As I sat down in the Westin’s ballroom this morning, preparing my heart for what I expected to be a quiet prayer retreat with speaker Lauren Winner, it was hard not to notice that each person in the room was distracted. We all giggled at the high-pitched screaming and laughing coming from the children next door as they experimented with science projects. Many of us clearly were not awake, and as several people walked in late, Winner described it best: “Distraction is part of the life of prayer.”
Winner, an assistant professor of Christian spirituality at Duke University’s Divinity School and last night’s keynote speaker, began the prayer retreat by encouraging us to think about how we learned to pray as children. We broke into small groups to begin sharing stories of “now I lay me down to sleep…”
Karen Harwell, a student at the McAfee School of Theology, shared with one group how she was introduced to a deeper, more meaningful prayer life in her early 20s. “When I started attending Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, a woman who led our post-college class basically opened her home to us once a month so that we could come and pray together,” she said. “It changed my thinking about what prayer could mean.”
As prayer conversations around the room continued, I heard two stories of how prayer had become relevant on-site during the Assembly. One woman shared that she called the front desk last night and spoke to a young lady who had recently moved to Charlotte. That front desk clerk knew why so many of us were in town, and she asked the woman to pray for her to find some friends in Charlotte so she didn’t have to be lonely anymore.
Another participant shared a story that apparently has spread among attendees this weekend. A hotel valet attendee said to one of our Fellowship Baptists, “I know that you guys are supposed to be going out and telling everyone about Jesus, but will you tell me?”
Lauren Winner went on to talk about several intercessory modes of prayer: “doodling” prayer was probably my favorite. “Think of a name for God that is the name you want to pray to,” Winner said. “Enter into this name of God through some color!” We put markers to paper for 20 minutes, and I was moved by the creative expressions of prayer I witnessed.
Whether talking to hotel staff about God, or coloring as a form of prayer to God, Winner encouraged us to look for prayer in new and meaningful ways. For a list of prayer requests and other prayer resources, visit http://thefellowship.info/Pray.