Fighting makes us feel strong. Prayer reminds us that we are vulnerable. Fighting makes us feel in control. Prayer reminds us to let go and let God. Fighting feeds on anger and bitterness. Prayer feeds on forgiveness and peace.
I became a Christian 46 years ago, after 17 years of spiritual hide-and-seek. Being raised in church, I was taught to pray as a child but never really understood the intimacy of a real relationship. As a teenager, my prayer life gradually faded into non-existence. I never rejected God. I just kept God at a convenient distance without even realizing it.
God to me was not untrue, but rather irrelevant. I never rejected prayer. It just slipped off my radar screen into oblivion. I never rejected the Church. I just found it painfully boring and obscure. Though I was desperately seeking for the meaning of life, I had no idea that the Church would have anything to offer in that area.
When I was brutally attacked as a teenager by a gang member, I turned to martial arts in a secret desire for both self-defense and revenge. Fighting made me feel strong. I had no idea that prayer might turn out to be a more powerful weapon. Within a year, I came to know Jesus Christ on a personal basis, and lost the desire to get even. A few years later, I discovered that this bully had gone after someone larger than him who had kicked this bully’s teeth in and twisted a broken beer bottle in his face. Hearing that story taught me that violence always breeds violence. It was better to forgive because there is always ‘a faster gunfighter just waiting around the corner.’ Even with that realization, it still took me twenty years before I finally parted company with martial arts.
When I met Jesus Christ 46 years ago, I was flabbergasted that someone was actually listening. Prayer no longer felt like talking to the ceiling plaster. It felt personal, real, and infectious. I couldn’t get enough of connecting to this new best-friend. There had been an emptiness inside me that skiing, golfing, and parties couldn’t fill. Through prayer, I felt a new inner peace and warmth that even my former drinking buddies noticed.
Going back to church, I noticed that church wasn’t as boring as it used to be. While it may have changed, the big thing was that I had changed from the inside out. I developed a new love and concern for people that I used to avoid and even look down on. Instead of resenting life, I began to wake up looking forward to the next adventure that was ahead of me.
One of the things that troubled me though, as a new Christian, was the infighting between all the different denominations. Why couldn’t the Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Presbyterians, etc learn to get along and stop competing? Sometimes Christians reminded me of my old life as a non-Christian when I would rather fight than pray.
One of the wonderful gifts of serving on the North Shore from 1987 to 2018 is that denominational bickering is at an all-time low. Clergy and pastors speak well of each other’s congregations and even freely send parishioners to attend other churches. There is a generosity among North Shore pastors that allows them to bless each other instead of cursing each other.
This hasn’t happened by accident. It is the fruit of forty years of weekly prayer by the North Shore clergy, first at Hillside Baptist, then at Valley Church, and now at Sutherland Church. By praying together on the second Wednesday of each month, God has been teaching the North Shore pastors how much we need each other. North Shore Clergy have been learning that they are too busy not to pray. By focusing on Jesus Christ, they have been rediscovering that we are on the same team. Denominations are second. Jesus is first.
Every denomination has its own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of putting down another group for their flaws, we are learning to hold them up in prayer that they may become all that they are meant to be. Presbyterians don’t need to become Anglicans, and Anglicans don’t need to become Baptists. Our real calling is to love each other with the life-changing love of Jesus Christ. Many churches have formed because someone was hurt. We have been learning that it is time to forgive, time to heal, time to pray. Why fight when we can pray? My prayer for those reading this article is that we may rediscover the deep truth that the family that prays together stays together.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the North Shore News/Deep Cove Crier
Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.
Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…
A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.
Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?
Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.
If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or kindle.
-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.