Two years ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a high school camp over Labor Day weekend. Mind you, this was pre-cancer, this was at a time when the content had nothing to do with my story in particular and had everything to do with being just a plain ol’ dude with (possibly) something to say about Jesus.
As an intro into each of my messages I invited the teens to pray with me in unique ways that I thought would allow us to engage the particular Jesus topic we were about to encounter. So, for example, when I shared stories that captured the side of Jesus that reminds us how he fights on our behalf I invited the kids to rub their hands together and then open them up as if receiving a gift. We took this prayer posture while we then invited the God who gives, cares, and sacrifices on our behalf to be more present in our lives. I thought it was a cool experience…I new knew if it connected on any level with anyone else…and it didn’t necessarily matter I guess.
Anyway, two years later, we decided to visit up at camp for the day. As we were there (this was last week) ten year old Caleb asked if we could pray this same way on my behalf. It must be noted that Caleb was only eight when I invited the camp to pray this way two years ago, and it must be also noted that he’s way too young for this camp in the first place! Oh, and it should probably also be said (though we all already know this) that none of us ever remember what a teacher, preacher, or speaker of any kind said twenty minutes ago let alone two years ago! What the?! And yet here we find Caleb not only remembering but wanting to engage in it right here, right now, at this very moment! Caleb approached the directors of the camp and asked if the entire Faith Quest (the name of the camp) community could pray over me in this way–”in the way that Ryan taught us to pray a few years ago.” I’ll say it again, what the heezy?! What the hizflip? What the what!?
So twenty minutes later I found myself with my wife, my parents, one of my sisters, and my uncle being prayed over in front of 500 people, lead by one boy: Caleb.
It was needed prayer too.* I had just spent the entire prior day sick and in the ER. Heading out to the camp for the day was a risky move, one that we were lucky enough to not have backfire on us because you just never know from moment to moment how my body will respond and feel. We stepped out on a limb driving out there and it did not come without cost–but it also came with great blessing. And the greatest of those blessings was Caleb’s faith. It was his prayer. It was the prayer of the FQ community initiated by this one boy.
Honestly I cannot tell you what he said in his prayer. I’m not sure it matters too much. There’s this idea in Scripture that the Spirit of God groans on our behalf, that even when we don’t have the words or when we’re saying goofy words, the Spirit of God is speaking for us and speaking in the silence and even speaking through our gibberish. Caleb prayed as a person of faith, he prayed with humility, he prayed with passion, and he definitely prayed with courage. It was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be carried by his words, and I hope that all the high schoolers who were out there that weekend learned something from him. I remember being in high school. High schoolers can be a dense group of people. Or. OR they can be a cloud of people who are able to be touched by such moments as these. My hope is that they were. My hope is that they saw Caleb’s faith and were invited to step up to the challenge of belief, hope, and prayer. I know I felt challenged and invited.
Oh, and the greatest thing about all of this was the giant hug that Caleb gave me afterwards. For a kid that isn’t the biggest of them all, his hug was huge! Somehow his small stature engulfed my bloated body up on stage has he gave me a massive bear hug that far exceeded his frames potential. It was just one of those moments that sticks with you.
* Prayer is obviously always needed. But in this particular moment there was a stronger felt need for sure.