My first few years of post-graduate life were unforgettable, just not in the way I’d imagined. To put it succinctly, the walls I’d built up regarding my identity and (perceived) competency came crumbling down pretty quickly in those initial days of grad school and stepping into adulthood.
And our God rebuilt me using an older brother’s faithfulness to invite me into a prayer group.
I was a neon-emerald shade of green then. I’d just finished nearly two years working as a Leadership Consultant for Beta Upsilon Chi when I was called to my first pastoral role as a discipleship pastor, serving in a 60-year-old congregation in the midst of some exciting changes. I came in with so many grand plans to build up the church through small groups and personal disciple-making.
But what looked at first to be an idealistic oasis soon turned into a desert of spiritual depression. Under the reality of pastoral burden, I quickly discovered that a single sermon or teaching was not a silver bullet. I began to see my ministry philosophy met with raised eyebrows (“Is he wanting to kill Sunday School?”) and discouragement (“We’re not in a place to do this kind of ministry here, Jared”). The repetition of these responses from other leaders, mixed with my own sinful fear of man and people-pleasing insecurities, created the perfect storm to paralyze a young pastor.
Surrendering to my introverted preferences, I went within. There were few people in my church and life at that point to whom I would entrust myself. I knew better, I just wouldn’t let my guard down.
One day in the midst of this struggle, I had a meeting with my preaching professor at the seminary. At the end of our meeting, he stopped me on the way out of his office and invited me to join him and three other guys in a Friday morning prayer group. It was an instant balm to my wounded soul. It felt like a big brother put his arm around me. I lived a week off of the encouragement of that invitation alone.
For the next two years, I spent every Friday morning at 6:30am in the office of Dr. Calvin Pearson, where the Lord began to rebuild my heart. It wasn’t an counseling intensive. It was greater and more effective. We simply let the Holy Spirit lead us in praise and petition before God, using the Scriptures as our guide. I learned to listen to other men as we prayed. We interceded for each other in sorrows, frustrations and unparalleled joys. It was changing me.
The Lord used those two years of Friday mornings to graciously tear down pride-stained, sinful walls in my heart. Calvin pastored me well in those years, and he did so mostly through prayer. God used a faithful mentor leading me weekly into the gift of prayer to rebuild my life and remind me that the praise of His name brings the greatest clarity and confidence. Those mornings forever changed the way I pray and pastor and disciple men.
When my mind drifts back to Friday morning prayer meetings in Dr. Pearson’s office. I’m reminded of God’s faithful use of community to rebuild this young man and prepare him to walk more courageously and faithfully. I want to do the same for the men in my church and in BYX. I look for every opportunity to do so.
Join in, brothers. Your cell group is a perfect place for this. Your big/little relationships. Make prayer the aim. Have a psalm you pray through each time, listen to one another pray out loud, let the Holy Spirit remind you of things about God and about you, intercede out loud for you brother, put a hand on a shoulder, and see your shared joy in Christ’s gift of salvation get rebuilt.
You’ll learn more about them and yourself doing this each week than you might ever have learned just having conversation. Using prayer to intentionally care and deepen one another is something you won’t want to stop doing. Let these men see your confidence and your anxieties, let them see you approach the throne of grace with confidence and lead them to do the same.
It’s simple. But profound.