"It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray...'" Luke 11:1
"One of the disciples..." Not a committee, nor a convention or a called solemn assembly. One. Just one. All it takes is one. What a contribution to the world that one unnamed disciple made to the cause of intercessory prayer and world evangelism. If that one person had not asked, would we know that prayer always points us back home? One disciple, and two little words unleashed the power of Heaven... "Our Father." Lord, do it again!
Prayer and my Heavenly Father are virtually inseparable. On this Father's Day morning, it is a gentle reminder to me that my earthly father pointed me in the same direction. He has always maintained the same connection. I am grateful today for my father, my Dad, Don Miller.
Don Miller was raised in Pennsylvania. His family came from sturdy stock. From his father's side, Puritan ancestors came from England to the shores of Connecticut. Their arrival predates 1635. They were on the wrong side of history in their native land, when the royals came back in power. Their chosen form of worship put them at odds with the law. They left everything behind, and they came to America. By 1640, they crossed the Long Island sound and established the first English speaking church on the eastern end of "The Island." From his mother's side, his root system goes back to Germany and the Thirty Year's War. His people came to Pennsylvania on a circuitous route that took them from Hesse, to Ireland, across the Atlantic to Philadelphia and westward into what became Columbia County. They were hardy Lutheran lumbermen who built strong churches and covered wooden bridges that still stand in that heavily timbered part of the nation.
World War II interrupted the plans of millions of young Americans. When the Japanese bombs landed on ships in Pearl Harbor, Dad was a DJ at WKOK Sunbury, PA. He had developed a huge interest in drama while in high school, and had his eye on a career in radio or the stage. He was gifted with one of those "Columbia School of Broadcasting" voices that were so popular back in the day. In his high school yearbook, his class-mates predicted he would have a future in directing and producing 3-D movies. What a difference a war makes.
In May of 1943, stationed as an Army Air Corps cadet in Monroe, Louisiana, Dad came to know Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. His Reformed root system was rich and filled with the legacy of great personal sacrifice of those who gave him a start in this nation. Yet, it was a simple Gospel sermon, by Dr. L.T. Hastings of the First Baptist Church of Monroe, LA. that led him to an awareness of his lost condition. Dad had been invited to attend church on Sunday morning by another service man from Alabama. Later that day they were seated outside on the steps of the tar paper shack barracks of Selman Field. They were talking about what they had heard the preacher say about the love of God. Dad reached out his hand and said to his army buddy, "I don't know how to do this, but if you will take my hand, let's shake on it. Let's agree to take that preacher at his word, and accept it as fact God loves us and is willing to forgive our sin." They shook hands. Dad was saved. They never saw each other again. The rest,as they say, is history.
The saving grace of Christ is such a mystery, but it is no less real than the breath in a man's lungs. It gives life. It forgives sin. It bears fruit. It is hard to determine when it begins in the lives of some, but it always gives evidence that it is there. Dad's life was no different. He shared with the Baptist preacher what he had done, and Dr. L.T. Hastings encouraged him to make his public profession of faith in Jesus. His signature on the certificate indicates he baptized Dad on May 6, 1943. On that same day, my father was called to preach. He has been doing it for almost seven decades. Thousands more have turned to the saving knowledge of Jesus as a result of that one hand shake. What was shaken on those barrack steps was sealed in the halls of Heaven. What a story!
As the war drew to a close, God's calling on Dad's life turned his thoughts towards college. Dr. W.A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Muskogee, Oklahoma, directed Dad towards Baylor University and away from Bob Jones College. Credit belongs to Dr. C for turning our family into Texans. The "G.I. Bill" opened a door for an education. It had never been an option before the war. Dad became the first person in his family to graduate from college, since they left Europe. God bless America!
Dad met my mother in the First Baptist Church of Monroe in 1944. She was singing in the choir, when she heard him preach for the first time. Mom said he was a wild man, moving all over the stage. He had the congregation laughing, and crying. His stage presence was a bit over the top and pretty over-whelming to her. She had not seen his year book yet. He had a flair for the dramatic. Long story short, she fell in love with the wild man.
Dad and Mom partnered together for over 30 years as he served as pastor, home missionary, itinerant evangelist and church planter. God used all of that experience to turn Dad's heart for prayer into another phase of ministry.For 33 years, 1977-2010, Bible Based Ministries took Dad and my mother into a thousand churches, 48 states, and every continent. The videos of his prayer conference, distributed by Texas Baptist Men, went even farther. Their little house on the East Side of Ft. Worth became Prayer Central. Today the Don Miller Prayer Conference has been produced in a DVD format by his dear friend, Dr. Steve Gaines of Bellvue Baptist Church of Memphis, TN. This has assured Dad's legacy of personal prayer and passion for intercession within the church will continue for decades to come.
An interesting side note: The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention appointed Dad to lead out in Pioneer Missions and plant churches on Long Island in 1960. He remained on "The Island" until 1977. He was pastor of one of those churches he planted in Suffolk County from 1966-1977. Only recently did we discover his early ancestors planted the first English speaking church on Long Island in 1640...on Suffolk County. Dad had come full circle.You can't make this stuff up.
Still, the greatest legacy my Dad has given to me is his consistent and passionate heart for prayer. His first words of every prayer he prays are, "Holy Father." On this "Father's Day" I am grateful for my father's love for me. He has always been a father who would hear me out, and not shout me down. I know he has not always agreed with me, but I have had confidence that he has always prayed for me. That is not wishful thinking. It is a fact based on the experience of having him pray with me. He has taught me to give God elbow room in the face of every impossible situation. He has shown me the wisdom to slow down to the Spirit's pace, to step back and to watch God do the HIMpossible. He has shown me how prayer is the way back home to The Father's arms for every lost child. By his own example, Dad has shown me how prayer is the only way to place a man-sized problem in The Father's hands for a God-sized solution. Dad has shown me how prayer provides rest, but that it is not for the lazy man. Prayer leads to rest by Releasing Every Single Thing into The Father's hands and leaving the results up to Him.
Happy Father's Day! Dad. Thank you for reaching out your hand to The Father 69 years ago. I join thousands of grateful people you have taught to call out to "Our Father." Thanks for showing us the way home.
As always, I am proud to be called...
Gary Don Miller