Calvin staff and faculty share their experiences of the CRC Prayer Summit held in April at All Nations Church.
Several members of the Calvin community—faculty, staff and students—attended the first-ever CRC Prayer Summit held April 16-18 at All Nations Church, a a predominately Korean Christian Reformed congregation in Lakeview Terrace, Calif. Recently, Russ Bloem, the vice president for enrollment management, John Witvliet, the director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and Calvin professor of religion David Crump talked about the summit and the Korean prayer tradition:
What was your experience of the CRC Prayer Summit?
Bloem: It was just an invigorating, engaging, uniting event … I think a lot of people had moved out of their comfort zone, but most people found a comfort zone there within the environment and left just refreshed and energized and enlightened.
Witvliet: It was a time for both encouragement and prophetic challenge. The hospitality of All Nations Church was contagious!
Crump: I enjoyed a wonderful time of worship and prayer within a multi-cultural body while at the Prayer Summit. The dawn prayer meeting was actually a typical worship service with some additional prayer time included … . The prayer in unison put me in mind of what synagogue prayer may have been like in the time of Jesus, where time was set for each individual to pray for his/her own personal concerns.
Was there one thing about the summit that stays with you?
Witvliet: Korean Christians have such a firm commitment to faithful prayer. One of the breakthroughs at this conference was experiencing this strength not as something being brought to the CRC from the outside, but from within.
Crump: It was fun to spend some personal time with my colleague, Won Lee, hearing his perspectives on the various cultural, historical and sociological factors that have long been at work in shaping the Korean expressions of piety on display at the summit. What can I say—I'm an egghead. What else would you expect from a professor!
Bloem: There were so many aspects to it, but the most encouraging aspect was the spirit of unity. It wasn’t “us and them”; it was all “we.”
What do you think the CRC can learn from the Korean prayer tradition?
Crump: I believe that it would be a mistake to imagine that reproducing anyone's particular "style" of prayer might provide the key to church growth or personal spiritual growth. But, that being said, I certainly appreciate the emphasis given to prayer in congregational life.
Bloem: I grew up with this little phrase, “Prayer changes things.” The Koreans really believe prayer changes things. They practice prayer deeply and intentionally. You can pray a brief prayer—and I believe God hears you—but there’s a place to practice prayer deeply and intentionally and meaningfully … It felt like this could be the start of, or part of, something for our age.
Knocking on Heaven's Door
Luke 18 begins with the parable of a persistent woman—the widow who continually pesters an unjust judge until, weary of her petitioning, he grants her justice from her adversaries. The story is misunderstood, said Calvin religion professor David Crump:
“Where in scripture do we get a picture of God as someone who only listens to us after much repetition?” Crump reasoned. “The judge is not being compared to God. He’s being contrasted with him … . What the parable does is set up what Jesus says at the end: ‘When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’”
The many books that have been written about the parable of the persistent widow/ unjust judge—like many books about prayer—propose various formulae for communicating with God: “There’s a habit for us to draw conclusions from a favorite book or favorite prayer and try to universalize it,” Crump said. “We want prayer to be about getting things from God. God says prayer is all about trusting him and his faithfulness.”
In his 2006 book, Knocking on Heaven's Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer, Crump argues for a more coherent vision of New Testament prayer. He puts a theological and pastoral focus on each New Testament passage about prayer and brings them all together. The book emphasizes God’s faithfulness, Crump said: “The New Testament makes clear that God wants us to ask Him, and He wants to give to us.”
Knocking on Heaven's Door also examines the role of suffering in the Christian life. God is faithful even even when He doesn’t grant his children’s petitions: “Do we continue to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness and continue to pray to him even when it seems like he doesn’t care?” Crump asked. “Prayer is only going to grow and improve in our lives when we embrace that lesson and take it to heart.”