As I prepare for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this year, I’m battling chronic pain.
I’m praising God for helping me maintain a productive writing schedule while meeting deadlines.
But most importantly, I’m practicing a four-letter-word that’s become part of my process of preparing to congregate with other Christian writers.
What’s the secret?
What’s the most important thing we can do before and during any writers conference?
P.R.A.Y. while we pray.
P: Pursue God more than publication.
R: Remember our purpose is to use writing as a tool for ministry.
A: Acknowledge and Appreciate God’s presence and the people around us.
Y: Yield our agenda to God’s will and His leading.
When we P.R.A.Y., we’ll be able to see past ourselves and:
* Pray for those attending the conference.
* Pray for those disappointed because they’re staying home.
* Pray for those who are confident because they prepared.
* Pray for those who feel utterly unprepared.
* Pray for those celebrating good news and receiving great feedback.
* Pray for those who are discouraged enough to consider quitting.
* Pray for the people we pass along the tree-lined walkways.
*Pray for the people God places directly on our path.
* Pray for the people serving us.
* Pray for those we have the privilege of serving.
But if the Lord blesses us with the opportunity to attend the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, we can enjoy every moment and make a difference in God’s Kingdom by committing to P.R.A.Y. while we pray.
Because some writers will be breathing sighs of relief after barely meeting the deadline for pre-submissions. Others will be talking themselves off the ledge because they missed the deadline.
A few will be nailing pitches. Others will struggle with pitches. And some will be trying not to freak out as they stop reading this article and say, “Okay, Google, what is a pitch?”
Many, if not all, will be terrified of rejection.
During our time at Mount Hermon, some writers will struggle physically or emotionally. Some will be concerned about sick kids or parents, unemployed spouses, trials waiting for them to return, and prodigals wandering or on their way home.
Grief, discouragement, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain won’t sit on the sidelines until conference ends.
Life-changing diagnoses or transitions will lurk in the shadows, waiting to be dealt with after some writers return from their mountaintop experiences.
Writers will be wondering if they prepared enough meals for spouses who can’t cook. Some will feel bad for not being around when kids need help with a project.
Some will be missing their new babies or grand-babies, missing celebrations or big announcements, and longing for their comfortable beds.
Introverts might feel invisible. A few beginning writers may feel like they don’t belong. Some will feel at home with their tribe.
And a few first-timers will be nervous because they won’t know one single person when they step onto that beautiful campus. (If this describes you, look for the first-timer-friendly folks with hearts on their name tags. And if you find me at the conference and mention this article, we’ll be friends. People are already praying for you.)
Every person attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, no matter what their role, will have been covered by prayers. Every single person.
When we’re devoted to serving the Lord first, we’ll be able to participate in His wonderful works, enjoy this incredible opportunity to grow spiritually, take our writing to the next level, and confirm God’s calling on our lives.
We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us truly see the person sitting next to us in chapel, to listen attentively when someone’s sharing their heart, to pray for others, and notice those who look like they need a word of encouragement.
We can approach these five to seven days with a mission to make a name for ourselves, focused only on what we can get out of the classes or what we can get out of the people we meet.
Or, we can keep God first, trust Him to lead us one step at a time, and P.R.A.Y. while we pray for others.
Who will join me in discovering the peace we experience when we master this powerful four-letter-word?
(An older version of this article was published on the Inspire blog on March 15, 2016.)