Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eyes Wide Open . . .

If you've ever been in an evangelical worship service, you've probably heard the preacher say something like, 'every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking around.' You likely have also heard a pastor pray a blessing over the congregation at the end of a service. Neither of these things are out of the ordinary. But quite a few years ago my family started attending a new church and the pastor did something I found rather odd, and not just a little disconcerting for me at the time. At the end of the service he said something to the effect of, every head up, every eye open, every one looking around.

Then he began to pray a blessing over us, slowly looking around the room, looking each person in the eye as he prayed. He thanked God for us, telling God that he loved us, asking God to bless us and protect us, reminding God that we were His people. The uncomfortable feeling I had was such a mixture of affirmation and discomfort that I'm not sure I can even describe!

This pastor, Gary Maze, quickly became a very dear friend to our family. We learned that those benediction prayers at the end of every service were glimpses of  his open and honest attitude toward those God had placed under his care. And it started a habit with me that others may find as uncomfortable as I found his prayer that first Sunday. If you attend church with me, and you decide to check things out during prayer time, you may notice me looking around the room. No, I'm not looking to see how everyone is dressed, or who decided to use that time to check everyone else out. I'm praying for each person that my gaze falls on. Whether I know them or not. Whether I have any idea what is going on with them. I particularly do this during prayer for the kids in our church. Each Sunday in the church we attend now, the pastor has all the children come down front and we pray for them as a congregation just before they go to children's church. As we pray, I look over the group, one at a time, and pray for each child, by name if I know it.

It seems to me that we get so intimidated about prayer. So many of us tend to feel that we won't say the right thing, or we'll say something the wrong way, or we won't seem spiritual enough. Many of us just refuse to pray out loud in front of people. And, how many times do we say we'll pray for someone, but then forget? Or, even if we remember to pray for them, never let them know that we actually did? I've tried, off and on over the years, to pray for someone, out loud, in front of them, as soon as they ask me. I had pretty much gotten out of this habit. Just in the past week, I had made a commitment to start back. This morning I got that opportunity. My sweet daughter, just before she got out of the car to go to class, told me she really wasn't feeling well and she would appreciate it if I just said a little prayer for her today. My first instinct was to say, 'sure, honey, I will!' But I stopped myself. And just prayed for her. Out loud. Right then. With her listening.

Let me just tell you, her quiet, "thanks, Mom. I needed that," was one of the sweetest blessings of all time! I pray for my children all the time. I pray for their protection. I pray for their salvation. I pray for them to see God working. I pray all sorts of things for them. But I'm so guilty of not praying for them where they can hear me. I've been thinking that is taking the easy road. Maybe it's because I don't want to disappoint them when they see my actions not line up with my prayer life. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of not stringing the right words together. Maybe it's just that I don't want to take the time out of my busy schedule. Whatever the reason, I'm challenging myself to do better. Prayer is so powerful! I know God hears, cares, listens, and answers!!! But there is something amazing that happens when we voice our prayers out loud, over the person we are praying for, letting them actually hear us pray for them! There is an energy that is released that can only be attributed to the Spirit's moving. And, if we believe scripture, our audible prayers, just speaking the name of Jesus, sends Satan running for cover! That alone is plenty of encouragement for me!

Have you talked to your Father lately about someone you care about? Out loud? Try it. Come on, I dare ya! Head up, eyes wide open, looking directly at the person you're praying for. And when you do, just imagine the devil fleeing from you - and the person you're praying for - with his tail between his legs, trembling in fear of the awesome power of our God!


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