“Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis
For 34 years, I prayed as I was taught to pray as a small child - for loved ones and friends, for those who are in pain, for the poor, and the hungry and the homeless. Two events in the early years of my marriage deepened both my prayer life and my walk with God. The first was the death of Becky and Jimmie Dunbar’s precious toddler, Jackson. He was three months older than our son Ben and this tragedy hit so close to home. Through tears and pain, the Holy Spirit taught me how to pray for that family; how to trust that somehow, miraculously, God works in all things for the good of those who love him, (Romans 8:28) even when we can’t see it. A few months later, a couple who were two of our dearest friends separated. I was frightened and disillusioned as I begged God to heal their marriage and He didn’t. It made no sense. Where was God in all of this? In God’s unfathomable way, it was Becky Dunbar’s invitation to join her to pray for this couple that forever changed my life. I was moved. How could someone who had lost so much care about the pain of others? I went thinking I wouldn’t say a word and wound up praying aloud for the first time in my life. I joined Becky’s bible study that fall; we studied “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby. I realized that God offers a richness to life that I never knew I was missing. I found I loved reading the Bible, praying to God, and talking about Him with other believers. I learned that God wants to have a personal relationship with me (and you) and that He still speaks to people today through the Holy Spirit. I learned that if you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through scripture, He will reveal truth to you. I learned that it is far better to seek God’s will in the first place than to make your own plans and then ask Him to bless them.
As time went on, I felt a call to pray for our church – that we would learn to pray for God’s direction before we determined our budget or chose our programs, so that we would know that we were always in the center of His will. I sat in amazement as the Holy Spirit put other people in my path who sensed the same call. For ten years we gathered to pray for God’s direction for our church, for the strength and well-being of our ministers and staff, for wisdom for our deacons and elders, for unity among our members and for guidance during our multiple searches for a new head pastor. God was faithful to us and we thanked Him for answering our prayers.
During officer training this winter, Tom Evans asked us to read the book Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers by Joan S. Gray. I had chills as I read Chapter 3, Rowboat or Sailboat? Ms. Gray confirms what the Holy Spirit put on my heart so many years ago. “Leaders of a sailboat church do not begin their planning by assuming they know God’s agenda and adding up the resources they have to accomplish it…They are willing to spend considerable time and energy on discerning where God is moving and where God is inviting them to invest themselves in God’s work.” Let’s hoist the sails and let the Holy Spirit guide us. Let’s gather as a community of faith and pray for wisdom and guidance. Let’s pray fervently and often. We have experienced much pain as a congregation, but we need not let that paralyze us. Our God is a God of healing. I believe Him when He says “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)