I was planning on skipping the prayer room at Urbana 12. The lines were long, and I didn’t have anything specific to pray for. The idea of having someone pray for me seemed self-centered. I could talk to God on my own. My life wasn’t so bad that I needed someone else to pray with me.
But after hearing stories about the prayer room, my curiosity was piqued. My inner journalist was screaming at me to get down there, and experience something new. Like my entire InterVarsity experience, I had no idea what I was getting into.
I walked into the prayer room and sat down in the rows of chairs. They handed me a little sheet with the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11 on it.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I looked at it for a few seconds and I started to freak out. I was on the edge of a panic attack. And I had no idea why.
Make This Place Your Home
I put in my headphones hoping to distract myself with music and got a song I’ve only heard a few times, “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Nothing particularly special about the song, but halfway through the lyrics, I started crying.
Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home
God was probably the only person in the world who knew how unhappy I was in my new college town. I’d mentioned it a few times to my mom, but I don’t think she even knew how much I disliked Lawrence. How lonely and lost I felt. I’d been debating all weekend on whether I should start commuting from my own hometown, or even attend another college. And here, the Lord was comforting me, telling me he was going to make Lawrence my home, and I just had to wait.
I quickly pulled myself together. I hate crying. And crying in front of a bunch of strangers? Yeah, no. I calmed down and by the time I went into the main prayer room, I had convinced myself it was just a coincidence. I was tired, I told myself. I was imagining things.
I sat down with my prayer partner and gave some general reasons for prayer. We sat in silence, and I felt this odd sensation, like I was floating. My prayer partner opened her eyes and said she kept feeling these waves of peace. She kept emphasizing the word ocean, and it wasn’t until I was walking out of the prayer room that I began to wonder if the ocean had a more significance.
Let me tell you about my grandmother. She loved the ocean. I remember she became upset when she found out I was going to get to see the ocean for the first time with my other grandparents. My grandmother and I used to collect shells and make collages of our favorites. Her entire Kansas basement was ocean-themed.
My grandmother was also a born-again Christian, and from what my mother says, underwent a significant transformation after dedicating her life to Christ. My grandmother was the one who taught me the Bible and taught me to love Christ. My grandmother was the reason I believed in miracles despite my logical mindset.
But most of all, when I was feeling lonely or upset, my grandmother would always comfort me. I would run next door (I lucked out in having my grandparents as next-door neighbors) and eat some of her food. Or I would make arts and crafts in that ocean-themed basement. Her home was a place where I could forget my loneliness, my anxiety. She was home.
She passed away my freshman year of high school. I was lucky enough to have an entire week to say goodbye. Her last words to me were quite simply, “I love you, too.” God brought her to his home a day later, and I still miss my best friend.
Peace in the Waiting
During my prayer time at Urbana 12, I tried to convince myself the word ocean was just a coincidence. Even if after I left, I broke down crying again for no solid reason.
I called my mother after a few minutes and told her about my experience. Even though I didn’t share my suspicions about it having anything to do with grandma, my mom immediately pointed out how grandma had loved the ocean.
For the rest of Urbana, I experienced a kind of peace I’ve never experienced before. My skeptical mind came to the realization that God had been speaking to me—through my experiences and memories of my grandma. Just like I felt at home with my grandma, I would feel the same way in Lawrence. He was telling me I had a home and to just give him a little time.
A month later, I signed a lease for an amazing apartment in Lawrence. A place I was excited to live in. A home I wanted to be in. God had listened to my prayers, and he had found me a place where I could belong.
Conversing With My God
Since then, I’ve had some incredible experiences with listening prayers. I most often experience feelings of peace and serenity even though I’ve struggled with severe OCD since high school. While medication solved some of the most obvious problems, I still struggled with letting my guard down around other people. Through listening prayer, God told me to let down my barriers through allowing myself to receive hugs from friends and family. This has been a first step in what may be God healing me of OCD.
Listening prayer has changed my entire perspective on praying, and it has made praying much more interesting. Before Urbana, praying was, quite honestly, boring. It was me saying the same old things to the person who already knew what I needed and wanted. Now, I am the one doing the listening. Now, I am conversing with my God, not yelling out to a distant being. God wants to talk to me, and I can’t wait for what else he has to share.