What every incoming freshman at Texas A&M doesn’t realize is that they, along with their entire freshman class, have been prayed for during the entire year before they come to College Station.
In 2003-2004, I was the director of Impact, a retreat for incoming freshman aimed at connecting them to Christian community and God’s mission at Texas A&M. Every Monday night that year, from September 2003 to August 2004 when we had the retreat, hundreds of counselors took a little over an hour to pray for these future freshman. They would be known as the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of ’08 (their graduating year).
We prayed for what they were experiencing their senior year in high school and we prayed for them to be used by God in extending the gracious message of Jesus Christ to the world. This time taught me more about prayer that I can remember, and it prepared us to care for and love these freshmen before we ever met them.
An entire year spent preparing logistically and spiritually for two 4-day retreats. In August that year, 550 freshmen participated in Impact. I was the director that year so I had very little actual interaction with these freshman and in the span of a week, everything I had been praying for (or so I thought) was finished.
I was left wondering about the true value of my prayers and effort, knowing cognitively that God answers prayers how and when He wishes, but wanting desperately to see the immediate tangible results of my planning and especially my prayer. I assume that I wanted proof that prayer works.
Fast Forward 8 Years
A little over a month ago, a good friend of mine was married here in New York. All of his family and friends descended upon the city and I was able to interact with many of them. Many of them attended Texas A&M, loved God, and continue to invest in God’s church and God’s mission.
There was one point where we were discussing A&M and what class everyone was when I discovered that many of these were members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of ’08. As they recounted their days at A&M in ministering to one another and their friends on campus, along with the days since spent wanting to see God do great things in their lives and through their lives, I was struck by the goodness of God.
Here I was, 8 years after Impact, seeing people that I had spent an entire year praying for. Did what they were sharing about their Christian lives prove that God had specifically heard my prayers? I don’t know, but in that moment I was so encouraged about prayer and the goodness of God. In the month since, it has led me to be reminded of 4 simple truths about prayer that I want share.
1) Prayer can be too focused on the Immediate
When we think of prayer, too often we are concerned with the immediate needs and wanting immediate responses. Our view is so finite that we lack trust in the infinite God.
As I reflect on that year of prayer for the class of ’08, I remember praying and hearing prayers that transcended the immediate and focused on shaping the future lives of people. It encourages me as a leader in the church, but also as a Christian in general.
Even when I don’t see the immediate result, as if prayer gets placed in a microwave, it doesn’t mean it will not have a long-lasting affect.
2) Persevering in Prayer is Hard but Worth It
I wish I could say that I continued every Monday night praying for the class of ’08, but I moved on. I’m challenged as I consider who I am persevering in prayer for on a regular basis, seeking great things for people I love that I might not see the results of those prayers.
Jesus speaks of the persistent widow in Luke chapter 18 who consistently asked for her desire from a judge who did not like her, but granted her request simply because of her persistence. It’s a parable to encourage Christ followers to not lose heart because we can ask persistently of a God who loves us and wants to see our prayers answered.
The only way we will persevere in prayer for long-lasting affects is by believing right things about God.
3) Prayer is to the One who is Powerful
Why do we pray? We pray because we acknowledge that we can’t accomplish the things we long to see. It is recognizing that there is a God who is powerful and good that we can ask to accomplish things we will never accomplish in our finite power.
The counter to this is that we don’t pray because we believe more in the power of our efforts. That somehow, in some way, we can accomplish more than an all-powerful God.
We can be confident in our prayers not because we ask for the right things or say it really eloquently, but because the One we pray to is the most powerful God who created the entire universe.
4) Prayer Changes the one Praying
Lastly, I want to share that prayer changes the one who prays. God is powerful and answers the cries of His people, but our prayers do not change His character, but it impacts our character. How does it work that way? I don’t know, but I recognize in the scriptures and in my life, that prayer moves me to a love for others that I would not normally have.
Spending an entire year praying for people I’ve never met made me excited to meet those freshmen. It made me excited to run into members of the class of ’08 so many years later and even today, I find myself more concerned and seeking to care for those I pray for most often.
It may simply be that I am considering these people more, or that I am becoming the answers to my own prayer, but whatever it may be, prayer changes me when I pray. It’s a result of interacting with the One who is far greater and more majestic than I.
Instead of finding myself anxious to see change, I have been encouraged to bring my requests to God asking Him to do more than I can imagine myself. I continue to be thankful for the class of ’08, they have unintentionally taught me more about prayer than I will ever know.