Many years ago I was sitting in a large auditorium in a church building with about six hundred other Christians. We were waiting for the service to start.
This congregation on the outskirts of western Houston, TX had attracted a large number of families that were oil company related.
Our family was one of those. For some reason, LOTS of upper echelon petroleum executives attended this church building.
Ken was one of those men.
Ken looked a lot like his corporate contemporaries. A clean shaven face back then was as much a part of the unspoken uniform as were the new cars, expensive home, Rolex watch and costly suits they all wore.
Ken fit in at work…..and in his neighborhood…..and in his country club and….., it seemed, this congregation filled with costly suits and dresses every Wednesday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night.
Ken fit in.
On this Sunday morning Ken did something that still delights me to this day.
Ken got himself kicked off the starting lineup for church.
On this day Ken had been selected to “bring the opening prayer.”
Now, Ken had served as a Sunday School teacher and an usher. He had passed the baskets and had taken the collection. I think, in another congregation, he had even preached once or twice.
To all appearances, Ken was “safe” to turn loose with the opening prayer. Why? Because Ken fit in.
Now, I don’t think it’s wrong at all to fit in. Sometimes, though, we depend on outward appearances in spiritual situations to determine if a person is safe or not. God cautions us not to depend on outward appearances.
When Samuel recommended David’s big brother Eliab to the Lord as Saul’s replacement, God rebuked him:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
And, in another place Paul tells us that sometimes a person’s behavior looks spiritually sound but really is disguising something that might be of no value whatsoever.
“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)
So, it is important that we obey the Lord when He tells us not to evaluate in a shallow (merely observable) manner:
“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:16a)
Ken fit in. He was considered to be safe by the leaders of that congregation because their standard was…..well, it was themselves. They measured him by what they could see of him but, most likely, they had never spent any time getting to know him.
He wore what they wore….worked where they worked….did what they did and said what they said – until that fateful day.
Had they gotten to know Ken they would have known two important things about him:
1) Ken was a little quirky despite his quiet nature and
2) Ken was VERY much into the Word of God and the nature of God.
So, Laurie and I and our two sons were sitting in the audience at this large church service and Ken stepped up on the stage to open the worship service with a prayer.
He looked at us….and, in a somber voice, said, “Please bow with me as we pray.”
Then Ken prayed this beautiful prayer:
“Father God…..well……You know. In Jesus’ name I pray.”
And he stepped down and quietly went to his seat with his wife and their two daughters.
WHAT A GLORIOUS PRAYER!
I wanted to jump to my feet and give him a standing ovation but chose not to because of the deafening silence in that auditorium.
Ken had done the unthinkable. Ken did…..wait for it….something different.
Ken prayed a prayer and didn’t use all the key words EVERYONE else always used.
Ken didn’t apologize to God and ask forgiveness for anything we might accidentally fail to do right in our cookie cutter worship service.
Instead, Ken did something awesome: he prayed what God put on his heart and prayed a perfect and scripturally sound prayer: “Father God, You know.”
1 John 3:20 tells us that “God knows all things.”
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “...there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. “ (Hebrews 4:13)
The psalmist reminds us that “He knows the secrets of the heart”.
To this day I believe that Ken did not pray as he prayed to be disruptive.
What Ken did was worship God in prayer by proclaiming His omniscience – right there in front of everyone who was on autopilot in church.
His punishment was to never be asked to ever again do anything “important” in a worship service in that place.
When all is said and done Ken won’t be standing before the leaders of that one relatively small group of Christians. He won’t be answering to them on that great day.
He will be standing before the God he worshiped that Sunday he prayed the most scripturally sound prayer I ever heard.
I did not write this piece to inspire anyone to be disruptive in a church service.
I never have suggested, authorized or condoned such a thing and I never will.
I wrote this piece to celebrate how I saw one man speak to His Father in heaven and speak truth to Him in the presence of others.
I’ll never forget it….and I’ll never forget how uncomfortable that unexpected spoken truth made other people feel.
This has taught me that earthly discomfort is truly not a bad thing.
And THAT is true no matter how anyone expresses their discomfort to us.
May we all be like Ken….seeking truth about our God and unafraid to speak it to anyone.
We’re in a season in human history where that just might mean eternal life or death for someone else.