Monday, November 27, 2017
To Begin With Prayer
This morning is my first official day as senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame. I must admit that I woke up this morning with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and hopefulness - "afoot and lighthearted" as the poet Walt Whitman once wrote, "I take to the open road."
Another reason that I am excited about this morning is because today we will launch one of the first and most important ministries at Burlingame. We will begin a prayer ministry!
All great movements of God always begin with prayer. Let me repeat that. All great movements of God always begin with prayer.
The first church in history, the Acts 2 church, began with prayer in the upper room. Jesus' own ministry began with prayer and reflection and discernment in the wilderness. Paul's ministry began with prayer as he sat, still blinded by God's light, in the city of Damascus, awaiting what God would instruct him to do. Every Billy Graham crusade always began with prayer. Countless successful churches in history have had as their focus the essential need to pray.
Now, this may seem like an obvious point for any Christian ministry. However, as a fourth generation Presbyterian minister, I have, until recently, and quite unfortunately, sometimes seen prayer as more of an appetizer on the plate of life rather than the essential meat and potatoes that it really represents. "Oh sure, it is important," I always said. I have learned that it is...IMPORTANT.
When my brother and I started Highlands Church about ten years ago, we were blessed at that time to have a large number of Charismatic Christians join the church from another church in town that was struggling. This group, perhaps more than any other, taught me the essential importance of prayer. I will never forget how every single Sunday morning, in the movie theater where we met, a handful of people would meet in the theater manager's office, amidst popcorn droppings and Sprite covered carpets, and pray for that morning's worship service. After this, many of them even went around and prayed over each seat in the theater, that the would-be occupants of that seat, an hour or so later, would be touched by the power of Christ.
One of my favorite stories about the power of prayer happened in the city of Seattle at University Presbyterian Church. UPC, as it is called, had long been a very successful downtown church. However, one very important ministry outreach eluded that church - college students. Nestled right on the cusp of one of the most thriving state universities in the country, there were, sadly, very few college students who connected with the church. A prayer ministry was formed that met in a nearby hotel, called, "The Inn". Each week, a handful of moms of college students, got together to pray for a thriving college ministry. It didn't happen over night. In fact, it would take about 20 years of prayer, and hard work. But eventually, one of the most successful college ministries in the country developed - so-named "The Inn" because of the name of the prayer group's initial meeting place.
This coming Thursday, and every Thursday that I serve as pastor of FPCB, a group of talented, thoughtful, spiritually-wise, kind and compassionate people will meet in the senior pastor's office (my office) to pray for the needs and concerns of the church, the community and the world. I am so grateful that my new friend Susan Siciliano has agreed to lead this group. Susan has such a warm and down-to-earth spirit, that will bless this ministry so much. Other equally fabulous members of the group will include, Louise Arata, Tiffany Daily, Karen Preston, Marjan Wells, Jodi Lowery, Marilyn Nicholls, and Debbie Trevithick. Others may join the group over time, but initially this core group will coalesce and discern and bond. While these women are meeting to pray, I will simultaneously be in my home office writing each weeks' sermon (no pressure:-), so they will quite literally have the place to themselves:-)
If anyone who is reading this blog post has any prayer needs, please don't hesitate to send them to me, or send them to Susan Siciliano, or any members of the prayer group. We will diligently pray for you!
Oh, and one last thing, this prayer group is also dedicated to the concept of having fun, in each other's company, while praying for others. No one ever said that prayer needs to be drudgery. But rather, to lift another line from Walt Whitman, "The long brown path [of Christ's joy and fellowship] will be before them, leading wherever they choose."
And wherever God leads!~
All For Now,