If there’s one lesson that I learn from my dad is: Take everything to prayer.
For me, the picture next to Prayer Warrior would be of my father. The man is a man of prayer. And God has blessed him through his prayers.
One of the earliest memories I have of living in America is having a family communion after my dad finished his first ever 40 day fast. We had just moved to the States from Korea. I was only 6, so I didn’t really comprehend what was going on with my dad. But my dad didn’t have a church to serve. He was a pastor without a church. He shared with me that he was so desperate that he thought of going to work at a dry cleaners to support his family.
He was compelled by the Spirit to go on a 40 day fast. And he did. I don’t really remember any of the fast of itself. But I do remember that day he broke the fast. Because it was the first time I saw my dad cry. I don’t know if it was candlelit or the lighting of our apartment, but my dad led us in a family worship in, what I recall, a very dimly lit room. He handed my mom piece of bread and then juice. Then he turned to me, with tears in his eyes, offering bread and juice. And of course, seeing my dad cry at the age of 6, I was automatically going to cry too.
Then after our family worship, he broke his fast (well, I guess he technically broke it with the minuscule piece of bread he took). He had plain porridge, the official meal after a fast (at least in my family). And I remember him eating it ever so slowly, ever so gently, not in a manner of savoring the food, but more because it seemed like it hurt to eat.
3-5 months after he ended the fast, we got a call to move to Columbia, South Carolina because there was a church for my dad. So we moved to Columbia in 87 and then later, my little brother would be born. The first American citizen of our entire ancestory.
My dad went on another 40 day fast when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. This time, I was more aware of what was going on. The Gido Won (literally, a prayer house) that he did his fast was about two hours away from our home and up in the mountains (where gido wons traditionally are). We would frequently visit my dad, Mom more often. Sometimes, she’d drive up in the middle of the night to help him out, be his moral support, then be home early enough to take us to school.
On our visits, Dad was nothing but smiles. I think he was genuinely happy to see us, as if we were some moral boost or something. The further he got into the fast, the skinnier he would be and the more his face would be drawn. I remember near the end, his calf would be as thick as my forearm. He had found a huge stick during one of his walks around the forest that he used as a staff. And when it was time for us to leave, he would walk us out and lean on that staff as we drove away. I would watch from the sideview mirror, my dad getting smaller and smaller, but his smile brighter than ever. I would always be wearing my sunglasses when we parted because I didn’t want anyone to see me cry as the image of my dad faded away from the side mirror. Though, I’m sure my mom noticed. For her credit, she wouldn’t start a conversation with me until we were well on the freeway.
My dad would go on two more 40 day fasts. Once when I was in college in Hawaii. Then once more when I was in seminary, also in Hawaii.
He always said that he wanted to do one more 40 day fast before he physically couldn’t do one.
Well, last year, my dad was appointed to a (notorious) Korean church as the interim pastor. This year, he will be reappointed to that church, but no longer as an interim. A part of me worries about the effect that this church will have on my parents’ health, because it’s not the healthiest of churches. Since he will no longer be the interim pastor, my dad is viewing this as God’s way of saying that this is the church that God has given him, that he is to be their leader and shepherd led by God’s grace.
So, he said that he needed to pray and fast for the ministry God has gifted him with and for the church.
Starting yesterday, my dad embarked on a 20-day fast. I knew that his intentions were 40 days, so I asked him why 20 instead of 40. He responded that this is one of the bigger and busier churches that he’s ever ministered at. 40 day fast will take him out of commission for far too long. While it’s important to fast, he felt that it wouldn’t be wise to not be at 100% for more than 6 months. It takes a long time to recuperate from these fasts. You can’t just jump into the food. You have to work your body into it. So, for about 20-40 days after the forty day fast is over is when you start introducing fish into the diet. (Someone once told me that you should eat porridge for the length you fasted for.) And you ever so slowly start introducing more and more into your diet. I think it’s about after 6 months (maybe longer) when you can start eating fairly normal. At least, this is my experience from watching my dad. He felt that he would do the church more harm than help if he were out of commission for more than half a year.
Growing up with a dad like that, I have no excuse to be as lazy as I am in my prayer life. I know, understand and have witnessed the power of prayer. Yet, it’s a discipline that I take for granted. Or just am inexcusably lazy at. A part of it could be because I know I have people like my parents and my parents in-law praying over us. But that’s simply an awful, awful, awful excuse to not pray.
I’ve been thinking nonstop about my dad since yesterday. While I have a deep concern for his health and well-being, my dad has gotten me to have a deeper concern for my personal prayer life. I simply don’t pray enough. And, admitting, I have heard, is the first step towards change.
If you can, please keep my dad in your prayers. And my mom. Fasting can put enormous amount of burden on the spouse as well. The GidoWon that my dad is staying at is about an hour away from my parents’ residence. I’m pretty sure that my mom is going to make daily trips to be there for my dad. So please, if you can, keep my parents in your prayers.
I hope that God will strengthen my parents in these 20 days and beyond as my dad is probably in his last appointment before he retires from being a professional clergy. And I pray that his church will join him in this journey of prayer and that God will bless the church as they live out God’s vision for them, all the while striving for unity, grace and love that will overflow from the walls of the church and into the community.
And I hope that I wake my ass up and start following the example my dad has set in front of me.