Sharing: A Journal of Christian Healing

READING ROOM: Prayer Encounters

by Linda Dickerson

Paul Burns is the pastor of Priest Lake Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and holds an MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I met him in 2003, on a trip to NYC with his Aunt Pat and three other girlfriends. He was living there with his wife, Jennifer, and was working as an investment consultant, prior to entering the seminary. So, when our lady’s morning Bible study was looking for our next book, we picked his “Prayer Encounters: Changing the World One Prayer at a Time”. Great choice!

This book is about encounters that challenged Paul along the way as a Chaplain at an inner-city hospital in Dallas, as an intern at a church in downtown Austin, as pastor “for the day” at Siloam Family Health Center in Nashville, and many other stops along the way. We didn’t know how the trepidations and fears Paul shared that he felt in these encounters, would help shape our view of what God calls each of us to do to “bring people into direct spiritual contact with Jesus Christ himself” through prayer. The expression, “I’ll keep you in my prayers” is one we all say but Paul writes “this serves us in a pinch” because of our busy lives, but, “There is something about praying with someone that is so very powerful and cannot be replaced by a promise of prayer or even a word of care. It is the difference between telling someone what you are having for dinner tonight and actually extending an invitation to come over and eat it with you.”

Here are sentiments from some of the other bible study participants:

Michele – The book is small, but what it says is BIG. The stories helped me relate and show us all how prayer can be and should be done – and just what a difference it makes. Prayer happens everywhere, all the time, all around us. Just talk to God and feel the difference!

Pat – As a long-time prayer warrior, this book has encouraged me to try even harder to be aware of people that I might encounter who need a word of encouragement or prayer. So often I think I would be intruding into their lives; but what would be worse is to ignore the opportunity God has placed in front of me to help another person. This book has also encouraged me to remember and share those prayer miracles which I have experienced, and thus, my faith has once again grown.

Rose – We wanted to enhance our own prayer lives and wound up being touched by the stories Paul experienced. Each account was unique and yet very real. Each of us had similar accounts where prayer had been answered, or at least brought peace and comfort to those involved. These accounts enabled me to look beyond the facts in each situation and guided me to take a step deeper to what God might be doing in each encounter. We all came away with assurance that God hears us when we pray, answers in ways which are dramatic and not always apparent, but, are answered. We were deeply blessed by this book.

This is a great book for personal or group study. There are 69 pages with Questions to Consider, a Prayer Challenge and a Prayer at the end of each chapter. I leave you with Paul’s words, “If you struggle with seeking Christ for yourself, try seeking Him for the sake of another.”