500 Visits to The Prayer Room…

A few weeks ago, something pretty monumental happened: I visited The Prayer Room for the 500th time. It’s probably 500ish. Maybe much more. It’s what a check in app I use shows. But, still: I did it. I didn’t run! I broke the cycle. And what an incredible journey this has been. And as the poet says, “and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

So, how did this happen? I don’t know. I can say that the relationships I’ve encountered, the faith journey, the accountability, the pleasure of sitting in that room for 1000s of hours over the past 500+ visits, has forever marked me.

Where do I start? We didn’t know a thing about the prayer movement until late 2009, when we attended our first of ten consecutive Onething’s. What we did know, is that we had powerful God encounters, and wanted more. After searching the area, we came across several houses of prayer, and ended up reaching out to several. But, I only actually talked to one person: Jeremy Jarvis. Feb 5, 2010. We would visit several times over the next few months, having a very memorable first visit. (Oh, so very very memorable. If you only knew how we uhm….marked, them.) We would park off site, and ride the little van over, once or twice a month, or sometimes, not at all. But the more we went, the more we liked it. The people were so kind to us, and our kiddoes.We weren’t SURE that it was our environment, but my daughter sure took to it. She was a fish to The Prayer Room’s water. But, something happened in late 2010. Well, several things happened. I guess I can try to break it down as we grew.

On December 31st, or Jan 1 2011, if we are technical, I walked out of Bartle Hall, and I heard the Lord speak. Not QUITE audible voice of the Lord, but definitely a “Thus sayeth the Lord” moment. And much like what He spoke to me the night I was delivered from addiction, this would forever change my family. I was still pretty fired up. I had just heard the words the Lord spoke on December 6, 2006, the night I got sober, via Lou Engle: Mr. Engle took the stage, and it freaked me out a little. “Tonight, Everything Changes. ” For years, I thought that was about Sober by Grace. But, I don’t think so.

In any case, as I left, the Lord said, “Those people from TPR? You should spend your life with them. Be a committed man of prayer. It’s time to start going after Me, with them.” And, I didn’t agree. I said, OK God. If Brad Stroup reaches out to me and says, “I need your help” ( Brad was, and is, TPRs Director, I’ll do whatever he asks. And, for the most part, that is still true to this today.) We went home, undone, but…with reservations. Then it happened. During a winter’s nap, with snow drifting down, I awoke to a text (on my Blackberry) from one Brad Stroup that read: “Bro, I need your help.” I remembered, and dropped my phone. There had been a shift of sorts at TPR, and they needed a body in the room. And I went.

In February, I emailed Brad and thanked him for the incredible ministry he had, and foolishly mentioned that, if not for my busyness, I would be interested in doing an internship there. Well, stupid me. Because the next day, at 6am, Andy Sanchez would call me, and literally wipe away every challenge I had in my life. I told him I’d sleep on it ,but…I was there that evening, for orientation: I was suddenly an intern. An old intern, but still, an intern. The next several months were a literal baptism by fire. I learned so much. (I didn’t know there was an Apostle John, and a John the Baptist?) I was in the room 10 hours a week, plus several hours a day of classes, all with a family and 3 young kids. and you know what? It was the best time of my life. I was reborn. God did so much work on me in those short few months, I didn’t even recognize my own beliefs anymore. But I KNEW that I knew Jesus. And I knew He knew me. I knew how to pray. I knew how to read the Bible, and I did both, with regularity, and with pleasure. Me, an old dopefiend, was in love with Jesus. And He, I. WOW!

I joined staff that year, and have been a fairly faithful member for 8 years plus now, save for about a week (when I was confused.) I’ve seen TPR go from the Livermore House, to the 939 building, to Prince of Peace, and now, to our own space. And there are soooo many stories and little things that have marked me forever.

TPR has been a family to us. When we dealt with CPS, they were there. When I got the news my grandmother passed, I was at TPR. Dealing with Jen’s illnesses, they have been rock solid. When I’ve needed accountability, they’ve provided it. When I’ve need a shoulder to cry on, or a foot in my rear, they’ve provided it. They’ve helped raise my kids. And when our church abandoned us during the deaths of my wife’s mother ,and my mother, they held us up. The gratitude I have for these “kids,” the memories I carry, the transformation that’s taken place…man. What do you say?

You know what Jimmy Buffet says? “It’s been a lovely cruise.” But, it’s not time to depart. I just signed up for my summer Sacred Trusts. Why? Because nothing good lives in me, outside of Him. Because I’m a jerk when I’m not committed to times of prayer. Because I need those kids. They have shaped me into the man I am today. I hope I have rubbed off in a good way as well, but I’ve received far more than I have ever given. Or ever hope to give.

I could gush over TPR for pages. I could gush over their staff, their singers and musicians, their leadership team, but I’ll close out with this: Of all the radical encounters I’ve had with God. Including audible voice, supernatural, once in a lifetime stuff….all that aside, TPR has 100% rooted and grounded me into this Christian faith. They have been an answer to my grandparents, and parents prayers: That I would know Him, and continue to grow in Him. They have been a godsend for my wife, and family ,whether they realize it or not. My ministry still stands only, because of TPR. Because I am fed here, and then with what is poured into me, I pour into others. And I’m not so sure it would work without this component. Kinda like the ol Tom Cruise quote: You complete me. And yes, it’s Jesus that does that, I’m aware. But there are a million ways to get fed in the Bible Belt. But I’m not so certain that anyone else could feed us in the manner we are fed here.

So what’s the point? The point is, if you’re 17, or 37, there is a community for you. One that will complete your walk with Jesus. Or begin it. If you’re struggling, and afraid it won’t happen for you, that you’re different, that you are the exception, trust that you are not. God has a place for you. Be open to being planted, even if isn’t what you think you need. Because God will provide. He brings justice to His elect…He is more than capable of bringing fulfillment to His people. Just be willing.

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