Honoring Major David Gray in Prayer: 90 Days of Service, Day 74

“Vocation is where our greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need
– Frederick Buechner, Theologian

World’s greatest need – Jesus.  Our greatest Joy – Prayer for His Return.

According to Paul, the calling of every Christian is to live a dependent life of prayer, warring continually from a stance of prayerful rest in the presence of our God as He abides in us (Ephesians 6:17-20).  A life fully devoted to prayer is supposed to be normative for us.  However, my prayer life was far from this (and I continue to struggle daily with dying to self).  So, this summer on the morning of Day 2 of my Nashville adventure, I prayed for God to grow my prayer life.

Like a child, I sure didn’t know what I was asking from My Father.  He was planning on taking a father, ending his long suffering, to give another father, a spiritual father in the faith that taught me how to be a Christian Dad.  This requires some explanation.

Yes, he answered quite clearly.  Just not the way I had foreseen.  One of the most engaging hymnwriters of the 18th century, John Newton (of “Amazing Grace”), a former slave trading “wretch”, weighs in on how suffering (spiritually and physically) grows our prayer life from stagnation to a vibrant overflowing relationship with Him:

“I Asked the Lord”
(Indelible Grace feat. Emily DeLoach, Lyrics – John Newton)

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

 2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

 3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

 4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

 5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

 6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

 7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

This summer has been a difficult one.  It has been a season overshadowed with a call by God to much suffering amidst the tinge of death, only to be overcome by the all mighty depths and bottomless soundings of His Grace at each step of the voyage.  As the Spirit guided me through this summer of suffering,  my sense of His continual abiding presence overwhelmed my heart.

Like the Indelible Grace VI album I had the privilege to sit through, it’s been a season where God has moved me “From Sorrow to Joy” – opening my heart up to an ever present prayerful conversation with Jesus.  My calling, and the calling of every Christian brother and sister, is to a robust, and ever increasingly dependent, life of unceasing prayer and meditation within the Throneroom of our Father.  To give us a more contemporary picture, think of JohnJohn as he had the ear of his Father.  Men trembled into the Kennedy Oval Office, while JohnJohn tottered in and under the desk.

The mystery of Colossians 1:24-27, that our suffering (v.24) would be the means by which God makes his Word “fully known” (v.25) has come alive in my heart.  The mystery, hidden for ages and generations (v.26), of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” has been experienced, meditated upon deeply, and to be shared with His Bride.  This blog and daily prayer walks with Him are the fruit of His teaching and guidance. Read on:

It was a summer bookended by Death.  On Day 2  of my Nashville internship, my Dad passed away.  That same night, my internship sponsor, Kevin Twit, invited me to a CD release party for Matthew Perryman Jones (MPJ).

By God’s providence, the album was “The Land of the Living” where MPJ was working through the grief of his own father’s death.  Most days, my early morning prayer walks with the Lord were a warm blanket as I sought the Lord amidst the pain – “Land of the Living” was a soundtrack for my weeping from morning to morning.

“The Angels Were Singing”
Matthew Perryman Jones

Talking to stone,
Listening to birds
With no more to say,
I kissed my fingers
And touched the red dirt

Wandering away
Through the moon-colored field
My heart was a weight
Of rage and sorrow
That longed to be healed

Then I started running
To feel more alive;
To wake up my senses
That slowly had died

And I wondered if angels
Were singing that night

Nothing’s the same
The colors aren’t bright
Since I kissed your face
And slowly whispered
My last goodbye

Thinking of Jesus
At Lazarus’s side
That heavenly sadness,
The shadows of light

His eyes saw the city
Where all is made right

And I heard that angels
Were singing that night

The angels were singing
As we sat and cried
Each tear was a chorus;
A sacred reprise

And I finally was grieving
That long goodbye

And I heard the angels
…Singing that night

On the 74th day of service in Nashville, the closing bookend was the death of a man by an insider suicide attack by a Afghani Security Forces member in Afghanistan.  I was a pilot in transition and He was an Air Traffic Controller in transition.  We swam together in the morning.  I did laps, he did exercises for underwater breath holding.  I was a fairly new Christian and he was part of my new found family in the faith.  One Providential morning, I helped to save him from a near drowning at Laughlin AFB while I was still in the Air Force.  His name is Major W. David Gray.

But, on the day of his near drowning, our prayers poolside were simple, but massive, “God, help us.  Save David, his work is not complete here”.

Family of fallen Ft. Carson Major Finds Hope through Tears – The Gazette
Fallen Major praised as ‘epitome’ of True ALO – Air Force Times

The Lord was faithful to save David’s life that day in the pool, allowing him to live another seven years while having two more children, Garrett and Ava, with his wife Heather.  It was the beginning of my growing prayer life as a young believer.  David was a marked man after that.  We had a deep, unspoken connection when we saw each other.  We both knew what it was like to stare into the abyss of our near deaths, to find hope that only Christ can offer.  It is the hope of Psalm 13.  Prayer answered.

Pastor Frank Thomas – Psalm 13
**Foward to either minute 24:00 or 30:00…Be prepared to cry…** 

After the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Cliff Wilson and family sat down with me and some other friends for dinner.  During the course of the conversation, Cliff said, “You can call me Dad…”.  It took my breathe away.

Back in Del Rio, Cliff had taken me under his wing, allowing me to understand what an active Christian family looks like from the inside out during the most difficult moments of my life when all of my life was being redefined.  Cliff was there for the agonizing shift from Pilot to Pastor.  Cliff, with his wife Christy and two daughters, would round up as many as they could fit into their home on Fridays or Saturdays.  If you “Googled” the definition or example of an ever present disciple maker, Cliff Wilson’s picture should appear.  I have never met a man so willing to serve others for Christ.  Now, this man, was calling himself, Dad.  I really didn’t know what to say.

A few days later, I was preparing to write another blog post and had looked at the timeline of my Dad’s funeral.  The recording schedule for that week had some neat observations which require another post when Indelible Grace VI: From Sorrow to Joy is released.  But, the most interesting, was the first day of my Father’s wake in June was Cliff’s birthday.  I was amazed.   God, you are Author of Authors.  Prayer answered…

At the funeral, during Chaplain Ken Fischer’s graveside Eulogy, he explained that one of David’s last prayers home to Heather contained Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am Lord, send me…”.  Heart broke, tears flowed, Two Star Generals were saluting children as flags were given to Nyah, Garrett, and Ava.  The mighty were bending their knee to God – a slice of Heaven here on Earth for a moment.  Prayer answered…

But as the Honor Guard fired their 21 Gun salute and his Special Forces troops punched their insignia into his coffin, I prayed for what I could do.  Surely, the memorial of a man of David’s worth should not end today.  The brokenness of our world flooded onto me in the way that only moments of death can do.  I offered prayer graveside, but it was pretty incoherent – mutterings only those that the Holy Spirit understands.  As I walked away amidst the sea of white tombstones, each with their own stories, I asked, “Lord, what would you have me do?”  As the troops whooped and hollered for their fallen comrade by the grave, the “limit expression” from Psalm 13 rang in my ears, “How long O’ Lord, how long?”. With a good friend’s song in mind, how long until “The Reckoning”?

The Reckoning
by Andrew Peterson, from “Counting Stars” 

I can see the storm descending on the hill tonight
Tall trees are bending to your will tonight
‘O, Let the mighty bow down
At the thundering sound of your voice 

I can hear the howling wind and feel the rain tonight
Every drop a prophet in your name tonight
‘O, and the song that they sing
It is washing me clean,
but How long, how long, how long
Until this curtain is lifted?

How long, how long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning? 

And I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight
You see the teardrops as they roll tonight
Down the faces of the saints
Who grow weary and faint in your fields 

And the wicked roam the cities and the streets tonight
But when the God of love and thunder speaks tonight
‘O, I believe You will come
Your justice be done,
But how long, how long, how long
Until this curtain is lifted?

How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?
‘O, the Reckoning… 

You are holiness and grace
You are fury and rest
You are anger and love
You curse and you bless
You are mighty and weak
You are silence and song
You are plain as the day,
But you have hidden your face–
For how long? How long? 

I am standing in the stillness of the Reckoning
The storm is past and rest is beckoning

Mighty God, how I fear you

How I long to be near you, O Lord 
How long, how long, how long until this burden is lifted?
How long, how long, how long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?

And I know, I know, I know
that I don’t know what I’m asking

How long?
But I long to look you full in the face

I am ready for the reckoning

Will we honor David’s prayer by echoing his request to the Father of Lights?  Are we ready for the Reckoning?

In my grief over David’s death, I refuse to be a victim.  David willingly laid down his life – for his family, for his country, for our God.  He wasn’t a victim.  He was a solider.

Will we join the fight in prayer?  Call this an Alamo moment, if you will…

“Remember David Gray – Here I am Lord, send me…!”

In deeper conversation with Cliff, what I didn’t know at the time was that “The Gathering” prayer chain , the contemporary service that I started attending after being saved, had been organized by Heather and David.  The same prayer chain that prayed for Him, spanning the entire globe, passed from one Air Force member to another was started by his wife.  The prayer life of the Grays launched my prayer life into a Kickstart, poolside and beyond.  Like the Trinity Bridge in Dallas, the strands of our lives are being pulled together into a beautiful tapestry.

Like bridges spanning the disparate parts of a city, Air Force Christian prayer chains cross all boundaries of geography.  Crossing boundaries is the essence of Air Power, since it is the battlespace one step above both Land and Sea.

The same if true of our Prayer lives, which supercede the battlespace of Air and Space, reaching to the metaphysical battlespace where we must engage our enemies, not on a flesh and blood level, but in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-13).  The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is inherently a war of “Cyberspace”, engulfing the realm of the metaphysical and abstract.  We can not offer secular Western democracy to replace fundamental Islam.  Democracy is a way to live, not a reason for living.  Allah is a reason for living, but living for YHWH is the only Master who will not crush us beyond Recovery.

I am tired of us not waging war in “Cyberspace” well.  It is the battlespace of academia, ideology, and one where prayer opens us to the vista of the heavenly places of struggle and dominion.  Yet, we pray in the trail of the robes of a victorious Returning King who has won the battle with, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

As a means of memorializing David’s sacrifice and to point the Church in the direction of how we are to fight the GWOT, I have started Sunrise Prayer Walking on bridges connecting key areas of the cities where the Lord places me.  This summer it was in Nashville on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge.  As I have moved back to Dallas for the semester, I am praying on the Continental Bridge next to the Margaret Hunt Trinity River Bridge – praying to the Trinity by “Praying Over the Trinity“.

Praying Over the Trinity – Facebook Page

The idea for the Prayer walk was an amalgamation of a Prayer Tree experienced at a three day Messianic Jewish Music Festival in Asheville, NC called AMF2012.  Essentially, it consists of making a prayer necklace of ribbon with a prayer request card attached that is placed in an area (on tree branches outside) where others can pray at their own discretion. At AMF, the Prayer Tree was setup by a lake.  We took the request and walked the lake.  If the Lord burdened, we kept the request.  If not, we replaced on the tree.


Prayer Requests Turned Over and Over in the Wind – Video

In Dallas, there is an area that is an emerging Art District called Trinity Groves, on the West Side of the new Trinity River Bridge.  Prayer requests are made, left in the trees, awaiting members of the Body of Christ to pray for them.  It’s a “leave a prayer”, “take a prayer” system helping the Bride to call out to the Father for our healing, through the Son, by the Spirit’s power.

If this is confusing, it might be on paper and in electronic ink, but in the flesh it’s beautiful.  This is an open invitation to come down to the river to pray.  Having seen “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” two years before getting saved, we sang “Down in the River To Pray” at my baptism by immersion.  It was a foreshadowing for today.

So, may the invitation be short and simple.  “Church, come pray.”

Jesus’s disciples asked, “Lord teach us to pray…” (Luke 11).  He answered.  May we answer him in prayer and contemplative meditation.

Combining with the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept I have been developing at Redeemer Seminary, the days of the week are covered by each playlist in the concept’s Sanctification series.  Like any Prayer warrior knows, the call of Psalm 46 of “Be still and know…” is in the context of warfare.  God wants us to stand and watch as He wins our battles for us.  We need only ask, watch and listen.

Day 1 – Sunday – On Fear of the Lord
Day 2 – Monday – On Prayer
Day 3 – Tuesday – On Confession
Day 4 – Wednesday – On Godly Sorrow
Day 5 – Thursday – On Repetance
Day 6 – Friday – On Reconciliation
Day 7 – Saturday – On Resting in (Abiding in) Christ

I’ll close this post with a song by David’s artistic namesake, David Gray – the singer.  At the rise of the Son in our lives, the world begins to disappear.  It’s a good song and a good prayer to pray at the sunrise (Malachi 4:2).  David Gray (the artist) meant the song to convey the sunset, but it’s beautiful to listen to at sunrise when we realize that when the Son Rises next, the world shall disappear and another “without tears” shall emerge.

Jesus has flipped the world on its head – where Two Star Generals salute little girls and widows, where the mighty are brought low, and the valleys lifted high.  It is a world where the Cross is the kiss of Justice and Love.  May we spend our time in the Shadow of His Cross as we bear our own, living in Resurrection power, whispering to our Father in Heaven.

Until that day, let’s pray together.  Stop trying to live by your own power.

You are weak, He is strong.

Park at the intersection of Pastor and Singleton, Dallas, TX and come pray…

Disappearing World
by David Gray, from “Life in Slow Motion

Slowly the truth is loading
I’m weighted down with love
Snow lying deep and even
Strung out and dreaming of

Night falling on the city
Quite something to behold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world

 We’re threading hope like fire
Down through the desperate blood
Down through the trailing wire
Into the leafless wood

 Night falling on the city
Quite something to behold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world
This disappearing world

 I’ll be sticking right there with it
I’ll be by your side
Sailing like a silver bullet
Hit ’em ‘tween the eyes
Through the smoke and rising water
Cross the great divide
Baby till it all feels right

 Night falling on the city
Sparkling red and gold
Don’t it just look so pretty
This disappearing world
This disappearing world
This disappearing world
This disappearing world

For Heather – A Tribute with the Help of Downton Abbey
…Seems like the album “Life in Slow Motion” was written for you…

World’s greatest need – Jesus.  Our greatest Joy – Prayer for His Return.

David answered the call, will you?


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