As Christians, prayer is our direct line to God. No matter where we are, who we are with, or what we are doing, we can always send our thoughts to our Savior.
The Lord promises comfort and healing in prayer. He promises to hear our every petition and word of thanks. Prayer can be conducted in almost any act we carry out, yet sometimes it’s an easily forgotten or neglected part of our lives.
For those looking for a little inspiration on how to maintain a vibrant prayer life, a lesson might be found in the example set by the individuals listed below. These five Concordians have found innovative and personal ways to talk to God and support others with their prayers.
For some, their prayer practice grew and evolved into a regular habit. For others, the manner in which they hold themselves accountable to prayer is unique. Regardless of their method, all will testify that prayer is an essential part of their day.
Dr. Tammy Ferry
Dr. Tammy Ferry, executive director of institutional effectiveness and president’s wife, started her unique prayer practice seven years ago. Like her husband, Tammy stays very active with running, but her exercise routine also includes swimming. Since prayer and exercise are such important parts of her life, she decided to combine the two, praying while she swims laps in the pool twice a week. Each lap is dedicated to a person or group of people. For example, laps 21 and 22 are for CUW and CUAA respectively and the Christian Church throughout the world is lap 15.
Over the years she has added more laps to her workout and thus been able to add more people to her prayer list. For people in her life she doesn’t see as often as she would like, Tammy designates a lap, as well as a hymn. In combining these two integral parts of her life, Tammy has experienced spiritual nurturing and a deepening of faith that has connected her with God and those on her list in a special, splashy way.
“Initially it was a practical thing of trying to keep track of laps, but then it evolved into a really deep spiritual experience for me,” says Tammy. “I really feel it when I miss a day of swimming and I think it’s because of that prayer piece. It’s a routine that nurtures me both physically and spiritually.”
Rev. Randy Duncan
When he stepped into his new role as Campus Pastor for CUAA this past January, Rev. Randy Duncan also inherited the honor of drafting the Today’s Prayers email, which goes out to a list of hundreds of Concordia faculty, staff, and students each weekday. Today’s Prayers was started in 2013 by Rev. Dr. Ryan Peterson, who is now vice president of administration and chief liaison to the Office of the President, and includes a daily dose of supplications, thanksgivings, announcements, and encouragement for all current Concordians.
Pastor Duncan’s goal with the email is not only to inform students and staff of important campus and chapel related news, but to give a nugget of inspiration that may brighten someone’s morning. Pastor Duncan sees potential in the email to positively impact the entire campus. He tries to make the tone relatable, and includes a devotional paragraph and “Final Thought” for students and staff to carry with them throughout the day.
Today’s Prayers comes together each morning as Pastor Duncan drinks his coffee and recalls prayer requests shared with him the previous day. He prays over them as he thinks, writing the email as he goes. In order to keep all the requests straight, Pastor Duncan is sure to have a notebook and a pen with him at all times to write them down as students stop him in the hall, but he receives the bulk of requests through email and text. In order to be efficient, Pastor Duncan often begins a draft of the email the day before so he can easily add requests as he receives them.
During his morning prayer and coffee time, Pastor Duncan uses a variety of devotional guides to outline his time. He also utilizes the chapel to spend time with the Lord. The busy man that he is, Pastor Duncan often sends up “flare prayers” during the day, asking God for guidance, strength, and help, no matter where he is or what he is doing.
Gabe Penhallegon (’22)
Gabe Penhallegon, a freshman at CUAA, implemented Monday morning Matins into his weekly routine during the first week of classes and has been attending ever since. He had attended the service before enrolling at Concordia, so he knew that the sung service was for him. Riding to school each morning with his dad, Rev. Dr. Philip Penhallegon of the theology department, makes getting there on time a breeze.
For Gabe, Matins helps him start out the week with a focus on God and bookends with the Office of None service on Fridays. These two services frame each week with devotion. Matins reminds Gabe that even Mondays are God’s gift to us, and None closes off the week with worship. He encourages everyone to try out Matins, especially those that prefer morning and traditional services.
As most college students are, Gabe admits to being forgetful of prayer requests he receives from friends and acquaintances on any given day. To counter this, he makes a point of praying for them immediately, as not to lose the train of thought. For him, it is much easier to pray for them right then and there instead of waiting until the evening, during his normal prayer time with God.
Pat Maier (’77)
Pat Maier, a Concordia Junior College Class of 1977 alum, uses her creative flare to stay focused in prayer and teach others to do the same. The method is called Bible journaling and includes doodling, note-taking, and reflection in written and drawn forms as a way to respond to God’s text. Pat was inspired by Connie Denninger and Rev. John Saleska’s practices of interacting with the Bible and decided to incorporate it into her own devotional practices. As is common for many, Pat often got distracted while praying in her head, so writing and coloring while praying helps keep her on track.
During her personal quiet time, Pat begins by praying and then reflecting on what she reads, asking God to show her what he wants her to learn. Then, Pat responds to what she read by copying a key passage and adding an image or special lettering to help her remember it. Pat also uses this method to pray for others, creating a colorful prayer card with a Bible verse to respond to a prayer request. This practice of writing or coloring during prayer is called “visual prayer,” and many people find it useful to connect to God’s word. Pat also keeps a prayer calendar to record prayer requests she receives in addition to her own, and the calendar allows her to reflect on the prayers God answers over the months.
Pat encourages everyone to give Bible journaling a try and emphasizes there is no wrong way to go about it. She calls each journal entry “a selfie of your time with God, a visual marker of what you’ve learned and prayed about.” Pat also directs people to the Visual Faith Ministry website and Writing in the Margins by Lisa Nichols Hickman to learn more about Bible journaling.
Susie Pipkorn, one of Concordia’s Online Student Success Advisors (OSSA), has adopted an organizational tool to help her keep track of all those she prays for. As on OSSA, her goal is to be the spiritual, emotional, and practical support system for her portion of the more than 3,000 individuals throughout the world who are enrolled in online programs or courses through Concordia. In addition to this charge, Pipkorn keeps a personal prayer list of students who come to her with requests. This list, started in 2015, now has more than 200 names on it. Pipkorn also doesn’t hesitate to whip out a card and write a personal note of encouragement to a student when she sees that student’s name on Campus Pastor Steve Smith’s daily prayer list.
Sometimes Pipkorn will pray for the list as a whole, and sometimes she’ll pick out individual names as the Holy Spirit moves her. As students call with general questions, they’ll often share personal struggles with their course, family concerns, or time management issues. Pipkorn understands the rigor of the classes her advisees are taking and makes a point of looking up class lists for especially challenging classes and praying over them during exam times.
“It’s not unusual that when I wake up in the middle of the night I pray for a student who has recently contacted me,” says Susie, “I may not remember a name in the middle of the night, but I mention the need and God takes care of the rest!”
— Madelyne Arrigoni is a freshman studying English and Mass Communications. She plans to graduate in 2022.
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