By Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking
Parish House Director
We are never too old to learn something new. I remember my parents and grandparents living that idea over and over again. My dad, especially, would remark from time to time on something that learned that he had never known before. As a child that idea amazed me because I thought that grown-ups knew everything. Now as a grown-up I know how true it is that we can always learn something new.
As Christians it does our hearts good to realize that we do not know everything and that there is still much to learn, especially when we take the time to listen to God in our lives. Often, God has something new to teach us. I learned this in the last few months of 2013.
I have written before about how much I believe in the power of prayer. Last spring I faced the most challenging time in my ministry. It was a time of struggle, of hurt, and eventually of physical pain. I knew that if I was going to get through this time of struggle I would have to rely on my prayer life. I was surprised to discover how God wanted me to pray through that situation. I was not to sit around and pray for myself and all the struggles that I felt at that time. No, God wanted me to set aside all of the "me" in the situation and pray for the others. So I made a commitment to God to pray every day for the situation, not for myself.
Even when I felt the worst about the situation, I knew that somehow, sometime God would bring me peace about the situation. However, I needed to remain faithful to God and continue praying for the people God wanted me to pray for. I will admit that sometimes it was difficult to spend that daily time in prayer, but I did it. I don't know what the outcome has been for the others that I prayed for. I do know that being faithful to God's request taught me a great deal about the power of prayer to bring peace in my life even when I don't know if the prayers have been answered or not.
Through this experience I have remembered a story that a colleague told me years ago about someone who prayed for him. He told me that all the time he was growing up, through his teen-age years, through his twenties when he was establishing himself in a career, he always felt that there was something that was leading him and guiding him. He returned to the church and began to hear God calling him to enter the ministry. On the day that his decision was announced in his church an older woman approached him and told him that she had been praying for him every day since he was around 8 years old.
What a gift this woman's prayer life was for my friend! She didn't know why God wanted her to pray so for him. She was just faithful to what God wanted her to do. Through it all, she learned that God is faithful, that she didn't really need to know if her prayers were working or not, and that God would lead her in her prayer life.
As I began this new year, I found that God was leading me into a new avenue of prayer. At the beginning of this year I felt that my prayers for that situation last spring were complete and that God was placing another avenue of prayer in front of me. While I will continue to pray for the last situation, this new area of prayer becomes my focus of my quiet morning time. I have learned from God to be patient as I pray, not really knowing everything about the person or situation, but knowing that sitting with God in prayer is part of God's mystery and I am glad to be a part of it.
Is God calling you to a particular prayer, to a focused time of prayer for a person or situation in your life? I encourage all of us to spend more time in prayer in this new year. Already, there have been many situations and many people that need us to sit with God in prayer, and as we do we are learning from God how to deepen our prayer lives and our trust in God's abundant goodness.
To God be the Glory!
On the parish calendar:
- Crosslines is now open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Baked Steak Dinner, Friday, Feb. 7, 4:307 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC. Fundraiser for 2014 mission trip. Cost: $10 for age 8 and up, $5 for children under 8, or a half portion .
- Spaghetti Dinner, Friday, March 14, 4:307 p.m., Chapel Hill UMC. Fundraiser for 2014 mission trip. Cost: $10 for age 8 and up, $5 for children under 8, or a half portion.