I had every intension of keeping an online journal of yesterday's day of prayer and fasting. My laptop was connected wirelessly to the internet at the back of the sanctuary, and was ready to go. I even put up the first update (at around noon). But then, believe it or not, it got pretty busy.
About fifty people stopped by throughout the day to pray, be prayed for, or both. Over 600 prayer requests were either dropped off in the office, were phoned in, or emailed to my account. I really thought at the beginning of the day that my time would be pretty quiet and kind of monastic. Well, if that's what monks go through, they are pretty busy fellas.
In short, I can describe the day in one word: amazing! Here were some of the highlights...
- The first person who showed up for prayer was waiting for me when I arrived. A local attorney, we spent some time talking, and then he asked me to pray for three people needing God's help, and to say a word of praise for some medical treatment that he had been receiving that was working. Just a great start to a great day, because he's obviously a great person!
- The second person who arrived was also an attorney who simply asked that I pray that God grant them strength, wisdom, and grace. Lesson learned? From now on, think twice before you tell a lawyer joke.
- An entire family showed up right before dinner to do their prayers together.... you can't know how cool that was!
- A high school student showed up for two hours to pray over a good number of the prayer requests submitted that day. The kid prayed like a trouper!
- Two people who have a problem with one another, came at different times to pray for the other person (you can't make this stuff up!).
- Most crushing prayer request of the day that stopped me dead in my tracks: A mother of four small children given 9 months to live with incurable brain cancer.
- Prayers for peace in the world: 43
- A man looking to find out what day this year's "Blessing for the Bikes" was scheduled stayed and asked for prayer. He gave a praise for the service, and how much it meant to his motorcycle club, which is not religious in nature.
- For over four hours, in the dead of the afternoon, a constant stream of people waited in line to be prayed for. Gives me chills just thinking about it.
- Was, and am, amazed at the number of mothers lifting up prayers for their children. And the prayers only grow in number the older the mother, and child become.
- I prayed for a woman who was concerned with the welfare of her mother who had lost her husband almost a year ago. Her mom couldn't make it yesterday, so she showed up in her place because she knew how much it meant to her.
- I prayed for a man who loves his son very, very much.
- I prayed, silently, with my father. We prayed for a friend of ours suffering with cancer, a young man struggling with alcoholism and for strength for his parents who are dying a slow death in the process, for my dad's brother in prison, and the people of Haiti. I took time to pray for dad, his business, and the weight of responsibility he feels for the people emplyed there.
- I prayed, silently, with my mom, an hour later, for all the same things.
- I received an email request for a granddaughter who lost both of grandparents in less than a year, and is having great difficulty dealing with it that was sent by her mother.
- A number of people prayed for me, and every single one of those prayers made me feel incredibly unworthy of this job, and a sense that I am greatly blessed.
- In my time alone (because, despite all the people, there were some stretches early in the day when I was by myself), I found it difficult to concentrate and just decided to let my mind wander. I ended up praying for some friends from college (who I hadn't seen in years), another friend who starts seminary this week, and I asked God to please ease the pain a relative of mine has felt since they lost their mom. I prayed for a friend of mine who built a house next door to his parents and his grandfather, and I asked God to give him strength as in the last three years he's lost his father and grandfather, and now is helping his mother face a battle against cancer. I thanked God for people who loved me when I was child, and have been gone for years. It was very cathartic, and humbling.
Probably my greatest learning of the day can be summed up like this: I have been totally underestimating the depth of compassion that God has for all of humanity.
If you saw the movie "Bruce Almighty", you'll remember the scene where Carrey's character, Bruce (who has been give the authority by God to be God of a part of Buffalo, New York) realizes that all of the voices he's been hearing a prayer requests from people, about everything from dying relatives to winning the lottery. As a means of organization, he converts them to emails, and after spending an entire night answering all of them, only to find out that his inbox after hours at the computer, has more requests than what he'd started with. Thus, out of frustration, he decides simply to just answer to "yes" to every request, resulting shortly in chaos throughout the city of Buffalo.
Here's the thing: I had this sense yesterday that God doesn't get frustrated at all with those things we lift up to Him, daily. He doesn't ever get frustrated with the stupid things that we do to ourselves that we ask Him to bail us out of, even after months, or years, where we never bothered to "call". I just got this feeling that God delights in every moment we spend with Him far more than we could ever realize. He understands how small our world is, and how it alters our sense of reality. And yet, despite the fact that in His world, time has no meaning and nobody ever really dies, even the most trival things we come to Him with are listened to with a depth of concern and wisdom that is, of course, lacking among us. You see, I started the day thinking that prayer was important thing for us to do because of the benefits for us, but I ended the day thinking about how maybe God gets a bigger bang out of it than we do.
Anyhow, it won't be the last time I take an entire day to do this. And you can bet that the words I say daily on my knees, or in my car, or over my family, or in bed as the last moments of consciousness drift away won't come off my lips as glibbly, or thoughtlessly as they did before, because I know he's listening, and has something to say.
I hope that thought is a blessing to you this day.