“All the believers were together… and they raised their voices together in prayer to God…. And after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:24, 31)
Recently, I was reminiscing with a friend about a great memory from the early 80’s: a memory of the sweet fellowship of prayer. (Since these memories are a few decades old, I may not have all the details exactly right, but this is how I remember it.) When I was a Freshman at my high school, the seniors in my church group were each challenged to “adopt” one of the incoming Freshman, to encourage them and watch over them spiritually as they entered into the wilderness of Senior High. So, as it happens, I was adopted by a guy named Paul Anderson. He was a fairly new believer at the time, but he was really on fire for the Lord. For me, to have a high school senior even notice me was amazing, but the way Paul took me under his wing, invited me to his house, and introduced me to his friends was simply extraordinary. But beyond all that, the most remarkable thing that happened that year, was that Paul introduced me to to prayer — real prayer. Having been raised in the church, I basically knew all about “prayer” — how you’re supposed to do it before every meal, and maybe when you go to bed. But for Paul, prayer was something entirely different. It was real. There at his side, on the school steps, or on the driveway of his house, or at the booth of the local pancake joint, I was introduced to the incredible privilege of talking to God. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it planted the seeds of a revolution in my heart.
That year and that friendship was so instrumental in my life that I decided, a few years later when I became a Senior, to ask my youth pastor, Corey Melia, to repeat that same “adopt a freshman” program. In typical Corey Melia style, he turned to me and said, “If the Lord has put this ministry on your heart, then you’re the guy to lead it. I’m putting you in charge.” (That was the first time anybody had ever put me in charge of anything, let alone a ministry at church. I was stoked!) I immediately knew which Freshman I wanted to adopt: George Bonsangue. Although he was a few years younger than me, I had gone to church with him for years and I had seen how God was grabbing a hold of his life. He was becoming a real fireplug for the Lord. Wanting to teach him what Paul had taught me, I invited him to meet with me every morning before school to pray for 10 or 15 minutes. I was excited when he agreed because, now that Paul had gone off to college, I didn’t have any other friends who liked to pray like that. Having another prayer partner was awesome!
I don’t recall exactly how long we did that, but I do remember that after a couple months, one or two other friends heard about it and asked if they could join, which George and I both thought was fantastic. God had planted a seed in my heart through the courageous and faithful friendship of Paul Anderson, and now that seed was spreading into even more hearts. Amazing! But even better than that — it didn’t stop there. The next year, after I had graduated, George and the other friends continued praying every morning and inviting others to join them. By the end of the year, George told me that there were a couple dozen kids from different churches gathering every morning before school for thirty minutes of prayer! I was blown away! (I should mention that George and Paul both went on to graduate from Bible College and are still today powerfully serving the Lord in full-time ministry — still planting countless seeds for eternal impact!)
Well, it has been years since I thought about this story, but something happened a week or two ago that brought all those memories back. My dear friend Thaine Norris invited me to consider joining him on a mission trip to Nigeria. As I pondered the possibility, I found myself dreaming about one aspect of the trip which sounded most exhilarating to me: I knew that we would be praying together at the beginning of each day, asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into the unknown adventures that He had already planned for us. What an exciting prospect! Talk about front-line intercession! I wanted to accept Thaine’s invitation just for that very reason! But after seeking the Lord’s counsel, I felt that He was not releasing me to go — an answer that, frankly, was a little disheartening.
And that’s when the Spirit prompted me with a question from out of the blue: “Do you really have to go to Africa to participate in a battlefield prayer gathering?”
And that is when all the memories of the High School prayer meetings came flooding back. Suddenly I realized that there is a battlefield on my very own doorstep, and God is still just as eager to hear from me as He had ever been. Instantly I realized what I needed to do, and so I did: last week on Ash Wednesday I went to the guys in my office Bible study and I briefly shared some of these stories with them. Then I floated to them the idea of experiencing this privilege ourselves. I asked them to meet with me for 15 minutes before business hours, every workday until Easter. Our only objective: to seek God’s power and divine intervention in the glorious mission field of our very own office building. So far, there have been about 4 or 5 guys who have accepted the challenge and together we are enjoying the sweet fellowship of calling out on the Name of the Lord together. We are asking Him to fill us as He filled those believers in Acts — to fill us with His Spirit and with boldness to proclaim the Word of God. And though I don’t have any idea what lies in store for us on this adventure, I can’t wait to see how the Spirit of God will answer our prayers!
But regardless of what answers may come, I will be forever grateful for being introduced to the extraordinary privilege of enjoying the sweet fellowship of battlefield prayer.
Editor’s note: I (Thaine Norris) get goosebumps when I think that some of my high school peers were praying daily over our school while I was an infant in my walk with Jesus, and during the time that many of my friends, including my future wife, were coming to know Him. Now, more than three decades later, the effect of that prayer continues to widen beyond what can be imagined.
Here’s another effect of “God’s faithfulness and the Good start Jesus gave so many of us” at that time. I am quoting Paul Anderson, who went on to be a founder in 1987 of Skatechurch in Portland, Oregon. Have you ever seen any of the Bible Project videos? Those are a work of Tim Mackie and his team, who was saved through the ministry at Skatechurch.
I have mentioned elsewhere on walkingtogether.life that Kevin and I met in high school, and that he was a mentor to me in many ways. I would say, “Lord, I want to have what Kevin has.” Now I know that the key to the attractive relationship Kevin had with Jesus, was prayer.