prayer encounters

changing the world one prayer at a time

Parker’s Prayer

Parker came to Summer Hoops today at the church gym. He showed me a picture of his 5 month old son. He is a father in love. He is working two jobs to provide for his household. The man is determined to be the father he never had. When we all circled up to pray, he thanked God for me. Father’s Day came early for me.

prayer encounters

Parker is, without a doubt, the most popular boy amongst the neighborhood basketball crowd.  When he walks into the gym, everyone’s attention shifts to him.  He’s hard not to pay attention to.  He’s 6’7’’ and nothing but muscle and tattoos. 

He’s played with us for each of the last three years we’ve had our Summer Hoops program.  In that period he has gone from high school basketball star to scholarship athlete at Western Kentucky to doing nothing. 

I don’t know exactly how he lost his scholarship, but I knew that he was disappointed and perhaps ashamed.  Right now he works at IHOP and hopes to become a fireman. 

I must admit when Parker first started playing with us, I was quite intimidated.  He would come in with his entourage of equally intimidating young men.  Nobody messed with them, especially not the pastor (me). 

Week after week, I led a halftime…

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Prayer: A Suprasubstantial Encounter (Includes a hip-hop-styled explanation)

prayer encounters

One of the most influential things I read during my seminary education was John Calvin’s description of the Lord’s Supper. Calvin believed that, although it is physically impossible for the body of Jesus to be literally present on altars across the world, Christ is indeed truly present in the meal.

Calvin believed that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, those with faith are lifted into the presence of Jesus Christ, who resides in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Like on Star Trek, our spirits are beamed up before the Lord, who feeds us with grace by his own hand.  It is called suprasubstantiation. Let’s say it together: Supra-Sub-Stanc-Ee-A-Shun:)  Supra meaning above or beyond and substantiation meaning embody or to give material form.  Above and beyond material form.  The Lord’s Supper is a suprasubstantial encounter with Christ, all those in the world participating, and all…

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Prayer Encounters reviewed by Sharing Magazine

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.”

“Prayer is Everywhere” a shared story

Last night as I was putting Hannah to bed, I sang her the Lord’s Prayer. When I finished, she touched my cheek and asked, “Who taught you that song, Mama?”

“I learned it in church when I was a little girl,” I told her.  I remembered the majestic feeling of the Lord’s Prayer sung together as a congregation. I grew up Catholic, and most of the church services I remember from youth were long, dry, and boring. Singing the Lord’s Prayer was always a treat because we joined hands as we sang, the crescendo of the piece building until the crash of “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,” followed by the softening words “now and forever, amen.” Even as a very young girl, the spirituality of singing this usually spoken prayer touched me.

“I haven’t learned that song in church,” Hannah continued. I went on to explain that I didn’t go to Trinity when I was a little girl, that I went to a different church in Oklahoma, but it got me to thinking about the prayer traditions we share with our children and how those little traditions follow us throughout life.

Our little family has always prayed before meals. When Sarah was five, we started praying together at night before bed. Hannah will join in this tradition soon (though singing might be her introduction to bedtime prayers). As Sarah matures, so does our discussion of prayer. I’ve shared with her my informal ways of praying as well as the formal prayers we’ve memorized. We talk about praying for gratitude, for peace, for other people, for help, for protection.

As we grow older, we come to understand both the majesty and intimacy of prayer. The prayers we say (or sing) together in church are a large part of this, but the prayers we say in our hearts are majestic in their own small way.

“We don’t learn prayers just in church,” I told Hannah. “Prayers are everywhere.”

“That’s right,” Hannah agreed, “because God is everywhere, and people are everywhere, so prayers are everywhere, too.”

Yes, honey. Yes, they are.


This story was shared with me by a woman named Carolyn whose spouse attended one of my workshops.

“I got pulled into this prayer business…literally.”

Last night I led a Prayer Encounters workshop at a church in Shelbyville, Tennessee with a wonderful group of prayerful folks.  Afterwards an older man came up to me and said, “I got pulled into this prayer business…literally.” He went on to tell me his story.

He was visiting a friend who was having a hard time.  He sat and listened and talked, then got up to go.  As he was walking out the door, his back to his friend, he said, “I’ll be praying for you–” Just as he finished his well-meaning promise a hand grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back into the house. “I’ll take that prayer right now,” said his friend.

Though taken aback by the request, he took a deep breath, grabbed his friend’s hand and prayed with him.  Thus his prayer journey began.  By the way, he did not tell me that he grabbed the man’s hand, but I know that he did because that’s exactly how he prayed for me last night.

May you get pulled into a lifetime of praying with others now rather than later.

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