“Instead of worrying, pray.” – Philippians 4:6
On the fourteen-hour flight coming home from South Korea, there was plenty of time to reflect: Radical hospitality extended to us as Christians and Americans. Daily 5am prayer services taught the critical importance of prayer and following the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. The witness of passionate lay leadership, a continual emphasis on discipleship, a willingness to sacrifice much, sponsoring ministries within the community and continually relying on the promise: “Jesus Christ is with us.”
But, how to apply what was learned in Korea to our current situation at Main Street in America? Should I start a daily 5 am prayer service or teach a class on radical hospitality?
Bishop Cho stressed four important lessons for our Korean experience:
1. Learn the importance of our mission by seeing the fruits of the seed of the Gospel sowed by American missionaries 130 years ago. Who knows the future fruits of our mission today?
2. Understand more about ministries based on strong prayer.
3. The world is getting smaller. Our eyes should be open to the global perspective on the Christian church.
4. One week of being on a trip together equals one year of small group experiences. I want you to know and support each of your fellow travelers in the years to come.
Bishop Cho never asked us to copy a prayer service or blindly emulate any Korean ideas. Rather, he stressed understanding the importance of our mission as Christians. Learning the power of ministry based on prayer. Becoming more aware of the global perspective of our faith and the value of developing a closer relationship with our fellow travelers.
Once again, I turned to the Scripture which guided me throughout the journey: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” — Philippians 4:6-7
For the next few hours of the flight, I concentrated on worrying less and praying more. I began to shape my concerns about our churches and communities into petitions before God. As worries began to fade there was a distinct feeling that God was there, listening. As more time passed, petitions became ideas and ideas bundled together became a vision. For a few precious moments on a crowded airplane there was a sense of everything coming together and I felt a deep sense of peace.
I remembered serving a church during seminary where several parishioners struggled with addictions. Alcoholism was taught as a class so I signed up. A requirement was to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon meetings. There, I learned three valuable lessons: 1. Alcoholism cannot be fixed and your efforts can be enabling rather than helpful. 2. You strive to influence rather than enable, helping only when the alcoholic is ready. 3. Before you can help someone else you must first help yourself.
How do I apply what was learned in Korea? First, I cannot fix the spiritual crisis that exists in our churches and communities. Second, I can, however, be an influence ready to help when churches and communities are ready. Third, I must concentrate on my spiritual crisis first, praying more frequently and with more passion. In other words: worry less, pray more and trust God for answers.
Beside my office, a Narcotics Anonymous group meets most every day. Like AA, the attenders are passionate about their recovery. One member described her group as: “A safe place to struggle with what ails you.” What a compliment: “A safe place to struggle with what ails you.” Wouldn’t that be a great way to describe a church? “A safe place to struggle with what ails you.”
Our churches don’t need a lecture from me on 5am prayer. But, they do need me to spend less time worrying and more time on my knees in prayer, learning to trust God for answers. They need more witness on what could be and less preaching on what was not. More encouragement and less judgment. I need to learn how to help churches become, “a safe place to struggle with what ails you.”
“Instead of worrying, pray.” – Philippians 4:6
Are you facing a new or difficult experience? “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Worry less, pray more and trust God for answers. More witness, less preaching. More encouragement, less judgement. Help our churches become more of a safe place to struggle with what ails you. God’s lesson whether in Korea or on Main Street.