By Carl Stagner
Maybe it was a passage that seemed to leap from the pages of Scripture. But perhaps it was a pastor or a trusted friend. Or it might have been a mother whose bedside “Now I lay me down to sleep…” made an eternal impact. For so many believers, prayer is not simply taught; it’s modeled by another. That’s how it was for Jamie Wilkerson. Her mother would faithfully kneel down and pray with young Jamie morning and night, instilling in her a passion for prayer which burns to this day. Like Jamie, Joe Arena sees prayer as one of the most vital practices of the Christian. Involved in numerous prayer ministries inside and outside the church, Joe’s pursuit of God on bended knee isn’t unlike that of Pastor Dave Thompson and the Church of God in Redmond, Oregon. Their desire to intercede on behalf of church, community, nation, and world is nothing short of infectious. As the Church of God prepares for the 360 Revolution prayer and evangelism initiative this September, these three individuals offer some timely perspective on prayer.
Today, Jamie Wilkerson serves on the board of elders at Madison Park Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, and volunteers for a variety of ministries. Long before her influence in church and community was widespread, her mother set up daily “meetings with God.” “I remember the day she turned to me and said, ‘Now, you pray!’” Jamie recalls. “I was so nervous, and I didn’t want to pray out loud next to this prayer warrior, but she lovingly coached me and taught me how to pray.”
A little over a year ago, Jamie was asked to put together a team of prayer warriors to intercede regularly on behalf of Church of God Ministries staff and their families. Each of the members of the team serve other ministries, but when they come together, they focus exclusively on the needs of the “base camp.” Church of God Ministries staff couldn’t be more grateful. But to intercessors like Jamie, prayer isn’t a chore. It’s second nature—an outflow of what she saw and heard as a child.
“One morning, I caught my mom up at 4 AM calling out every member of our family by name, immediate and extended. She took time to pray for each person fervently…She had three master’s degrees, a law degree, and excelled in everything she did, but never relied solely on her intellect. She acknowledged God in everything she did.”
Many in the Church of God remember the name Joe Arena from the Church of God Convention in Anderson. Year after year, Joe coordinated the prayer tent. Today he meets monthly at City Hall to pray with and for local leaders. On Wednesday mornings, he meets with a variety of churches at East Side Church of God to pray for revival. Then on Fridays at noon, he meets with Ryan Chapman of Church of God Ministries and other pastors to pray for Church of God higher education—sometimes walking the campus of Anderson University—and lifting up the Church of God movement. At his home church, South Meridian Church of God, he personally meets with Pastor Ed Hyatt for prayer each Sunday morning. And these are just a few of the ways God is using Joe Arena.
“The way we hear God’s voice individually and corporately is to really pray and seek his face for God to move in areas that only he can,” Joe explains. “I remember reading somewhere that you can do more than pray, but you can’t do more than pray until you’ve prayed!”
Redmond Church of God in Redmond, Oregon, understands such a bold statement. In fact, they consider praying together their highest calling as a community of believers. Once a month they lead other local churches in a prayer walk through the neighborhood. Not only do they pray for various community entities as they pass by, but they also stop and pray with neighbors who happen to be out in their yards. Some of these neighbors have even started coming to church. Additionally, Redmond Church of God is a part of what’s known as Redmond Community Prayer, a monthly prayer gathering of a variety of churches. They don’t meet in a church, but at a park or community center. “The gathering is truly interdenominational and is one of the best examples of church unity I have ever witnessed,” Dave explains. “These gatherings are very well attended and very well received.”
Jamie, Joe, and Dave know how important prayer is to the individual believer, the church, and the world. They know it strengthens spiritually, allows the church to “hear from heaven,” opens up the door for blessing and healing, destroys the schemes of the devil, and breaks down walls. We all want that, but sometimes Christians don’t know where to start. Jamie offers some advice.
“Set aside some time every day to meet with God,” she says. “You may start with ten to fifteen minutes and gradually increase the time. Consistency is key! I like to start my prayers with praise, using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide (Matthew 6:9–13). When you begin, ask God to help you develop a prayer life and guide you as you pray. He may direct you to intercessors in your church that would be willing to share tips and testimonies with you, or to a prayer group within your church or a prayer partner. Since prayer is a conversation, and God loves us and desires to fellowship with us, don’t limit prayer to just one place or time; we can talk with God anytime, anyplace, about anything. He knows our thoughts anyway, so don’t be afraid to pour out your heart to him. He cares about everything concerning you (see Psalm 8:4 and Luke 12:7). If you are looking for answers, search God’s Word to get his wisdom and promises for that situation and put him in remembrance of his Word (see Isaiah 43:26). My son has this part mastered! If I make a promise, he will remind me of the promise I made until I fulfill my word. The more you pray, the more confident you become in your relationship with God and his love for you. Pretty soon in prayer you’ll say, as my child often does, “Dad, you said…!”
Join the revolution—the 360 Revolution! Register and download free resources for the prayer and evangelism initiative of the Church of God (coming this September) at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org/360.