my search to understand the bigger picture

Monday, April 25, 2011

Praying at Bars

Last week Friday night I joined some good friends of mine who have started sort of an impromptu prayer ministry on the University of Illinois campus. We've spent year talking about the organization 24-7 Prayer, and how inspiring they are. I particularly love the work and stories from their presence on the European island of Ibiza. Well, my friends felt led to begin something here, which seems to be turning into something pretty amazing. I'm not sure they ever saw this coming. (I'll spare you the details)

Well, the past few months they've taken their late Friday and Saturday nights to walk the streets of campustown, stopping by each bar, taking in the sights, praying, and then just offering to help when the need arose. Help in many cases simply means walking someone who's blasted out of their minds back to their apartment safely. They have been met with much skepticism. It will take time for their presence to be trusted I think. But that's ok.

Well, this past Friday night I joined them, and immediately experienced some inner turmoil going on. Within the first few minutes of walking, we had a full beer can launched at us from a nearby balcony. In a humorous twist of fate, the beer can missed us, and slammed into a parked car right in front of the frat house. Free tip of the day: Never throw a beer can when your wasted, and YOUR car is directly in the line of fire! Sort of gave us a chuckle, but also kind of took us by surprise. That had never happened to my friends before.

We continued along, making observations and stopping to pray at various bars. All night long I dealt with embarassment, not wanting people to hear us praying. Go ahead and judge me. I'm not ashamed to proclaim my love for Jesus. But for some reason, that night I was attacked with tremendous embarassment (due to Satan). I was continually reminded of the Scripture Mark 8:38, and that helped push me forward. But it was a constant battle that night.

A little while later, we were walking along when a cigarette butt was tossed in our direction from another balcony. We were beginning to sense a theme. Thankfully we were able to chuckle and keep the mood light, and just kept plugging away. Being that it was Easter weekend, many students were gone. The Easter theme also seemed to be included in many of our prayers.

It was good to do that with my friends. It was good to feel uncomfortable. It was good to pray. What pains me is that after I do things like that, I'm so energized. I love it! There's nothing I would have rather spent my night doing. I gave up trail running the next day to do that. And yet, here I sit a few days later, my thoughts focused back on myself. I say I care about the hurting of the world, but rarely do I spend my free time with them.

Even when I was back at Salt & Light, I convinced myself I cared simply because I spent so much time with those in need. But that was my job. Most of the time I allowed myself to check out once I left the building. I'm sure many of you will gasp at the awfulness I'm laying out here. But I want to be honest. Especially about what I struggle with.

I so desperately want to be a person of action. I want my actions to back up my words. That's part of what excited me so about my trip to South Africa last year. And yet, I've not done much since then. I've written a few letters to our sponsored children. Big deal.

Ok, sorry, time to wrap this up. All that to say, I don't want my life to be a series of isolated incidents that I'm proud of. I want my entire life to be summed up as one of action. Whether it be traveling somewhere, raising money for something, praying for people, whatever. Not isolated incidents. A continous flow of non-stop action.

What good does going down to Campustown and praying do? I don't know yet. But I do know that my friends have started something powerful, and God IS going to bless that. Lives are going to change; even if it's their very own lives. How about you? What do you pay lipservice to that needs to change into action? Let's purpose today to meet our maker with as few regrets as possible. I'd rather have regrets from trying and getting it wrong, than not doing anything at all.

So, while I may not be able to join them every weekend praying at bars, I definitely plan to not only support and encourage them, but join them whenever possible.

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