I’m taking a Davao-bound flight later to attend to some work-related matters in my home city. Whenever in durian city, one of the things I look forward to doing is attend prayer meeting at Davao Chinese Baptist Church where my brother serves as senior pastor.
Every Friday prayer-ers, many from other churches, fill the wooden pews of “ChiBap”. The church building, almost 60 years old and one of the very few, if not the only one, in the city that still has a steeple, swells as it welcomes the weary, the joyful, the downcast, the victorious—and everyone in between who seeks to join others in prayer.
The program is as simple as it gets. No creative and bombastic numbers to attract “seekers”; no special instrumental music to create a prayer-conducive (spa-like?) ambience; no flashy videos or high-tech presentations to capture the attention of the elusive digital generation. The meeting starts with a word of welcome from the pastor, followed by singing, then prayer and some sharing from the Word by the pastor, and then more prayer.
There is a sense of clear purpose. Everyone seems to know they’re here to do one thing—pray. (Half-hour before the meeting starts, some would already be sitting in solitude, quieting themselves for prayer.)
People are free to kneel, lift their hands, weep, keep their eyes open, all while communing with the unseen and yet present One. Interestingly, there is freedom for prayerful expression, but this is beautifully tempered by everyone’s sense of respect for the silence, the space, that helps the soul detach from the noisy world and connect with God.
In this place, it is not uncommon to see grown men pull out their handkerchief to wipe tears welling from their eyes. A mother might wrap an arm around her teenage son who now towers above her. Students, uprooted from the province and trying to get an education in the nearby colleges, come to lift up to God their concerns.
The oft-repeated refrain from the pulpit is that the Lord is near to the broken-hearted, that He helps those who are helpless. And, in grace and mercy, the Spirit honors the space created for Him in these meetings—to be near and to help. I have felt God near to me in this place. I have been helped. For I, myself, have stained this church’s floor with my own tears.