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By Erik Hatch
Former Youth Director from First Lutheran Church, Fargo, N.D. 

Is Prayer Enough?

 

January 11, 2018



A great conversation unfolded within my weekly study group of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. This week’s topic: Developing your friendship with God.

The crux of the chapter is that you are as close to God as you choose to be. The way you get closer is by intimate desire, time and energy. But as the chapter goes on, it has a heavy emphasis on how we need to learn what God cares about and then do the same…

The group of nearly a dozen talked about the widow and orphan – and the homeless person flying a sign on the street corner. As that last example was spoken, my guilt ran rampant.

You see, there’s a guy named Jon who is often perched on the corner of the Interstate and University Drive, the road to work. He has been in my life since 2007.

We met at First Lutheran Church in Fargo where I used to serve as a youth director. Jon wandered in one Sunday morning and soon called FLC his home. He was different from the prototypical church attendee that many of us picture. He didn’t come into church pretending that he was whole. Instead, he wandered in as a homeless man – reeking of booze and cigarettes.

I befriended Jon and subconsciously made it my mission to be a part of Jon’s salvation experience on this earth. I truly believe that God is the only Savior – but dang, I sure do get a God-complex sometimes and I think that the responsibility of salvation and redemption falls on my shoulders.

So I spent YEARS working with Jon and ‘on’ Jon. We got him housing (with the help of LOTS of others…not just me). We got him cleaned up. We, at times, got him sober. But there was always a fall from grace – and Jon’s one step forward always seemed to be accompanied by two steps back.

But when I was sitting in our book study, we talked about how we need to care about what God cares about – and I was overwhelmed with guilt. I’ve lost contact with Jon over the last four years – and yet I still see him from time to time on the street corner looking for cash from the kindness of strangers. I haven’t stopped to chat. I haven’t connected with Jon – because I haven’t wanted to open that can of worms again. But there’s a burning part of me that says I need to help fix Jon.

When I shared this with my co-workers, I got called to the carpet – but not in the way you might think. These loving people told me that I didn’t need to fix Jon, I just needed to pray for him.

I’ve been riddled with thought and emotion since that conversation. Simply put – prayer makes the most sense to me when I pray with my hands and feet. Simply praying without doing doesn’t seem like enough sometimes.

I can tell you this – avoidance is NOT caring about what God cares about. We need to pray for those that break our hearts. We need to oftentimes do more than just pray – we need to act. But how do we know when either is the right mode of operation?

We need to trust that prayer is not only our way to connect with God but God’s way to connect us to the world. Prayer is certainly about talking to God – but more importantly I think it’s about listening to God. I’ve probably convoluted things by trying to fix people or avoid people.

Sometimes, we need to be still and know that God is God.

Sometimes, we need to get our butts in gear and do some good in this world.

All the time, we need to pray. That is always enough.

Deciphering what to do with what God puts on our hearts…that’s another story. I hope we can figure that out together.

 

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