In my personal library, I have over a hundred and fifty books on prayer. These books range from how to pray like the Desert Fathers of the Third Century (who fled from the cities to the desert in order to meet with God in solitude and silence) to how to influence suburban America by prayer walking. Books that teach about prayers of petition, praise, intercession, not to mention praying for friends, family members and the needs of others. Others portray prayers of examination, reflection and praying through the Bible. You get the idea, a lot of books about prayer. Did I mention I really like books?
Some of these books have been instrumental in challenging my life of prayer with God over the years. But, if I’m honest, when I think about prayer, there’s an image that out weighs all these pages of the sages. It’s the image I have of a mentor of mine during my late teens, early twenties. There he was sitting in a chair - early in the morning – every morning. Praying. At times, words were flowing or passages of Scripture being quoted. At other times, silence, not a word was uttered, rather simply being present before God. I have images of him driving to and from work, praying as he drove. He would pray for me and others, as well as upcoming Bible studies, ministry endeavors, and the like.
I saw these prayers. I heard them. And, I experienced the answers become a reality in our midst. Deep down inside, I know prayer is powerful, because I’ve seen it, and in this case, Phil was my example. He taught me the necessity and significance of prayer, what it looks like and how it works.
Phil taught me, not by rhetoric or theological deliberations, but by the life he lived before me. He never sat me down and said, “Today, I’m going to teach you about prayer.” Not once, did he say, “Did you notice how…?” There’s a place for theological dispositions and instructive conversations, but by-and-large, Phil simply lived his life with-God before me. And now, over twenty-years later, I can still see him sitting in that chair, praying early in the morning, driving along in his truck and shedding tears before God over those in need. I’m grateful for Phil.
Each of us are shaped in many ways, by many people, who intersect paths with us along this journey we call life. Some of these people influence us greatly for the better. Others, we’ll, that’s another story.
Sometimes these interactions and relationships are strategic and intentional, while at other times, they seem to spontaneously emerge as happenstance. In part, this is how God has designed life to work – in community, through relationships, each of us connecting, learning and growing with one another. At times we are the teacher. Other times, we are the student. Yet, at all times, we are companions along this journey.
Recently, I spent some time prayerfully-reflecting on various individuals who have shaped me in significant ways over the past twenty-plus-years. In my journal I have a list of people like Phil, who by merely living life in close proximity to me, ended up teaching me extraordinary lessons about God, life, family and so many other things. Insights, perhaps, that have proven to be more influential and lasting than any book I have read. At the end of the day, lessons that were more caught than taught. Things you could say, I’ve learned, rather, caught along the way.
I’m grateful for the people God has placed in my life over the years. In fact, my recent reflections of the past, caused me to look more closely at my present relationships (or lack thereof)…
The following are a few questions I’ve been asking myself (perhaps they will be helpful to you as well):
• What am I learning from those who God has placed in my path during this season of my life?
• What are they learning from me?
• Is my life currently lacking individuals who are more mature and wise, that can model for me what a skillful life with God, family and others looks like?
• Do I know someone who could use a real life example of (fill in the blank) in their midst?