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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

2013-10-08 16.13.35Yesterday I went on a community walk with the Richmond Police Department in Whitcomb Court, one of the housing projects in the East End. This is part of an ongoing partnership between the police department and the city’s faith leaders.

I was accompanied by a police officer and the associate pastor of a sister church, Rev. Sharon, who had done this before. She knocked on the first door boldly, and when nobody answered the police officer knocked again. Someone inside said, “Who is it?” and he said, “Police!” By the time this woman got to the door, pulling on her clothes and adjusting her wig, she was terrified. She had been taking a nap and had no idea what was going on.

We tried to calm her down. We told her we were just there to ask people how they were doing and if they felt safe in their neighborhood. I said, “The police are smart enough to know they can’t do this job alone, and so they’ve recruited members of the faith community to help out. They provide the presence and we provide the prayers.”

That comforted her some, but you could tell her heart was still pounding, and that she might have been glad if the police and the faith leaders had simply left her alone. Rev. Sharon offered to pray for her and she nodded her head, and then Rev. Sharon said a prayer for her, her family, her home, and her future.

By the time we left I think she was feeling better.

We must have knocked on a dozen different doors yesterday, and behind almost every one was a mother who was concerned for her children. One woman told us she had a son, 27, who was “out there” day after day, doing who knows what. She was terrified that one day he would be shot and killed. We prayed for her as well, and specifically for her son.

Another woman had grown up in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands, but then moved to Miami and eventually to Richmond. A beautiful little girl peeked out shyly from behind her legs and another one, the baby, was upstairs taking a nap. We prayed for that mother and those children as well.

Nobody turned us away, and everyone allowed us to pray. It seems that everyone has something to pray about, and these people had more than most. I prayed that God’s love would fill up those apartments in Whitcomb Court and overflow onto the streets and sidewalks, that people would be able to feel it wherever they went, to breathe it in, to live it out.

As we were leaving a school bus turned into the neighborhood and began to drop children off. Some of them came running toward us, curious about who we were and what we were doing. We invited them to join us in our closing circle and just before we prayed one little boy looked up at me and said, “Do I close my eyes now?” “Yes,” I said.  And he did.

At least, I think he did.  I had my eyes closed, too.

We said one more heartfelt prayer for Whitcomb Court and then began to head to our cars to drive home, most of us to comfortable homes far away from the East End. Ray Tarasovic, the Police Chief, stopped to talk with some of the boys before he left and I asked if he would let me take a picture. That’s the one at the top of this post.

Take a good look at it before you move on, click on it so you can see the faces more clearly, and then say a prayer for those boys. Pray that they would grow up into strong, smart, handsome men who never have a reason be afraid of the police, and never miss an opportunity to pray for the peace of their neighborhood. And then say a prayer for Chief Tarasovic.

He’s got a big job.

There was another shooting in Whitcomb Court last week, and all over that neighborhood, mothers held their children a little tighter.

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Alma SnowaI love Alma Snowa.

Alma was one of the first women to be elected as a deacon at First Baptist Church back in 1976, along with Ginny Sanders and Betty Allen (pictured at right). I hope you will read the whole story when you get a chance, because it’s fascinating, but it’s not what I want to talk about this morning.

I want to talk about Alma.

Alma lives at Lakewood Manor, a Baptist retirement community in Richmond’s west end. When I came to First Baptist five years ago, I heard that we had sixty-two members who lived at Lakewood Manor. Alma was one of those, and one I have come to know well since then. It’s Alma who makes arrangements for the annual “Lakewood Luncheon,” when the church staff is invited to come out and have lunch with our members who live there. That gives her a good reason to be in touch with me: to ask about available dates early on and later to firm up the details. But one of the things I love about Alma is that she doesn’t need a good reason to be in touch with me. Sometimes she just writes to tell me what’s on her mind or in her heart.

She did that last week.

She wanted to talk to me about KOH2RVA and her participation in it. Before I share her email with you I probably need to tell you that Alma’s physical ability has become increasingly limited in the time that I’ve known her. If anybody had an excuse not to “get off the bus and onto the mission field” Alma had one. She might have written to tell me that, but she didn’t. She wrote to tell me this:

Dear Jim:

It is hard to realize that the year long bus trip is almost over, however, the things accomplished will be lasting. Sometime I wonder if I ever got off the bus or if I have spent the entire year sitting on the back seat praying. My physical participation is limited, but it has been a very meaningful experience. I have spent so much more time in prayer for others, I have prayer walked our halls and one of my efforts has been to seek out persons who just needed someone to talk with.

Thanks for letting us all share the experience.

Love and prayers to my pastor,

Alma

The thought of Alma sitting on the back of the mission bus, praying, moved me almost to tears. It reminded me that you don’t have to be physically active to help bring in the Kingdom: you can be spiritually active. In my devotional reading for this morning were these words from Harry Emerson Fosdick: “Some things never without thinking; some things never without working; some things never without praying! Prayer is one of the three forms of man’s cooperation with God.” What Harry was saying in his wonderful old-fashioned way is that you don’t bring in the Kingdom only by thinking about it and working for it, you also have to pray for it.

Maybe that’s what Alma and a host of other saints are teaching us: that when your hands can no longer hold a hammer they can still be folded in prayer.

Thanks, Alma.

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Streetwalking PrayerWay back on Day 40 of this year-long, every-member mission trip I wrote about having lunch with Travis Collins, pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church, and something that church refers to as its “Streetwalking” ministry, headed up by Valerie Carter, Associate Pastor for Glocal Missions. Valerie explained it like this:

In this ministry we walk, pray and engage those whom we meet in what is known as the “prostitution zones” of our city (Jefferson Davis Highway and Chamberlayne Avenue). Our intention is to meet and engage women in prostitution but we share with all those that we meet on any given night. Many of the prostitutes are men in drag. We ask of their well-being, and remind each of them of God’s love for them. We offer a listening ear, share a prayer, and give a list of resources to call for help or to “get out” if ever needed.

At the end of the post I invited anyone who wanted to participate in that ministry to “show up at the Buford Road campus of Bon Air Baptist Church on the third Friday night of each month at 10:00 and tell Travis and Valerie that you’re there to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. They’ll know what you’re talking about.” I’m not sure if Debbie Boykin did it that way or some other way, but somehow she got involved in that ministry, and in response to a recent email from Steve Blanchard describing our own efforts to abolish slavery and human trafficking she wrote this:

————————————–

Hey Steve and all,

Just wanted to give you a quick update and overview of our StreetWalking Ministry from July 19.

One lady approached my team member and me. We had waved to her from the sidewalk. She jumped out of the chair she was sitting in with a huge smile on her face as if we were old friends. Neither one of us had ever met her before. We introduced ourselves and told her why we were walking. She hugged our necks and told us that she was a believer but had alcohol issues but God laid it on her heart to jump up and go to us (when I say she jumped I mean she REALLY did jump). She was not intoxicated, but she’d had a few drinks that night. She needs the company of believers around her. She and I will be attending a Bible Study together that is held on Jeff Davis Highway. She is a sister in Christ. Please pray for Tina.

We started wrapping things up around 1:45 a.m. It had been a good night for conversation and prayer. As we crossed the street to end our night with prayer, my team member prayed: “God, if there is anyone else you want us to speak with tonight, now is the time.” We huddled together, debriefed the night with our fellow walkers, held hands in a circle and began our prayer. Someone shouted, “HEY, can I join your group?” We opened our eyes and turned around and there was a young, 20-something woman running toward us. We said, “SURE, come join us!” We told her who we were and why we were there. “Sandy” shared that she was addicted to alcohol, cocaine and heroin and she had become a prostitute to support her habit. She wanted out, but did not know how. We shared with her how to begin, how we could assist her, and that we were there tonight for that very purpose. She held us tight and we prayed and laid hands on her. When we said our Amen, she said, “I usually run away from folks like you. I don’t know why I didn’t tonight, but something told me to run TO this group, NOT away from this group!”

TO GOD BE THE GLORY, GREAT THINGS HE HATH DONE

Isn’t He good??

Debbie

Yes.  God is good.  And God uses good and faithful people to do much of his work on earth.  Thanks Debbie, Steve, Valerie, Travis, and all those others who are trying to rescue the victims of slavery and human trafficking.  In Luke 4 Jesus says, among other things, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to … proclaim release to the captives and … let the oppressed go free.”

It it was important to him, it should be important to us.

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2013-07-24 18.17.12This morning I’m thinking about all the ways our hands can be used to bring heaven to earth.

They can cook a meal for someone who is hungry. They can build a house for someone who is homeless. They can put a bandage on someone who is wounded. They can reach out to embrace someone who is lonely. But they can also do this:

They can be folded in prayer.

One of the people who is good about reminding me of that is our Pastor Emeritus Jim Flamming, pictured at right. When he retired from First Baptist Church Jim planned to spend his time on three things: teaching, writing, and praying. He’s been faithful to that plan. He still teaches preaching at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He’s written a book called Healing the Heartbreak of Grief. And, at my urging, he’s continued to lead the Catalyst Prayer group at First Baptist on Wednesday nights. Last night that group prayed for Chase Ingram.

Chase is 14 years old. He loves little children and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. He and I have been talking about baptism lately which has given him an opportunity to ask all his questions about religion and the Bible and believe me, that boy’s got a lot of questions!

But there may be a reason for that.

I can’t remember the details but I know that Chase was born with a condition that keeps his bones from growing in the way they should. He’s had 40 surgeries to date. Today he’s having number 41.

And so last night he came to church and met with the Catalyst Prayer group. As Senior Associate Lynn Turner put it, Chase has a “special relationship” with that group. They’ve prayed for him a lot.

They prayed for him again last night and they used their hands to do it. Instead of folding them in prayer they laid their hands on Chase and prayed that he would be brave about his surgery, that the surgeon would do good work, and that the surgery would accomplish all that it was supposed to. As they prayed I’m almost sure Chase could feel the healing, strengthening love of God flowing through those people and into his body.

And sometimes that’s exactly how heaven comes to earth.

Praying for Chase

Would you pray for Chase today?

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jail barsI went to jail last Friday.

It’s the fourth time I’ve done it on this year-long, every-member mission trip. I do it because I’m haunted by that verse from Matthew 25 where Jesus says, “I was in prison and you didn’t visit me.” So I go to jail to see Jesus, or at least some of his brothers. I went on Friday, and I took Tyler Forrest with me.

Tyler is a relatively new member of First Baptist Church. He’s a young man, a strong man; he works as a personal trainer at a fitness center. I saw him up in the balcony one Sunday morning at the 8:30 service and the next thing I know he was coming forward, saying he’d like to join the church. He said (and I quote): “This is the first church where I felt the Spirit.”

So, last Sunday I challenged the church once again to “get off the bus” and onto the mission field and as I was standing at the back door, shaking hands, Tyler came by and asked, “How do I do that?” I said, “Why don’t you come to jail with me on Friday?” and he said he would be glad to.

I knew I’d found the right man for the job.

Turns out Tyler knew somebody in the Richmond Jail. “Not a bad guy,” he said. “Just somebody who got busted for selling drugs.” So we drove down together on Friday, made our way through security, and ended up in the chaplain’s office, where we were greeted by Father Alonzo Pruitt, an Episcopal priest, and my friend Mike Kelly, “Michael Patrick Kelly,” he reminds me, a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic who works out at the same place I do: the Jewish Community Center.

It’s in interesting world we live in.

Mike led us up to a cell block on the second floor where “his” guys were waiting. They seem to be in some sort of program where you get special treatment for good behavior, because they were exceptionally well-behaved. They applauded as I came into the room, which made me feel a little embarrassed. I’m not a hero. If I were a hero I would be there every day, like my friend Mike, and not just when the guilt gets the best of me.

I didn’t want to be “preachy,” so I told them that funny story about the time I set the outhouse on fire while my brother Ed was still in it. When I was finished I told them that if they wanted to hear me preach they could tune in to Channel 8 at 11:00 on Sunday mornings. And then I asked if I could say a prayer.

I prayed that they would know the love of God, that they would feel it in their bones, that they would be reminded daily how precious they were to him, and that there was nothing they had ever done or ever could do that would put them beyond the reach of his love. And then I said “Amen” and was getting ready to say goodbye when Mike asked the men if they had any questions. They had a few, mostly about the story I had told, but then one of the men on the front row looked up at me and said, “Thank you for the prayer.”

And that was the moment. That’s when heaven came to earth. I could tell that something in that prayer had touched him and I imagined that it had been a long time since anyone told him he was loved. And maybe that’s why Jesus shamed me into visiting the Richmond Jail, because he knew that man was in there, and needed to know God’s love.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

On the way back to church Tyler and I had plenty to talk about. I don’t know if he will make jail ministry his “way” of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, but he might. I saw him bump fists with the guy he knew in there, and in his own way he reminded him that he, too, was loved by God.

That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Going down to the city jail and pouring out a bucket full of God’s love? I’m not sure I would have done that if we hadn’t been on this mission trip, but I’m glad I did.

I’m really glad.

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Wind_blowing_by_xpuszakxI’m preaching an Easter season series called “The Acts of an Easter People” (thanks, John Ballenger, for a great title).

One of the things I love about Acts is the way the Spirit not only blows where it will, but seems to blow God’s people wherever it wills. After the stoning of Stephen in chapter 7, for example, some of the disciples end up in Samaria (of all places) where they preach the good news to the Samaritans and make a number of converts. Later Philip preaches the good news to an Ethiopian eunuch (of all people) who also becomes a believer.

Crazy, right?

It’s one of the reasons I love hearing from Jeremy and Monica, the church planters I’ve told you about before. They are a young couple who don’t look much like evangelists, and yet they can’t stop talking to people about Jesus. They talk to all kinds of people. The Spirit blows them wherever it wills.

I wanted to share with you today a prayer request Jeremy sent out before a recent event, and then tomorrow follow up with the results, just so you’ll have the satisfaction of finding out what happened. First, the request:

Yes! This is so cool! Please pray!

1. This Saturday is our FIRST gathering for people who are seeking answers on questions of “faith.” It’s an open discussion, yet oriented toward defending and defining a Biblical understanding of faith. The sorts of people we invited are from a range of pantheist, pluralist, atheist, agnostic, post-christian, post-catholic, apathetic, NOT apathetic (some of them REALLY care!), some are ignorant others are well informed “religiously,” and others who have been invited are somewhat neo-pagan (spiritual consumers just taking whatever they want, ignoring what they don’t want, and ignoring their own inconsistencies). Pray that the Holy Spirit will move and that nothing prevents them from coming to the gathering! Depending on who comes, we will also be partnering with a few people from Imago (our local church) who will also be there for the purpose of being a light.

2. Due to the recent opportunities in sharing Christ, I am developing a small follow-up handout to give to people AFTER we have a gospel conversation. This is NOT a tract, rather it is a handout that will keep the dialogue open and provide a few directions for those we talk with (the goal is to keep the gospel at the forefront and point them towards more questions/answers and scripture!). Pray for me for wisdom and brevity as I create that.

So just an example of why that follow-up info is needed: This week we explained passover and the gospel to two neopagans and one girl who is starting to believe in Christ. In our conversation, the gospel was core and we were able to enter into a deeper understanding of the lives of each person present. Recognizing that the Lord has just provided an excellent window of opportunity into their hearts, we want to provide a few follow-up directions on PAPER so that they can take something with them (especially because this community is HIGHLY transient, so opportunities may disappear quickly)! Obviously we will follow up anyway in person, but this is just one way to practically keep planting the seed and keep the gospel in FRONT of them!

And so the Excellent news continues to go forth in Richmond!

May the peace and joy of Christ be with you all!

Jeremy and Monica

Tomorrow: what happened on Saturday!

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prayer_hands_goldAt the close of every staff meeting at Richmond’s First Baptist Church we stand, join hands, and pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Richmond, as it is in heaven…” It’s a way of reminding ourselves of our mission, and for nearly five years it has served that purpose well.

But last night I attended worship at Richmond Hill, where people have been praying for this city and the surrounding region since 1866. Here are some excerpts from last night’s prayer—astonishing for its depth and breadth—led by a woman named Deborah who said:

Please join me in prayer for Metropolitan Richmond. When I say, “Hear us, O God,” please respond by saying, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

O LORD, we pray for Metropolitan Richmond, for the welfare of all of our fellow citizens, for the establishment of your order in our community, and for peace. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For the city of Richmond; for the counties of Henrico, Hanover, and Chesterfield; Charles City, Powhatan, Goochland, and New Kent; for the cities and towns of Ashland, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, and Petersburg; for Dwight Jones, the Mayor of Richmond, and all the members of the City Council; for all the Boards of Supervisors and Town and City Councils of metropolitan Richmond; for all the City, County, and Town managers of our metropolitan city. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For our schools; for all teachers, students, and staff; for all young people in our metropolitan city; for all day care centers; for our universities, community colleges, and technical schools. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For an end to racism and racial prejudice in metropolitan Richmond; for the dismantling of inequalities and healing of distress established by our racial history. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For all of our businesses and business people; for all who are employed and all who are unemployed; for our economy, for healthy work and distribution of wealth among all our people. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For our hospitals and nursing homes, and all who work in them; for our jails and prisons, all inmates and staff; for our probation officers; for all shelters, feeding programs, and social service institutions in metropolitan Richmond. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For all our churches, seminaries, and religious institutions; for all our clergy and church leaders; for all religious communities; for the Sisters of the Visitation of Monte Maria.* Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who work in public service; for all those who work for local and state government here; for Bob McDonnell the Governor of Virginia, for Bill Bolling the Lieutenant Governor, for Ken Cuccinelli the Attorney General, and for all members of the General Assembly. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who are sick, for victims of abuse, for victims of violence, for the dying, the grieving, for those who are in poverty, for those who are alone, and for those who are in need of friendship. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Please ask your prayers silently or out loud for those persons who are on your heart, and for whom your prayers are asked. (After a period of silence) Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Grant, O Lord, that your Kingdom may come here in this city of metropolitan Richmond, as it is in heaven. Help us to be a part of its coming; help us to minister to others in the Spirit and to accept your ministry for ourselves. We pray in Jesus’ Name. Hear us, O God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

When it was over I felt as if we had showered metropolitan Richmond with the love of God. I could almost see every wilting leaf in the city lifting itself toward that gentle rain. If the work of prayer is real work (and it is), may this be the kind of work that will help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to metropolitan Richmond.

Lord, hear our prayer!

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*the nuns who started praying for Richmond in 1866

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