Not Religious, Not Ceremonial
But Prayer In Action
Mark van Straaten, the author of To The Wall, is a friend of mine. Our paths crossed a few years back at a pivotal point in my spiritual journey. I had finally caught on to the fact that God wasn’t restricted to using only Baptists and some of His “other” servants could be quite effective and very decent people. The story of how I got to that transformation is too long to tell here, and really isn’t the point, but my next step following that realization was to venture out and make contact.
At the time, Mark happened to be one of the more prominent non-Baptist pastors in my area so I decided to ask him to join me for a cup of coffee. He agreed and for me it was a friendship from the start. His ministry was thriving when we first met and it’s still going strong today.
Since Mark is a friend, and someone I respect a lot, you might wonder how I could possibly be objective in a review of any book he writes. Well, it’s easy. Let me explain before I get to the book.
Over the years I’ve sat in many pastors’ meetings with Mark, and without fail, when discussions gravitated to topics more easily confused than explained, Mark demonstrated the uncanny ability, not to make a point or even make a good point but to put his finger on the one point that clarified the issue. He didn’t necessarily answer the question or solve the problem, he just put things in perspective. That’s useful since it is very difficult to do anything constructive with confusion.
Get a FREE Kindle Reading App for any device (PC, Mac, Smartphones, Tablets) at Amazon.com
Therefore, when I heard Mark had written a book, I wanted a copy. I knew he would make a point worth reading.
Now the book.
Mark’s book draws on the experience of Nehemiah, who against great odds managed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. It’s a David-and-Goliath type story from which we all draw encouragement.
Don’t let the phrase “Missional Prayer” scare you. It has nothing to do with ceremony, ritual or even religion, not in the traditional sense of Mission or Prayer anyway.
The Mission could be any project to which a person is committed and can range in length anywhere between short term (two weeks) and long term (life).
The prayer, and this is really the point, is spontaneous and happens in the process, on the move, during the action. Nehemiah models how it works. Mark points out the occasions when Nehemiah offered quick, short, under the breath prayers in the moment. I thought of it as prayer in context.
The Mission Is Personal
This was significant for me.
Reading through the book, you realize that Nehemiah was more compelled than called. Many people knew the Jerusalem walls and gate were broken down. You didn’t need a revelation to see it and anyone could have done the rebuilding. It’s obvious. But Nehemiah was bothered by this. To use Mark’s words, the state of Jerusalem had become rooted in his identity. Building the walls became his mission.
Nehemiah wanted this job and asked for it. He didn’t wait for a call.
The book is realistic. Mark doesn’t sugarcoat Mission. Things didn’t fall into place for Nehemiah – he faced ridicule and threat – and we should expect difficulties also. As Mark says, “Hardship and Christianity are synonymous.”
The Missional Prayer modeled by Nehemiah doesn’t replace other spiritual practices. Reading the Bible, community fellowship, celebration, tithing and so on remain foundational. Nehemiah observed them and Mark weaves them into the core of his book.
I’ve heard many sermons based on Nehemiah’s life and experience. Most would be categorized as “Rah Rah,” more emotion than substance. That isn’t necessarily bad. We all need an injection of enthusiasm occasionally. But there is more to Nehemiah than emotion and Mark does a great job of filling in the gaps.
If you would like to read the book, and I recommend it, you will need to contact Grace Family Church.
Telephone: (031) 575-9300
Website is here.