayer.
So I began to pray. I discovered that the more I prayed the more I enjoyed it.
Free and Formed. Desperate and Delighted. Explosive and Extended. I had always carried a prayer list for my family, my team, key issues, etc, but something new occurred to me. At the time my team was responsible for overseeing ministry efforts in over 100 locations by teams from a dozen countries. I was learning distance leadership skills. I knew I could never personally visit each team. But I sensed the Lord saying: “Ken, I am an expert at leading over distance. And there is no reason that you cannot personally pray for every one of these people, name by name, on a regular basis. Bring them before me.”
So my personal development plan for 2003 was forged. The plan was very simple. Every Thursday morning from 4 – 6 am I would rise, open the Bible, and read until the Spirit impressed me with a passage. I would open my laptop, load our database, and simply pray that passage into the life of every person and team across our ministry. Some days it felt a little like a chore. Most days I felt a sense of peace, relief, and increased confidence that God was at work and everything was going to be all right. What surprised me was the increased levels of energy and awareness – my sensitivities to all other areas of the ministry began to grow, as did my love for people. At the end of that year, I remember thinking “Why haven’t I been doing this more often?”
Now I have a different job with a broader scope. God is beckoning me to become a man of prayer…again.
“There is no better way to learn about prayer than by praying… It is good to debate the mysteries of prayer, to ponder the profundities of prayer, to learn the methods of prayer. It is better to pray.” — Richard Foster