Parking Lot Prayers

 Have you completed your Soul Care Plan for 2018?  Soul Care Plan Link Today’s topic is building block “=?”, for Mystery Block. (S for service and Q for Quiet Time are thrown in for good measure!)

Today’s scripture: I Samuel 3:1-21 (NRSV) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Carla Peck):

My favorite “mystery block” encounter with God was a unique, meaningful experience for me.

It began during my Discipleship 101 class at our Church. The class pitched in and bought Gray Brothers pies for girls living in a group home to enjoy at their Thanksgiving dinner. The group home was a semi-independent program for teenage girls who were wards of the court.

Long after the pies were delivered and Thanksgiving was a memory, I found myself still thinking about this group home. I couldn’t stop thinking about the phrase “wards of the court.” There had been a couple times in my life that had circumstances taken a different course, I could have been a “ward of the court.” I decided to contact the home’s director, who invited me for a tour.

The home included a common area with a computer and telephone, a television area, games area, and laundry and kitchen. Near the kitchen was a large wooden table with several chairs.

I saw a vision of myself sitting at that table with Jesus, and we were speaking with teenage girls about the Bible and praying together. This vision stunned me and nearly took my breath away. It was like I had become someone other than Carla Peck for a moment. I closed my eyes and opened them again to see if I was still who I thought I was. This vision stunned me because I had never taught a Sunday school class, certainly didn’t consider myself to be a Bible scholar, didn’t have much patience or time for children or teenagers, and had only recently prayed out loud in front of a group of people (my discipleship class) for the first time.

While I was scared to even vocalize this vision, I told the director about it, including that I had never done anything like that before. He said “we have never had anything like that here before, but I think it’s a good idea.”

With the support of the director, and faith that God would see me though this experience (since God had planted this idea in my heart to begin with) I selected a day to begin. The theme of my mission was “using prayer to build a relationship with God and improve our lives.” I came armed for discussion with my Bible, materials from the Oasis group I attend, and Be Still devotionals from this website.

I was met at the table weekly by anywhere from zero to five girls, and sometimes even a staff person, too. Some of the girls had read the entire Bible, some had never read it, some came to my group to pick an argument with another girl in the group, some came to learn, and some came to be heard. Sometimes I was met with silence. The girls would often have prayer requests and would sometimes participate when we went around the table and prayed out loud. It varied each week.

Sometimes only one would show up and thank me for stopping by and say they didn’t want to meet that evening, but asked to walk me out to my car. It was during those walks to my car that I heard the events of their week and their challenges. We would pray together in the parking lot. After a time one of them said “I think we should call this group ‘parking lot prayers.'”

Eventually the group ended. The group home is no more and the building has been put to another use. But my soul was enriched through this experience with this “mystery block.” I learned that sometimes the best way to learn about a topic is to teach it. My tendency to be overly structured was challenged and I learned to be more spontaneous. I practiced listening and simply being present. I learned how to ask others if I could pray with them. My relationship with God evolved into a service partnership.

My initial vision was only of a beginning, not the whole process, beginning to end. That in itself was challenging to me because I tend to think in linear order — I do A, B, and C, the outcome will be D. In some encounters with Christ, an outcome is not pre-determined.

When I started this experience I wasn’t sure if it would last one week or all year. I simply knew that I was going to pay attention to the nudging that God had put upon my heart.

Thought for the day: “I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence — we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what God says to us and through us that matters.”

Mother Teresa (1910 – 1998) Source: Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.