I was not in a praying mood.
The elders had decided to make Wednesday evenings available for prayer. As a pastor, I’m supposed to be excited about prayer, right? I’m supposed to love talking to God. I should love any and every opportunity to gather with God’s people and spend time in intimate conversation with Jesus, right?
Nope. I could have spent that time on Facebook or watching a sporting event. I was going to the prayer meeting, but I was not going to enjoy it. “So, Jesus, you’d better be happy I’m going because I could be doing something else,” I thought.
I walked slowly to church—as if getting hit by a bus would have been preferable at that point. I was not interested in getting lathered up for a conversation with Jesus. Doesn’t that sound bad? (As if you’ve never felt like that before. Admit it—you have.)
In one of the rooms on the second floor, the prayer warriors were gathered: one elder, the associate pastor, a retired missionary couple, and me. I thought we’d cancel the meeting. Yet it was clear that the “where two or three are gathered” minimum requirement had been met, so on with the prayer.
The praying started low, raised high, struck fire, and landed on celebration. So much so that the husband of the missionary couple blurted out, “For a minute I thought I was back in Latin America! We were loud for Christian Reformed people.”
Yes, we were! We were loud, blessed, and honored by the presence of God. The Holy Spirit showed me that prayer is more about what God is doing than my own pet peeves or bad attitudes. Thank you, Holy Ghost! Jesus taught me he will show up regardless because he promised he would. I was ready to skip home.
I walked down the stairs and made my way through the fellowship room just as the women’s Bible study was ending. The leader, a small woman of fireball faith and persistence, grabbed my hand and made a request. “Pastor, a dear sister needs prayer! She needs her driving record expunged in order to start driving a bus again.” The woman was running after her two grandsons, who were quicker than her in energy and speed. Once she caught them, she brought them into an impromptu circle of prayer that had formed. We joined our hands, bowed our heads, and prayed for God to intervene on her behalf. It started low, rose high, struck fire, and ended in celebration. The praying was so good that another request was made. The leader said, “Pastor, we need to pray for Belinda [not her real name] because she’s mad at everyone. The alcohol has a hold on her, and we miss her at our meeting.” Now children were watching us. Some stopped playing and others drew closer to the circle.
We lifted Belinda’s situation to the Lord. We prayed that she would experience freedom from the alcohol and she would begin again on the road of following Jesus. We started low, rose high, struck fire, and ended with holy laughter. By this time the children were praising God along with us. Passing through the fellowship room had turned into my chance to learn from these women about discipleship.
What does this have to do with discipleship? Everything. All of these wonderful people are trying to follow Jesus—a Jesus who calls us to a life of obedience, a Jesus who knows our motives are not pure or benevolent, yet something inside us loves him enough to get up and go to a prayer meeting or a Bible study against our stubborn wills.
Discipleship isn’t a program or a tool or a technique. It’s the simple gathering of struggling men and women who remind each other that if we join our hands and call on Jesus, we may start low, rise high, strike fire, and celebrate Jesus.