- - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Prayer — my own and that of others — has played a crucial role in my spiritual development.

My parents were missionaries before I was born. My father served as a pastor and a denominational executive while I was growing up. I am sure that my parents prayed for me, including for my spiritual life. Ironically, those prayers did not bear their fullest fruit until I was in my mid-20s — my mother had died, my father was again serving overseas and I was living alone.

My passion growing up was not for my faith, but for politics. After receiving my degree in political science and economics, I got a job with my congressman. When that job ended because he did not seek re-election, I decided to take the plunge and run for office myself. At 24, I ran for the school committee in my hometown in Massachusetts.

My dreams were dashed, however, by a decisive defeat. That loss started me on a period of soul-searching — first in terms of my career goals, but eventually in a more literal, spiritual sense. Over a period of several months, a number of key events led me to a turning point in my life.

One of those events took place at my church, where I remained a regular visitor. One Sunday, two men did a dramatic reading about the Lord’s Prayer — the one taught by Jesus to his disciples. One repeated the memorized words — while the other, off-stage with a microphone, played the voice of God, actually answering. The man would say, “Our father, who art in heaven ” — and the voice answered, “Yes, what can I do for you?” Startled, the man continues, “Hallowed be thy name.” The voice asks, “What do you mean by that?”

Continuing in the same vein, this short, humorous reading made me realize how easy it is to go through the motions of religion without thinking about it. I went home from church that day and began to pray and read my Bible daily — disciplines I had never before adopted.

Another event came when my pastor invited me to a special gathering. The Billy Graham Crusade was coming to Boston, and his team was working to mobilize pastors and churches to support it. My pastor knew of my interest in politics and invited me to an event where the guest speaker was someone with political experience — Charles Colson, a former aide to President Nixon. Colson had spent time in prison as a result of his involvement in the fringes of the Watergate scandal, had come to Christ, wrote his story in the book “Born Again” and then founded the ministry Prison Fellowship after his release. At the time, I found his politics distasteful but his testimony compelling.

At the same event, we were urged to pray and were given something to help us. It was a small round sticker to place on our watches. The challenge was to “pray on the spot when you see the dot” — in other words, every time you look at your watch.

Thus, my relatively new habit of daily prayer became one of nearly constant prayer throughout the day. Sometimes I would pray for Billy Graham, sometimes for loved ones and sometimes just, “Lord, be with me.” And he was — as I became increasingly aware.

All of this climaxed for me when I attended the Billy Graham Crusade with others from my church in June 1982. Although I was hesitant about going forward — having attended church all my life — those doubts were eliminated by Rev. Graham’s invitation, which directly addressed people like me. I went forward, giving my life to Jesus Christ in a decision that has shaped the remainder of my life.

A year or two later, I visited an aunt and uncle who lived far across the country from me and shared with them my testimony. It turned out that my aunt was a longtime supporter of Billy Graham’s ministry and subscriber to his Decision magazine. In 1982, when she saw that a Crusade was scheduled for Boston, knowing my location (but not my spiritual state), she began praying for me.

I will always be grateful that her prayers — and mine — were answered.

Peter Sprigg is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington. He received his master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is an ordained Baptist minister and former pastor of Clifton Park Center Baptist Church in Clifton Park, New York. He is married and the father of one son who is in college.

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