Working with a prayer center, the topic of prayer and worship comes up often in a variety of settings and circumstances. I am a massive believer in the power of young people seeking God and singing His praises. It’s my job to help increase the level of prayer across our community.
From time to time, I’ll meet someone in ministry who deliberately leaves out corporate prayer and worship because they believe their students “aren’t ready” to sing songs to The Savior or are afraid newcomers might be “turned off” by extended prayer. There’s an attitude that passionate prayer and worship are extremist expressions of our faith. One might get the impression that worship and prayer were embarrassing things that should be done in private to be followed by a good washing of the hands. It’s no wonder that 80 percent of young people walk away from the faith when they graduate high school. They are, as Manning puts it “young people who have been denied access to their own spiritual depths.”
Last weekend I had the particular honor of speaking at a retreat for Senior High students in our region. I teamed up with my Furnace Midwest worship team and we decided to hold nothing back. We sang praises with passion and prayed with tenacity. It was powerful! What was the response? The students loved it! They dove in and didn’t look back. After dismissing the group (twice) they kept praying for another 45 minutes! One of the youth pastors involved told me that it was the first time he ever saw his kids worship!
The point is this: young people are hungry for an encounter with the living God. They long to connect with God on a heart level that can’t be accomplished through a Bible study alone (and I love the Bible study!) We must provide the next generation with opportunities to worship and pray if more than 4 percent of them are going to make it as adults. As the old saying goes, “He who prays stays, and he who fasts lasts.“
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a young guy who occasionally attends our Friday night prayer meeting. There’s something about the kid that’s a mystery to me. I don’t know where his church home is, he walks to prayer even in bad weather, and he always has plenty to philosophize about. I’ve never seen him with any friends, he’s a bit socially awkward, and I gathered from talking to him that his parents are no longer together. It’s not unusual for him to look like he just rolled out of bed and came in the clothes he wore the day before. Brennan Manning would describe him as a genuine ragamuffin.
When I asked this young man how he was doing, his answer really penetrated me, “Jesus has been especially loving to me.” Pause. Jesus has been especially loving to me? Without a car, money, or friends and Jesus has been especially loving? Shame on me. How many times have I questioned His love while enjoying so much more? How many times have I felt distant from the savior because of self-pity and ingratitude?
The last time I saw this guy, he was worshiping his heart out. It put a huge smile on my face to watch him dance, shout, clap, and run around the room in celebration of his especially loving savior. Some might say he’s in his own little world, but it’s a world I wouldn’t mind living in to experience an especially loving Jesus.
Every Friday night I have the privilege of leading a community-wide prayer meeting for young adults. It’s the highlight of my week to watch young people praise and cry out to God for their city!
Last night I decided to snap a few pictures to share. Enjoy!
Every Friday night I lead a community prayer meeting for college-aged young people. It’s often times a powerful experience of praising God and crying out to Him for our homes, our community, and the next generation. There’s something about being surrounded by all that raw passion, as the praise team plays and the group unashamedly demonstrates their love for God, that I never get tired of.
A few weeks ago, a young girl came to the meeting and introduced herself to me. As we talked, she explained to me how she really loves God but felt awkward with outward demonstrations of praise. It was unnatural for her to lift her hands, dance, and shout. I told her that was OK and that there was nothing wrong with giving praise to God in a quiet manner.
Tonight, at our meeting, I felt a particular leading from the Holy Spirit that He wanted to do a work of freedom in the group. The majority of our meetings are very outward focused as we intercede for the community and our nation, but tonight was different. God wanted to do something in us. There was shame, guilt, addiction, and other chains that needed to be broken so we could go out from there and help set others free.
During our time of praise, I caught something in my peripheral vision. Around the corner, out of sight from most of the people in the room, was the young girl I met a few weeks ago. And she was dancing! As the praise team played, “Halleluia, Halleluia, King of Kings, Lord of Lords I am yours” She was swaying to music with her hands in the air and her face lit up with redemption! I looked and knew she was experiencing the love of the one who loves like no other. It was her and The Savior and all else was strangely dim.
What a beautiful thing to see The King dancing with His daughter. I have to admit, it inspired me. Where, in my friendship with Jesus, could I benefit from stepping out of my comfort zone? And what a stirring I felt to experience His intimate touch.
So thanks Invisible Dancer. You helped me experience God tonight, even as you experienced Him in a new way!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, a lot of people were set free tonight from the things I mentioned earlier. It was awesome!