urban prayer retreat

September 30, 2009

While a student at MHGS, I had many conversations with Dwight Friesen that still shape my thinking. Once, he described a pastor he knew in Seattle who thought of herself not only as the pastor of her church community, but a pastor to the whole city. This is a subtle but important shift in thinking, and one I’ve tried to adopt. It’s also the reason why this blog is subtitled A pastor in Austin.

At our Ecclesia Network national gathering last spring, I was challenged as Jon Tyson talked about how he often walks on the streets of New York, praying for the city where he pastors. Out of everything I heard at that gathering, this is what I keep returning too.

It was something I too wanted to do, but I kept getting hung up on what that would look like where I live. I could walk the streets of my own neighborhood of single family homes, but that didn’t seem to have the same broad emphasis (or, if I’m honest, sex appeal) as walking the streets of NYC. Or I could go downtown and walk the streets in prayer but that didn’t seem to fit with the context where we minister. Or I could drive around Austin while praying, but the thought of being contained in my car seemed sterile and disconnected from the city I was praying for. Any of these would still be significant, but I just kept thinking that what he could do in NYC was pretty neat.

Now I may be dense, but it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve made the simple connection between this intentional prayer for the city and the heart of being a pastor to the city. And I began to get serious again about this prayer thing for the city. We live 15 minutes from downtown, and our neighborhood and downtown are both part of the natural life of Austin, neither more than the other. How, I wondered, could I connect them?

Finally, only about 18 months after my conversation with Dwight, and six months after hearing from Jon, it all came together. (Further proof that I am dense?) Everyday, I drive by people standing and sitting at bus stops, waiting to be carried back and forth to work or UT. This would be my prayer journey for my city — connecting both neighborhoods and workplaces.

I’m writing this from downtown after a morning of prayer and reflection on the bus and on my feet. It is not a day of prayer in isolation, but a day of prayer in the rhythm of the city. I hope it is the first of many days like this.

Any great insights so far? Not really — only the reminder that I get distracted easily while I’m in prayer.

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