Power of Prayer

City Gates Ministries in Olympia, Washington is like none other that we have visited.  At 7:00 each Thursday night, two large vans, one smaller one, and various other vehicles pull onto a parking lot in the middle of the city, just across the street from a major transit center.  Out come tables, canopies, and a sound system.  The Rev. Phil Prietto takes the microphone and for the next hour preaches and invites the testimony of the group.  
The ministry has been growing since 1995.¬†¬†Their mission — “to show the love of Jesus Christ by helping people in need”.¬†¬† Their uniqueness¬†is their size and that phrase “unifying the Church”.¬† Approximately 14 congregations, mostly non-denominational and evangelical,¬† come together, not because they sign up to do specific tasks, but because they are acting as the Church in the world.¬† They are acting not¬†as separate congregations, but as one Church with the sole purpose of walking with others on whatever journey they happen to be on.

The size of the ministry is impressive.¬† The trucks and vans are packed full of blankets, clothing, baby supplies, and hygiene items.¬† A simple meal of sandwiches and coffee or hot chocolate is served to about¬†150 people.¬† A photographer takes pictures that are ready the following week for people to take with them.¬† A woman explained, “Every time you look at the picture, you see Christ looking back at you.”¬† There is a children’s area with activities and toys or books for children to take with them.¬† And there is a massage table to relieve the stress of life on the streets.

And there is PRAYER.¬† At every opportunity, prayer is offered — as people wait in line for¬†various items¬†and as people tell their stories to “ministry leaders”.¬† It is clear in written guidelines that¬†prayer is offered, not required, but I didn’t see anyone refuse the offer.¬† The prayers are typically offered by small groups of people surrounding and laying hands on¬†the one being prayed for.¬† As uptight Episcopalians it was a bit unnerving for John and me to be drawn into so much spontaneous prayer, but it became clear that our discomfort was our problem, not theirs.¬† The prayers¬†are not isolated from the further offer of other help — a place to sleep, drug/alcohol treatment options, assistance with social service agencies. And love and support were not contingent on the person’s response to offers of help — spiritual or otherwise.¬† Pastor Phil was clear that relationships come first and foremost.

As the evening was wrapping up at about 10:00 pm, a young man came up to greet us.¬† He had¬†his two month old daughter with him.¬† He shared his story of coming to City Gates for five years arguing that God didn’t even exist.¬† But he kept coming and is now a believer.¬† He has a home and a job and a family.¬† He has a community of¬†people, a Church,¬†that he can rely on for continued support and encouragement.¬† And now he feels that it’s his turn to give back as he reaches out to others who share his struggles.

Prayer.¬† We (I) need to get over our (my) reluctance to pray freely and openly with others and to believe, really believe, in the transformative power of prayer.¬† The words we use don’t really matter.¬† What matters is that we trust God enough to imagine our lives and the lives of others as whole and holy, renewed and¬†recreated¬†by God.

Posted by Lee Anne Reat at 10:52 AM 0 comments