Pray Lubbock celebrates 10 years of talking to God
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Story last updated at 12/27/2008 – 3:41 am
If you believe the part in Matthew that talks about God being there when two or more are gathered in his name, then you believe once a month the God of the universe makes time to hang out for an hour or two in the Pray Lubbock office on the 19th floor of the downtown Metro Tower. Because there’s a lot more than two.
You believe he hears what they’re whispering as they look out over the city, and you believe he acts on it.
He made it rain that time. And that time, too. He helped that family. He healed that church.
A decade later, Steve Doles still believes it, too.
Does God answer prayer?
“You know I’m going to say yes.”
Doles is the director of Pray Lubbock, an ecumenical army of Lubbock pastors as serious about opening doors to God’s will for the city with prayer as generals are opening holes in enemy lines with artillery.
Once a month, leaders of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Catholic, Pentecostal and nondenominational churches try to harmonize their souls, their tears, their sacred occupations into a single, holy appeal.
Every head bowed, every eye closed.
They’ve been doing it for 10 years now. The first declaration came in the form of a full-page ad – a promise for Christian unity – printed in the Nov. 29, 1998, edition of The Avalanche-Journal. Doles, who was appointed director shortly thereafter, said it’s been one heck of a ride.
“A lot of pastors have described it as riding a wave, especially in the beginning,” he said. “It was really new ground 10 years ago for pastors to be coming together to drop the denominational barriers we’ve had before and really focus on prayer. It’s been exciting to see people respond, to see some coordinated efforts.”
One of the group’s more well-known coordinated efforts came in January 2004, when Pray Lubbock effectively petitioned then Mayor Marc McDougal, County Judge Tom Head and the Lubbock City Council to urge Lubbock citizens to literally pray for rain.
Which they must have done: 2003 was Lubbock’s second-driest year on record. 2004 was the second wettest. (Thanks, Lord.)
They did the same thing two years later.
And so, said Doles, did God.
“In 2006, we issued a similar call for prayer around the end of July,” he said.
The atmosphere again responded kindly. The blogosphere did not.
News of the “modern-day rain dance,” as one Web site called it, was linked from blog to skeptical blog. The effort became a lightning rod for media mockery, and even earned Lubbock leaders a Bum Steer award from Texas Monthly magazine.
Meanwhile, Lubbock broke out the umbrellas.
“That was the year that the national media somehow got hold of it,” said Doles, amusedly. “But you can look at the records there, too. We showed an inch above average rainfall just for August. It was very dry that summer. There was talk of a disastrous crop. The rain just turned things around.”
But Pray Lubbock, which Doles refers to more often as a movement than as an organization, is about more than maintaining lake levels. And it’s about even more than prayer. There is, said Doles, a residual benefit of interdenominational intercession just as important as high cotton.
“We’re – at the core – a prayer ministry,” he said, “but as we pray for one another, we begin to work together. Unity in the body of Christ is one of our important goals and it’s a by-product of what we do.”
It wasn’t always so.
“We weren’t divided, but we weren’t presenting a united front to the city,” said Doug Hale, speaking of Lubbock’s pre-Pray Lubbock clergy. Hale, minister at Vandelia Church of Christ, was one of 30 original signers of the Pray Lubbock charter.
“That was to let people know we were united in Christ,” he said. “Since then, I’ve seen some really neat things happen in our city. We just had a celebration to mark that 10-year anniversary, and the spirit was so great.”
To commemorate the occasion, Pray Lubbock issued another full-page declaration in The Avalanche-Journal, printed Nov. 29, 10 years later, to the day.
“With this statement, we, who represent various Christian fellowships in our city, celebrate the demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ we have shared toward one another over the past 10 years,” it read, in part.
This time, the statement bore 80 signatures.
“I’m just blessed to be in on it from the beginning,” Hale said. “It’s my passion. It’s my heart. Some other things are happening now where churches are actually getting involved in ministry together. We’re seeing things now where churches are cooperating in helping the homeless in our neighborhoods and across the city.”
As an example, Hale cites Vandelia’s partnership with Oakwood United Methodist Church and Oakwood Baptist Church. The three churches share three blocks of the Bayless-Atkins neighborhood. Their members walk the streets together, praying for their neighbors. Praying for protection. Praying for healing. Praying for God’s kingdom to come. Hale and Eddie Marcum, pastor of Oakwood United Methodist, have, on occasion, even exchanged pulpits.
“I think one of the things God is beginning to do behind the scenes with Pray Lubbock is that the churches are coming together more and more to do his work,” said Marcum, who signed the first declaration. “I think that when God sees us working together as his Body, the Body of Christ, I think he’s going to show us some really amazing things in Lubbock, Texas.”
“That’s what I hope will happen,” he said. “Real demonstrations of unity. Not just talking about it.”
Note the paragraph that said:
“Once a month, leaders of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Catholic, Pentecostal and nondenominational churches try to harmonize their souls, their tears, their sacred occupations into a single, holy appeal.”
If that was attempted in our area, “Church of Christ” wouldn’t be in the paragraph – except that Robertson and his crew would try to infiltrate the gathering with their “Religious Review” shenanigans and to tear it apart later.