By MARK HIKES
Prayer is a huge part of our journey with Jesus, but I didn’t always think that way. If you’d asked me 20 years ago if I believed in God, my answer would have been, “Sure … doesn’t everybody?” In 2013, I realized I was missing the most important part about Jesus: knowing He wants a relationship with me.
Growing up, church was confusing. Mom wanted to raise me in the Catholic church, but she lost that argument with Dad, who was Protestant. I remember two important things about my church life growing up — going EVERY Sunday, and that church was never part of anything else around me. We never talked about God outside of church. I just figured that was normal.
During college, I didn’t go to church at all, really, until I met my wife, Natalie. Our first church got us through our wedding and our son DJ’s baptism. Our attendance had a lot of ups and downs, and once our pastor retired, we stopped going. Isn’t that the way it works? Your pastor retires and you retire with him? We were in no hurry to find a new church until Jack was born.
In February 2012, we moved to Madison and tried several churches. Neighbors told us about their church and convinced us to visit. On our first day at Madison United Methodist, it was just your normal good ole church service until the scripture was read: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). I had the weirdest feeling. It was like I was the only person in the congregation, and the pastor was speaking directly to me. We returned the next several Sundays, got involved in a small group, and became members by Christmas. We had found a church home.
When we first moved here, I heard, “I’m praying for you, brother” a lot. I would smile, and sometimes laugh, and think to myself, “Who are you kidding, you ain’t praying for me.” I was actually cynical about it. Until a co-worker asked me about our son DJ, who was having some health concerns. Though the issues were not too serious, it was enough to keep these two parents worried. My co-worker said, “I’d like to pray for you and your family.”
I was polite and said, “Thank you, I appreciate that.” But here’s the catch: He meant RIGHT THERE. He reached out and grabbed my hand. NO WAY, this guy is not going to pray for me right now, in the middle of a store! But he did. He grabbed my hand and he prayed for me and my family. I finally witnessed someone carrying out their prayer, and he did it in the middle of an aisle with customers all around us. I mean, when we opened our eyes, there were customers waiting for us to help them.
Several weeks later, one of my managers came to my office. His wife was sick, and a series of tests were planned. We talked about the business side of things, but I assured him his focus should be on his wife. I said, “I’m going to pray for you and your family.” Then I immediately thought, “Wait, what? Where’d that come from?”
At that moment, I got my command: “If you’re going to pray for him, you pray for him right now.” I was shocked. That voice got my attention. So I asked if I could pray for him right now, and although he seemed a little uncomfortable, he allowed it. I moved closer, put my hand on his shoulder, and prayed. I can’t even tell you what I said.
When he left the office, I just sat with my head in my hands replaying the “God things” that had happened over the past few months. I called Pastor Jim and told him to clear his calendar. I was on the way. We met and talked for hours. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior that day, and Jim was my witness.
Those months leading up to February 13, 2013, changed my life … and my family’s life … forever! Much has happened in my relationship with Jesus since then, but it’s a longer story. Read more in my first book, “15 Minutes with Jesus,” and the full story in a future book, “Journey with Jesus / My Spiritual Checkpoints.”
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Mark Hikes lives in Madison with his wife, Natalie, and two sons, DJ and Jack. They share life with four rescue animals: three dogs, Yetti (Akita), Emma (Australian shepherd), Maggie (red bone coon hound), and one cat, Charlie. Mark is a member of Madison United Methodist Church, where he serves as a family