Specifically Speaking, Specifically Praying

In our senior year at Agnes Scott College, Nancy was president of the Christian Association. Wanting to host a spring dance in the Rebekah parking lot, how would she and her committee get enough men from other schools to join us? Agnes Scott, after all, is a women’s college. Already strong in prayer, Nancy and the planning group stepped out in faith a few months ahead, praying specifically that a greater number of men would attend than women. Not having grown up with anyone modelling prayer in such specifics, I was the skeptic. If anything, two of my most specific and memorable prayers as a child had not been answered. 290 female students attended the spring dance hosted by Christian Association. 300 men from neighboring institutions were present for the evening as well. To this day Nancy is someone upon whom I rely when the needs are great.

An intern year immersed in the life of a local church is one of the field education options for seminarians at Garrett-Evangelical. Between my second and third years I served as youth pastor at the UMC of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. What a privilege to grow and learn from the laity, clergy and staff there. I arrived in mid-June. Polly came to me in July to request that I assist with the yearly women’s retreat which would take place the following May. “We want you to join us weekly on Thursday

mornings as we pray for every aspect of the retreat,” she said. From Polly and the other prayer partners came another example of concerted and specific prayer. Our Lord was invited to be involved in every aspect of the weekend. Every detail of the memorable and joyous retreat had been covered in prayer. With fifty plus other women we found our faith deepening, AND, the retreat went off without hitch or


John was the volunteer custodian at Ivanhoe UMC in Riverdale where I served from 1989-1994. A retired graphic artist who had served as a US Army Major in WWII, John was a mighty prayer partner. How did he come to believe so strongly in prayer? He responded with the story of praying with his men on the troop ship as they were heading toward battle in Europe. With them, in their hearing, he asked God that not one of his men would be lost. John recounted that after he prayed and looked at the faces of his men, he thought to himself “O God, what have I done?!?” It would be unlikely that all would come home. Yet they did. John was so grateful that he vowed to be a man of faith and serve our Lord for the rest of his life. That, he did. I bear witness.

These three by their examples taught me to pray carefully and in specifics. Nancy lived and is even stronger in prayer than in our early years. John and Polly are now with our Lord. I’m grateful to all three who set me on a course I might have otherwise missed. They are among the reasons it made sense to me to reach out to others and begin our Tuesday Prayer meetings at UMCG. In that thirty minute period each week, laity and clergy from our church gather to pray for the specific needs of the church.

We pray for the persons listed in our weekly bulletin.
We pray for others known to the prayer partners.
We pray that our pastors’ burdens will “rest lightly on their shoulders.”
We pray for the lay leaders of our church and for our noble staff.
We pray that our Lord sends guests to our worship service and other events.
We pray to be prepared to receive them and incorporate them in to the life of our congregation.
We pray for whatever and whomever the Holy Spirit places in our hearts as we conclude with the prayer Jesus taught us.

Psalm 22 reminds us that God inhabits the praises of His people. We praise our wondrous God and we give thanks for the ways God responds to our prayers. Prayer in a way is like a muscle. It’s a spiritual muscle that grows stronger as we use it. I would like to say that all of my prayers have been answered, that God always answers prayer. All my prayers have not been answered as I would have wanted. Some unanswered prayers have pained me deeply. Still, our Lord always responds. I thank God for our prayer partners today in our congregation and those in other settings. Continue with me as we rejoice, and give our thanks and praise and fear not to PRAY.

Mary Gay