Campolo puts priority on prayer
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
At 77, Tony Campolo is still traveling the world to bring a message he’s given countless times before. Yet the veteran motivational speaker always draws a good crowd. And he connects with listeners even as he challenges their insularity and selfishness.
“The purpose of education isn’t to get a job in order to get money. It is to equip you to serve other people in the name of Jesus,” he insists.
“Who you are is determined by what you’re committed to,” he told the crowd at an early December fundraising dinner. “I could have been in Florida right now, but I’m in Winnipeg in winter because I believe the North End Family Centre is at a tipping point,” he said, urging his audience to support the ministry with regular monthly donations.
In an interview, Campolo told ChristianWeek he is healthy and doing as well as he can do at his age. “Slow down? I am trying to make up for lost time. I’ve been saved by grace, and I want to offer more.”
Campolo says that he’s enjoying a season of spiritual contentment. “I’ve had dark times, but this isn’t one of them.” A stroke seven years ago provided a powerful glimpse of his mortality. “I realized I could die, and that it was no threat to me. It is well with my soul.”
He said that his message has not fundamentally changed in recent years, but that the emphasis is different. “I’m as socially conscious as ever, but I’ve seen enough people burn out to realize that you can’t work for social justice for very long if you don’t find way to pray and to refresh your soul. I am more prayerful. I feel more need to pray.”
Indeed, many of Campolo’s more recent books (e.g. The God of Intimacy and Action and Connecting Like Jesus) elaborate on this theme.
“I actually have a hard time praying publicly,” he allows. “Oh sure, I can get up there and say a bunch of words that serve the purpose. But the prayer that feeds me is too intimate for that.”
So what would Campolo say to a person who is struggling with prayerlessness?
“That it’s time to stop talking,” he replies. “Go off by yourself. Don’t say anything. Wait for God. Wait patiently. Wait and yield. ‘Turn your eyes on Jesus, and Earth grows strangely dim.’ He is the God of intimacy and action. Wait on Him. He will act.”