This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
A week ago, my mom moved from her home of 39 years in Northern California to Atlanta to be closer to my sister and a day’s drive from me and my family.
She has a good friend, Dora, whose regular morning route while walking her dog would take them past my mom’s house early every morning. Being a kind soul, Dora and her dog Tofu would stop and toss the morning newspaper from near the curb to the front door of my mom’s house. It was a kindness she did for many years, allowing my mom to grab the paper from the front stoop rather than having to parade out to the curb and back in her bathrobe.
Yesterday, my mom and this friend spoke on the phone, and Dora reported that the new homeowners have installed new drapes on the front windows. She also commented that Tofu continues to stop every morning out in front of the house, waiting for Dora to throw the paper to the front door.
The first couple of days, Dora tried to cajole Tofu into just moving along and learning a new pattern, but the years of stopping and waiting for Dora to pitch the paper had ingrained the habit. Finally, by the fourth day, Dora gave up and is now throwing the new residents’ paper to the front door of my mom’s former home every morning. It only takes a moment or two out of her day, and Dora figures the new residents will simply think the newspaper delivery person has an exceptional talent for tossing the paper accurately.
Like that dear dog, Tofu, we, too, have ingrained habits — as individuals and as a church.
Over more than 13 years, First Pres has been shepherded by Senior Pastor Ray Hylton. With his departure looming in the not-too-distant future, we soon will be in a place where some habits will need to be maintained despite some major changes that will have transpired.
One of the many, many things I have appreciated about Pastor Ray in his time here is his heart for prayer and his consistency in praying for First Pres and the universal Church. We know — because he has told us many times from the pulpit and through his actions — that he firmly believes prayer not only changes individual situations, but also establishes those who pray in a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am hoping (and trusting) First Pres continues to grow in this discipline of prayer.
Like Tofu’s ingrained habit, we should continue to be in the habit of regular intercessory prayer long after the example Pastor Ray has set for us is no longer standing here before us.
I’m currently reading a book called “A Praying Church” by Paul E. Miller. (I highly recommend both it and his previous book, “A Praying Life.”) In “A Praying Church,” Miller describes a pattern he finds in which the Apostle Paul articulates a specific pattern of Christian practice that Miller calls “the power train.” Miller uses this to illustrate the connection Paul makes between prayer, all three persons of the Trinity, and the spiritual power and effectiveness of churches.
Much in the way the power of a car goes from the engine to the transmission to the wheels and moves the whole car forward, Miller says the pattern of the spiritual power train goes like this:
Prayer —-> Spirit —-> Jesus —-> Power
In essence, Miller suggests that Prayer connects us to the Holy Spirit, drawing us into a closer relationship with Jesus, which in turn releases God’s Power to change something.
In Ephesians Chapter 3, the Apostle Paul “prays to the Father for the gift of the Spirit to make Jesus present.” Miller paraphrases verses 14 through 19, parenthetically noting where each person of the Trinity plays a role in the process.
I pray to the Father (“I bow my knees before the Father”) for the Spirit to continuously re-create resurrection in our lives (“that… he may grant you to be strengthened with power through your inner being”), so that Jesus possesses us (“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”), in order that we overflow with the love of Christ (“that you… know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”).
Miller continues, saying, “Prayer is the critical spark that brings this Spirit engine to life. Consequently, prayer is not one more activity of the church — it lies at the heart of all the church’s ministry.”
One of the great things about First Pres (by God’s grace and mercy), is the variety of opportunities we have to pray together.
- Except for the first Sunday of each month, we join in Prayers of the People during our weekly worship services. This week we collected prayers from the congregation. You can still submit those prayers online by noon tomorrow (Friday, March 24).
- Most months we have two Wednesday Prayer Gatherings, currently meeting on Zoom.
- Each Saturday morning, the Men’s Breakfast takes time to pray for needs and concerns shared by those in attendance.
- Many of our small groups regularly take time to pray for their attendees and needs of the church.
- Wednesday mornings, a hybrid group meets to lift up focused prayers for our missions partners. Contact Mission Director Caryl Weinberg for more information.
As we come to the final weeks of Lent, let us regularly put prayer at the heart of all we do in our own lives, here at First Pres, and in our ministry to the world beyond.
Eager to see what God has next,
Director of Communications.
P.S. Miller’s book “A Praying Life” is an excellent practical guide to developing a prayer habit in your own life.