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
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. Steve Smith
Campus Pastor Steve Smith, keeper of the regular In Our Prayers email, has been supporting the prayer life of Concordia for the past 17 years. The email was technically already a staple of the Concordia morning routine when Pastor Smith joined the team (the belief is that it started with the advent of email in the ’90s), but it’s a responsibility that Pastor Smith has taken to heart and made his own within his time as head of spiritual life at CUW.
Each weekday around 8:30 a.m., Pastor Smith sends out the list of prayer requests received from the day before, and in so doing he connects the thousands of individuals (faculty, staff, and students) currently a part of the Concordia community, inviting them to unite in prayer no matter their physical distance from campus. Pastor Smith receives prayer requests all day long, adding them each to a running list so he can personally respond and pray for those who reach out. On any given day, he receives emails from students, faculty, and staff on campus, from Concordia’s nine accelerated learning centers throughout Wisconsin, and from the online students who live all over the world.
Pastor Smith has sent around 2,932 In Our Prayers emails since his start at Concordia in 2002 and keeps a draft of every single email in a file. Collecting and organizing prayer requests has become an important part of his daily routine. He feels that prayer is a way for Concordians to connect with each other and lift each other up in times of need. Pastor Smith makes sure to respond to all the requests he receives. Unsurprisingly, he sets aside times each morning for personal prayer, usually guided by one of many devotional books in his collection. He also prays while driving to and from work to make his time on the road more meaningful.
Prayer Team is an offshoot student group of the Haven ministry. The group, which is open to all Concordia students, uses weekly emails and meetings to share prayer requests and field incoming prayers—mainly from the undergraduate population on campus—while lifting each other up in faith. At meetings, the handful of members who attend regularly share their highs and lows of the week before getting organized for Haven by assigning people to pray and introduce the discussion questions.
Leaders Hannah Lull and Madie Martens collect prayer requests throughout each week through word of mouth and prayer journals members circulate during Haven on Sunday evenings. Prayer Team invites people of all comfort levels to participate however they feel called. Whether attending meetings, participating in Haven, or simply receiving the emails, God hears it all.
Prayer takes the message of Haven outside the Terrace room and continues it throughout the week, says Lull. “Praying over each other’s requests creates a community and connects us to the Lord.”
Prayer Team members receive the requests of their peers and are welcome to incorporate them into their personal prayer practice or attend a meeting to pray over the requests as a group, adding any requests that have been added throughout the week. The flexibility of prayer team is what makes it unique. The ministry is always welcoming new members, and interested students can contact coordinators Madie Martens and Hannah Lull for more information.
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!”
Marya Haegler (’16)
Haegler, 2016 liberal arts graduate, started a devotional practice during her time at Concordia that she has kept up years later. Marya uses a book by Sarah Young called, Jesus Calling, which was gifted to her by CUW counselor Dave Enters. Marya says the devotional book has been a critical contribution to her spiritual growth and prayer practices over the years. By rereading the book each year, Marya is reminded of entries she made years prior, which prompts her to recall how God has continually answered her prayers. The repetition also challenges her to trust God’s perfect timing in all things.
Colleagues have often taken note of Marya’s optimistic attitude and she is able to enthusiastically share the reason for her joy. Marya has shared the book with multiple coworkers over the years.
Outside of her daily devotions, Marya sets aside 10 minutes each morning to listen and talk to God. While a student at Concordia, she found plenty of opportunities for encouragement and rest. Marya attended chapel, Haven, and took advantage of the various Bible study opportunities available on campus. She found caring people who were willing to listen and speak on a deep level about faith around every corner.
Marya believes prayer practices should be personal and enjoyable. “I encourage everyone to try some devotional habits, experiment, find what works for you, keep it simple, and have fun with it. Most importantly, understand that God is always there to listen and offer encouragement.”
— Madelyne Arrigoni is a senior studying English, Mass Communications, and Photography. She plans to graduate in 2022.
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