April 05, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

A Calvin contingent will learn the Korean way of prayer at a three-day event in California.

Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, Won Lee did a lot of praying. Every morning, his family attended sae byuk kido, the "dawn prayer meeting" held in the church. Sae byuk kido is the hallmark of Korean Christianity, said Lee: "Every single day, across the denominations, Korean Christians get up and go to church and pray before they go to work," he explained. "These days, some churches even provide breakfast for those who prefer to go to work right after prayer meeting." Because Lee's father was a pastor, dawn prayer was followed by family devotions, which included scripture reading, prayer and hymns. "And then you went to school," Lee said, "and sometimes you were late for school." Another regular event was a prayer meeting that started Friday evening and lasted all night.

In Korea, Lee summarized, prayer is a big part of everyday Christian life: “Not only is everybody doing it,” he said, “but that's part of how you're being trained.”

United in prayer

Lee hopes to re-connect to the Korean prayer tradition as one of several Calvin delegates to the CRC Prayer Summit held April 16-18 at All Nations Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Lakeview Terrace, Calif. The event is designed to unite Christian Reformed worshippers of all ages and from all ethnic groups as one praying and praising body.

“We hope to ignite passion within the people of God to seek God and God’s face together," says summit organizer Moses Chung, who serves the CRC as its director of Christian Reformed Home Missions. "We hope that this first summit will be a catalytic event for a movement like this within our congregation." Summit organizers are asking for each church and agency of the Christian Reformed Church to send six delegates to the event.

Lee will lead a workshop on the Psalms at the event. Also representing Calvin at the summit will be Calvin professor of religion David Crump, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship director John Witvliet, Calvin president Gaylen Byker, vice president for enrollment Russ Bloem and several students.

"We are very grateful for the hospitality of All Nations Church," Witvliet will speak at the opening of the event. "Korean congregations are an integral part of the Christian Reformed Church and the mission of Calvin College."

Bloem will participate in the three-days of prayer activities: “The Prayer Summit is an exciting project for the CRC, and it is great that Calvin College will be so actively involved—with participation of faculty, staff, and students,” he said. “I am personally looking forward a time of spiritual renewal and to making new connections with people of faith from around the country."

Teaching the Lord's Prayer

Crump will lead a workshop on praying the Lord's Prayer, which he sees as the believer's prayer template: "I think Jesus assumed that the disciples would pray the Lord's Prayer as they prayed other petitionary prayers, in that they'd memorize it and use it as a framework. Each petition in the prayer would be a springboard for your own extemporaneous prayer on the subject," he said.

Crump has written two books on prayer, Knocking on Heaven's Door and Jesus the Intercessor.

He gained his invitation to the summit through Lee, who recommended him as a speaker. Summit organizers visited him at Calvin and filmed him as part of the video "Watch and Pray, which will be shown at CRC congregations around the country. Crump is looking forward to worshiping with a diverse body of believers at the summit.

Giving back to the church

Lee is eager to see how that body responds to his native prayer tradition, which he hopes will include the Korean practice of praying in unison: "The pastor asks the congregation to pray at the same time about the message they've heard, committing themselves to follow the message ... to express their zeal and enthusiasm and love of God," he said.

Koreans are a growing segment of the Christian Reformed Church in the U.S., and part of the their attraction to the denomination, Lee believes, lies in their affinity with Reformed theology. Though there are no CRC churches in Korea, many Koreans are Presbyterian. Koreans also find consonance with the denomination, he said, because it was founded by an immigrant group. "So many Koreans try to learn from Dutch Americans how to assimilate into the U.S. without losing their distinctive culture," he explained.

He sees the Prayer Summit as a gift from the Korean CRC to the church that nurtured it: "The Korean Christians feel they have received much from the Christian Reformed churches, and they want to contribute something to the tradition," he said. “They want to initiate this movement, which is their strong suit. They want to lead the way of praying regularly and fervently."

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