Last year, I visited my seminary for a lecture series and to spend time with some dear friends. Perhaps I was there more for the friends than the lectures.
As we were sitting in a circle sharing our various ministry stories, my friend Michael’s phone rang. It was the seminary president. After Michael finished the conversation he explained that the president was a bit offended that we had not let him know that we were going to be in town. He insisted that in the future we let him know that he could spend some time with us.
Frankly, it had never occurred to me that the president was that interested in us or had time to spend with us. After all he was an extremely busy man.
My friends and I were not happy with some of the decisions the seminary had made. We of course were foolish enough to think we could do a better job than the president. “If I were president…”
Later it hit me. Our president had had a rough time lately. He had major pressures and demands on him. He had complaints from every angle. Probably every call he got was some jerk telling him how he should do his job.
I took my friend Michael aside and said, “Let’s go pray for, Ted.” Michael called his secretary and we got some time on his stacked calendar for the next morning.
We arrived and sat out in his reception area awaiting. He finally came out and greeted us very cordially and said, “I am so sorry but I have another engagement very soon. Can this wait?”
I said, “We want to pray for you.”
His eyes widened and his whole demeanor changed. It was as if he had been holding his breath for the last minute and now he exhaled. When was the last time anyone had come to see him and not wanted some from him? When was the last time anyone had shown concern for him?
He smiled and said, “Gentleman, that I have time for.” We went back into his office. We invited him to sit down and asked him how we could pray for him. He shared a variety of things that were weighing on him. Michael and I stood behind him and laid our hands on his shoulders and we prayed.
When we were finishing, he reached back with his hands and took our hands and prayed for each of us. When he was done, he stood up with emotion on his face and embraced us both. He said, “I cannot tell you how much this means and how much I needed this.”
The next day, he was leading a ceremony to honor the academic dean who was on his way to be president of another seminary. He told the story of me and Michael praying for him and laying hands on him. He asked the dean, soon to be president, to sit down. He invited the whole assembly to lay hands on. Everyone had a hand on someone who had a hand on the dean.
Then he commenced to pray it forward.