Perhaps you’ve seen the Pray for Me Campaign’s most recent video, “My Prayer Story” featuring Deborah Addington and her Pray for Me experience. This video is the first in a series of My Prayer Story videos, that focus the lens on real people and their individual stories of impact with the campaign. Recently, I was privileged to take part in the preparation for the next My Prayer Story video—I was off camera (thank goodness), but I was able to witness the story of high school senior, Banner Brock (keep an eye out for our next video!).
Being in the Pray for Me office, I get to hear a lot of stories. People send us emails, call us, and even stop by the office and sink into our couch to share what the Pray for Me Campaign has meant to them. These stories are incredible and never fail to refresh my zeal for my work. They are often the best reward we behind-the-scene office-dwellers could ever ask for. But, for some reason, Banner’s story struck a particular cord with me. Perhaps it was the fact that we most often hear testimonies from Prayer Champions, and it’s more rare that we get to hear the perspective of teens involved with the Pray for Me Campaign. He was so genuinely content to sit and talk at length about each of his Champions, their stories, and how they had been a model for him. As I listened to him share about how much his Prayer Champions have changed his life by praying for him, and some of them even emailing him and asking him for prayer requests on a regular basis, I saw his eyes brighten with excitement. I began to think back to when I was in middle school and high school—when life got more complicated than my carefree childhood. Though the issues that I thought were catastrophic at the time (e.g. losing a soccer match or my crush asking another girl to the dance) seem pretty silly now, the way I handled those issues then helped to form the way way I handled much bigger issues in my adult life later. I began to realize that the handful of adults in my life who stepped in and spoke truth to me, listened to me, and most importantly, prayed for me during my teen years were the ones who pointed me towards Jesus and taught me to run to him in both good and difficult times. What I learned from my support system of adults during that time is still very much a part of my relationship with the Lord now. I felt cared for…important…loved, and because of that, I was and am still more readily able to accept Christ’s love for me. As I graduated, went to a secular university, dated, engaged in community and the church, and got married, the seeds that were planted in my heart during my youth remained firmly planted and grew into the strong roots that kept me secure in the faith.
The Sunday following the video shoot, my own church launched the Pray for Me Campaign for the second year in a row. I was helping hand out name tags to the Prayer Champions, and I was amazed by how many people were pressed into the little sanctuary. There was hardly room to move around, and the Campaign Coordinator’s voice over the microphone rang only slightly louder than the hubbub of hundreds of people meeting and laughing and catching up. As soon as I handed one person a name tag, I felt a tap on my shoulder from someone behind me needing their name tag as well. The room seemed to be caught up in a little whirlwind. Yet, amidst the apparent chaos, little groups of adults were slowly forming around each teen in the room, bowing their heads, laying hands on shoulders, and filling the room with the hum of prayer. I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. Here I was, witnessing one of the most beautiful gifts the church can give its members—community and prayer that surpass the boundaries of generations—community and prayer that encircles each child and teen in the church with the love and wisdom of Christ. In that little sanctuary, overflowing with people of every age and walk of life, fear of rejection, the awkwardness of meeting new people, and busyness were all set aside and replaced with the Church acting out in love towards one another. These new prayerful relationships are the relationships that will provide each young person with the encouragement they need to stay connected in the faith through thick and thin, and perhaps one day become Prayer Champions themselves. What a rich heritage of faith being passed on!
Hannah Johnson is the Communications Assistant at the Pray for Me Campaign office. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she studied English Writing and Communications, and she started working with the Campaign in 2014. She and her husband Scott live downtown Chattanooga, where he is trying teaching her to play tennis. She manages PFM social media web presence, and her work helps make the Pray for Me Campaign's vision a reality.