I’ve told this story several times recently: A few years ago, Israel Ramirez and I went to TCC downtown to set up a table in their main building and connect with students to promote our College Ministry and tell them about Southside. We parked in the visitor lot, unloaded signage for our table, snacks and drinks, and flyers about the church and ministry, then we made the long trek up to the building. We sat at our table on campus for hours, but made almost no connections and engaged a paltry number of students. It seemed like a wasted trip...
A few weeks after that, Israel and I returned to campus to set up a table in the same spot and try again. We did all the very same thing, but this time, before we made the long trek up to the building, we prayed. It was the same day of the week, we sat in the same spot, and we offered the same snacks, drinks, and flyers, but it was like engaging a different campus entirely! We had many great conversations, made a lot of connections, and saw several students begin to come around the ministry as a result of that visit.
Between those two visits, only one thing changed - we prayed first. We changed nothing else about how we engaged the campus; we just brought it to God before we started, and God worked!
Too often, I find time to pray only when I’m not overwhelmed by work. Too often, prayer is something I do after I’ve made my plans, and I hope that God will bless them. When I think about this memory, I realize how much I treat prayer as a background activity and my own work as most important. In their book Everyday Church, Tim Chester & Steve Timmis write, “If we think we are central to gospel growth, then our activity will always seem more urgent than prayer.”
If you have this problem, you are not alone. We often treat prayer as a background task or a backup plan, but if we believe that God works in our world, prayer should be our first resort! Chester & Timmis say, “Prayer is not a support activity to mission. It is itself a frontline missional activity. Mission is never under our control. God is the great missionary.”
1 Chronicles 16:11 reminds us to “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” God calls us to mission, but He is the true missionary and the real strength behind any efforts we make.
If you’re reading this, I want to ask two favors of you:
1) If you have not been to the Wednesday night Prayer Circle, please go to it. At least once, go to the Peace Class room at 6:30 on a Wednesday night, and pray (aloud or silently) with fellow Christians.
2) There is a “Week of Prayer” card included below, asking for prayers over our College Ministry and nearby campuses. As the fall semester comes closer, please join me in praying that God will be at work. New and returning students are coming to campuses near us, and they are ready to learn new things, meet new people, and change their lives. During this time, we want them to learn about God, meet Jesus Christ, and be changed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Please pray for these things!