Meet Bob Spradling
The summer of 1967 was a remarkable time in my life. A good friend badgered me into attending church with him. I had little interest in attending church and becoming “religious.” After what seemed like endless requests to go with him to the Southside Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, I agreed to accompany him on a Friday night for a special youth related service.
I can’t tell you what the preacher said. I do recall that he wasn’t too interesting. I don’t know a single song that the choir sang and it wasn’t very memorable either. Something did happen that night that is far more important than hearing eloquent speaking and stirring music. I had a personal meeting with God.
At that time, I didn’t know how to respond to an encounter with God. I didn’t even know that a meeting like this was possible, since I seldom attended church. I found myself saying these words, “God, you can have my life.” That was all it took. That moment began what has been a fifty-year friendship with Jesus Christ, whom I call my best friend.
I can look to everything good in my life and point to friendship with Jesus as the source of all the good that I have ever experienced. For example, I would never have met my wife, Toni, if it were not for this friendship with Jesus. Our three grown children, their spouses, and two grandsons are also part of God’s plan that began when he and I became friends in the ‘60s.
I wish I had begun writing Real Voices in 1968 when I began to pastor my first church in the little town of Perkins, Missouri. I could have introduced you to some of the 142 people (the entire population of the town) who helped shape my future ministry.
If I had been writing in the 1970s, I could introduce you to dynamic professors who taught me valuable tools of ministry. If I had video on my phone back then, you could have seen the men who took me hog hunting in a flat-bottom boat in the Pascagoula swamp. I also could have introduced you to Mr. Stauffer, the 99 year-old man for whom I performed a wedding at that vintage age. Stories from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Southeast Missouri would have occupied more than a decade of friendships.
For the past 32 years, my friendship with Jesus has placed my family and me at Maywood Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri. It is here that I am privileged to share stories and the spiritual journeys of people in my life today.
The Beginning of “Newspaper Prayers”– Frank Terrell– A Call to Prayer
Frank Terrell is 83 years old and has been married for 51 years. He retired following a successful career in real estate. In the early 1990s, Jeff Black, then pastor of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, asked Frank to lead a group of praying men. In 2017 Frank continues his ministry of prayer. After 9/11, Frank and I met each morning for prayer at St. Andrew’s for many months. It makes sense that Frank would give me a call when he felt there was another call to collective prayer.
This summer Frank told me about what he feels God has called him to do. This is the message Frank believes God has given him. He has printed business cards that read:
A word from God: “MY POWER MUST BE MADE MANIFEST IN THE EARTH TODAY.” Here is how: “MY CHILDREN ARE TO PRAY OVER THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER DAILY.”
On the back of the card are these words:
A CALL TO PRAYER: Are you upset with the state of the world? Then change it. PRAY!
Frank explained to me the reason for reading and praying the paper. We read the paper to see how God is answering our prayers. As people pray, it will be reflected in the events we read in the newspaper. Frank is part of a generation that does not use social media, so I am helping him by including his passion for prayer in the real-voices blog.
In addition to Frank’s very specific call to prayer, I am asking people to consider a daily reading of the Old Testament prophets. I feel that it is not enough to pray personal impressions that are generated by the daily news. To effectively pray we must align our prayers with the revealed will of God.
Why read the Old Testament prophets? The prophets always stood outside of culture and spoke the will of God. As we pray we need to be in touch with God’s will. That is the only effective way to pray. Jesus gave us this promise concerning prayer, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15.7). If we abide in Jesus’ words, we will align our lives and prayers with his will. Clearly, this is the best kind of praying we can do for our city, state, nation and world.
Both Frank Terrell and I invite you to spend time daily reading the news from a source of your choice and informing your prayers with a reading from the Old Testament prophets. I will begin my reading with the prophet, Isaiah. I hope you will join me there. Each day, I will post what was read in both the Bible and in the New York Times– the news source I have chosen.
I will also post a brief prayer about what was read from the Bible and the paper.
Please join Frank and me in this endeavor. Also, please post a prayer or impression from the prophets of your own.
The Real Voices with Spiritual Friends Project
Since 1968 I have had spiritual friends in my life. They were truly “real voices” that educated me, corrected me, brought laughter to me, and became my genuine partners in the journey of life. Many of them were not the usual suspects of mentors for a minister. Milton Williams is an example of someone who filled the role of a spiritual friend. He rode a 10-speed bike with A-frame handlebars. His daily attire was a ten-gallon hat, a western shirt and cowboy boots. By the time Milton was twenty-five, he had received more than a recommended allotment of electric shock treatments from a system that didn’t know what to do with him. Yet, Milton was both a genuine friend and an educator for me. He taught me all of the carpenter skills that I know. If I could capture the magic of his personality, you’d be happy to be his friend, too.
Currently, I meet each week with eight of these spiritual friends in a small group. Two more spiritual friends meet with me individually, usually over coffee. The third friend is incarcerated and we communicate through the postal service and occasional visits.
The Real Voices project is about real people, who will engage you, make you think and laugh, and want to be a better person. Many of our Real Voices people are addicts or are ex-offenders. They are courageous individuals, who are attempting to climb out of the “hole” that life and poor choices have created for them. They are my friends, who bring joy and friendship to my life. My prayer is that some of their character rubs off on you, as you listen to their stories.
I hope the readers of this blog will interact with us and the network of spiritual friends will grow.