As I sat in church yesterday, listening to a pastor share the story of Nehemiah, a man with a passion for his city, I couldn’t help but rehearse the joy of the two years spent walking around and praying over my home town.
Yes, at age 48, I moved to the 24th floor of what was then the Wachovia Building with a sense of calling to pray. Though now referred to as the Winston Tower, I prefer the previous name, given its connection with the early Moravian founders of Winston-Salem. My heart was to discover the power of prayer; what I discovered was my own hearts need for prayer!
I had resigned my job as an Executive Pastor, though not as irresponsible as it might sound, given that my wife and I had first set up a company for purposes of income. My objective was to pray for the city, watch for results and learn about prayer. This seemed to perfectly align with a sense of call to cities, some 20 years earlier. I had for seven years served a large and rapidly growing church after moving back to my hometown in response to that calling. Before that, I had given 20 years to a nearby school system. Though it seemed to be a perfect fit in terms of campus outcomes, I had become aware that my service to that church was now limiting my flexibility and thus my impact. Spiritual discomfort for me, will always drive me to my knees and if not remedied, tends to bring pain both to me and to others.
Even before I resigned, I would find myself each day, and particularly Sunday’s, walking around the city’s inner blocks in prayer. I wondered at times about my sanity! Often from my 24th floor perch, I would pray first to the North, then East, and eventually cover the territory as far as I could see. I am still watching the movement of the Spirit across our county, easily making connections between breakthroughs now occurring, the people I met and the situational soft-touches made during that window. Prayer works.
You might be wondering about the title and yes, even the spelling? Many may be too young to have ever walked a bull? No that was not another typo! When I was less than nine years of age, my mom drove me and my Dad to the stock sale in Statesville, NC. There, he intended to purchase a young steer, first to be stall fed and then butchered for his families consumption. We had one car and no trailer!
My job was to walk in front of the often reluctant steer, holding a strap attached to a leather harness, gently indicating the path he should follow, along side the low traffic streets that led to our home. Though I cannot imagine bringing a nine year old into this drama, I had already learned to follow instructions, at least from my Dad! Now that I think of it, that may have been preparation for my future role as Mayor?
My Dad’s job was to walk alongside the steer standing between him and the highway; when a car approached he would nudge the young steer off the road. As well, if the steer froze, refusing to move either off the road or forward, my Dad would ring his tail! Not in such as way as to be cruel nor to do damage, but just to let the steer know that there was no alternative if he was to avoid pain! Now you may realize where this is going.
Both in the days leading up to the follow-ship of my life calling, and even in the days since those glorious two years of prayer, God has been faithful to prod me, though at times I have both caused Him pain and suffered some of the same. Not “tail pain”, but heart pain, when I have decided to test His faithfulness. I am grateful to my Dad for those early leadership lessons, the life and eventual sacrifice of that young steer! But as well, to God for His faithfulness, and for the inspiring story and life of Nehemiah, one of my heroes.