Thank you for your prayers for my father. He had emergency gallbladder surgery on Saturday in Tallahassee. He is home and recovering, though quite sore.
I want to confess something to you – I’ve been to prison.
When I was a new pastor serving in Chattanooga, I was called on to visit a guy who was in a lot of trouble and was a violent offender. For me to visit him, I had to go through a lot of security. They took me down a long hall past cells, gates, and doors that closed behind me (It felt a bit like the introduction to the old tv series “Get Smart,” but I digress...). To underline the seriousness of their security, they gave me a beeper looking thing and I had to hold down a button on it. It was called the “man down panic switch” - so if I got knocked down (or knocked out), the button would go off and the guards would come and rescue me - or what was left of me… Anyhow, they led me way back in the prison and took me to a clergy/attorney’s room where there was no natural light - just a bulb and a glass partition between me and the guy I was there to see. I got in there and THEN they went to get the prisoner and they left me that little room for about 40 minutes while they retrieved him. There I sat - no distractions, no reading material, no nothing! Just four blank walls and a lightbulb - and I was all alone. I tell ya, that was by far the longest 40 minutes of my life! So, being a pastor and all, I said, “This is great! I’ll pray!” Well, about five minutes in I was so distracted and definitely NOT praying. I thought about what Rene Descartes so famously said, “I think, therefore I am,” and I said to myself, “I pray, therefore I pastor!” But just as with Descartes, the more I was removed from distractions, the more distractions I created in my mind. So all that to say, praying - really deep, wrestling praying – is very hard work, but it’s also very rewarding and necessary work! That day I learned that kind of prayer doesn’t just happen. It takes discipline, a plan, and a few tools. In next week’s “Note from the Pastor,” I’ll share a few things I learned from “going to prison” that have helped me to focus in prayer!
God bless you and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!