Prayer is important, right? We say this, but do we believe it. Do we live it and breathe it?
I know I struggle with this. Let me share a recent story.
I teach at Life Pacific College. In the class we have 40 bright-eyed, curious students ready to learn. Now, before we get into the academics of the class, I start the class with prayer. I want to model the value of prayer not to mention that if we do not know how to pray in missions, we will get beat up spiritually rather easily.
In my last class, I started the three-hour, afternoon block according to our routine of devotion and prayer. But let me share a little secret, I was going through the exercise for the sake of the principle of prayer. My faith was not exercised in the slightest as I knew we had a lot of material to get through. My mind was on the material, and the material was on my mind to quote Snoop Dogg.
As the students began to share their requests, I started to think this is different. I wondered what is going on. The first few weeks, we had one or two requests, maybe three at the most. Today, the requests just kept coming. One of the half-dozen requests stood out to me. A student in the back of the class, Josh, asked for us to pray for his friend, whose dad had a skin disease causing him to no longer be able to walk. I thought, whoa, this is big, but my faith was little.
I hoped the students who prayed might have big faith as all I could think about was a lecture that was running out of time. But pray we would. If we didn’t get to all the fun extra facts and stories in the lecture, so be it. Prayer would happen, even if my praying heart was distracted. So internally, I mustered up the fortitude to pray. I started off the prayer, touching on unreached peoples (the topic of the day) and handed the rest of the prayer requests to the students.
To begin praying, my passion to see all peoples reached with the love of Jesus shined through. However, as the other prayers began to be lifted up by the students, my mind wandered. I couldn’t help but think this will take a long time, and we have too much material (*lecture notes) for the time we have. It was like we were trying to pack three weeks’ worth of clothes into a bag that could only fit a few days’ of outfits.
I went to my computer to check our time, maybe that would calm me down. Perhaps we hadn’t gone as far into the hour as I feared. Hopefully, time was moving slowly, and it was just my mind racing. But no.
We were 22 minutes into the class. I was so tempted to use the time of their prayers to prepare for the next thoughts I had to give in the lecture. My mind was elsewhere, but I fought myself internally, saying: this time is valuable, I have said this, I must model it. So, we prayed, and I joined my heart to the prayers being lifted up. Sometimes, you are not the perfect professor you aim to be.
And sometimes God surprises you anyway.
After the lecture and the break, we reconvened in the library to learn how to research for the research project they would have. While sitting along the wall next to my students, listening to the lecture on research from the librarian, Josh turned to me and whispered this story.
He texted his friend to say we prayed. His friend texted back to say her dad began walking this afternoon (within the hour of our prayer) and has been healed.
Whaaaaaat!!? That is incredible I thought. This is like the Centurion’s servant who was healed within the hour of Jesus’ authoritative prayer. This is Biblical stuff happening in our midst. Happening in America. Flabbergasted, I was.
I responded, amazing out loud, while inside I felt so much awe and shame at the same time. I had no faith to see this happen, and our awesome God did it anyway. Now, the students exercised faith, so faith was in the equation, but the biggest part of this healing is a healing God who loves to show how he is on mission.
A little background: This friend’s dad is a total unbeliever. He came down with psoriasis which progressed so badly that he couldn’t walk. When his daughter prayed for him, he tried limping around, saying I am healed in a mocking tone.
The next day when we prayed, there is no doubt in his mind he was healed by a God on mission, a God desiring to show himself real.
I am simply blown away. Mind blown. This is awe-inspiring stuff. When I think about this, I know I will not minimize the time we have to pray next week.
It is great to be surprised by God every now and again. Has there been a time you were surprised by God?