Last Friday I was blessed to have coffee with Mary Jo Pierce at her home…in her prayer room. Such a precious little gift that the Lord gave me, and I am moved by it.
Mary Jo Pierce is the Pastor of Prayer and Intercession at Gateway church…where I am a full time member. She has been on staff there since 2004, and has since cultivated a rich culture of prayer AND intercession for Gateway. She is creative, gentle, wise, and oh-so-curious. In the words of my three year old…”She’s pretty” as well. Mary Jo has also recently launched her own website within the last year, and you can take at look by going to maryjopierce.com You can learn all kinds of things there including her love for prayer, Shabbat, and baking.
When I first saw Mary Jo it was at a service at the Southlake campus of Gateway (not completely sure which one), but she approached the stage to pray. Mary Jo has such a gentle voice when you speak with her and when she began to speak to us about what we were praying for it was just as sweet, but then she started to pray. It wasn’t crazy loud…she wasn’t yelling…she didn’t change her tone…but a boldness came out of her and this POWERFUL prayer just poured out of her. I said, “I need to meet that woman.” The Lord blessed me with this, and He has allowed me to glean from a woman that I hold with such high respect.
I also FILMED IT!!! So…I may be doing this more often depending on how it goes. I have written it out as well for those that might want to read it. This post is the first of three….we had coffee for an hour!!!
Me: Okay. If you could have coffee with anyone who would that be? Dead or alive. It doesn’t matter…or you can choose one of both…that’s fine.
Mary Jo: The one who is dead…is an easy answer for me. It’s Teresa of Avila. She is a Carmelite nun from the 16th century…and she is considered a desert mother or a desert father…you know…one of those saints that came from that period. She raised up at a time when she realized that carnality had come into the convent….long and short of it…she wrote a book called the Interior Castles of the Heart. It has been rewritten and I came across it a couple of years ago and it’s called Mansions of the Heart. What I loved about it is…here is a woman in the 16th century and they asked her to write from her journals…and what she unpacked…is EXACTLY the things that are on my heart to teach in prayer. I love what she does. She goes into seven parts of the heart…but it talks about a pilgrimage of prayer. It also talks about how you might be in the third room and something happens where you need to go back to the basics. I thought…wow…that is so wonderful…that there is really nothing new under the sun. God is still growing men and women of prayer. He is still introducing Himself to the foundational…growing…get to know you better…walk with me…talk with me…intimate places in Him. She is someone I’d love to sit down and talk to someday. When you talk prayer it translates well in any language…so I think she would be fascinating to sit down and talk to. People alive? I’d like to do exactly what you are doing. I think everybody has a story. There’s no one that I would like more than to sit across the table from you Megan and say: What’s prayer look like to you? How do you find God? How do you search out the scriptures? So…I think there is something about Everyman. I love the nameless faceless…did you see War Room? I’d like to find all the Miss Clara’s.
Mary Jo: They have incredible stories. I’ve had Miss Clara’s in my life. So, those are the people that would inspire me…and encourage me…and strengthen my faith…those secret places in prayer that people have found.
Me: I love that.
Mary Jo: God’s saints.
Me: Yes! That’s it! I’m having coffee with Everyman…every person…every woman. I love that. Okay, so what IS your story…what is your testimony?
Mary Jo: Well…basically my testimony is…growing up loving God…growing up in a religious home…a Catholic home…going to parochial school all my life knowing a lot about God and…having nuns teach me and model a life devoted to God…but not really connecting to the “personal”. It’s interesting…I mentioned my book…its coming out in March and it starts with my story. It starts with my testimony so it is fresh in my mind. The twenties I describe as the dark night of my soul…lost…and feeling like Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall…and not knowing how to put it back together again. Then God found me…actually I found God…He knew exactly where I was. I got saved in a Catholic charismatic prayer meeting.
Me: That’s amazing!
Mary Jo: I know…March 16…76. Isn’t that wonderful? Then I never looked back. God connected with me through the hug of a woman. She greeted me with a hug and all of the resistance and the walls came tumbling down. So…that was it. Since then…it will be 40 years. Can you believe it? So…I’m grateful. Being saved and filled with the Spirit was the beginning…it was the end but also the beginning. It was a long road…of healing and…being delivered…and being set free. That’s why I love what we do at Gateway. I love the saved, healed, delivered, discipled, equipped…and for 40 years it has been that journey.
Me: You’re the prayer minister at Gateway…Pastor of Prayer and Intercession. So…what is prayer….and I guess what is intercession? Those are two different things…prayer and intercession…I didn’t even think that. So what is prayer…and what are your strategies…non negotiables?
Mary Jo: This is going to sound memorized because it is written so much on my heart…but let me tell you…when I was interviewing or approached about the job at Gateway…and it was my final interview with pastor Tom. The position was pastor of prayer, and he asked if I had any input or thoughts…and I said yes…I would like it to be pastor of prayer AND intercession. He said, “Why?” I said because it is two different things…and I would like the opportunity to introduce a culture of prayer…which is relationship with God…and intercession which is partnership with God…into what we do here at Gateway. He loved the idea. I’ve looked back on it Megan…really…and I thought….that was more God than me. God calling us as a church to be a house of prayer…and calling out the intercessors. I wanted to create a place where intercessors understand partnership with God. Dutch Sheet’s book called Intercessory Prayer…it’s number one as far as mentoring me in my prayer life. The partnership done in a way where everybody recognizes that they all stand in the gap they all mediate to the Lord. What level and what degree changes as people mature in the Lord. But still a place for people to understand partnership…so the department is prayer and intercession.
Me: I love it!
Mary Jo: I do…I love it so much.
Me: So what is your prayer strategy…those non-negotiables?
Mary Jo: I have not put this on my blurb yet…my website…BUT…I taught Titus 2…a couple of months ago. I thought….I’ve got a short amount of time…to speak to some phenomenal women…and what is it, Lord? So…here’s my three non-negotiables for my own personal prayer life. Time…we have to make time…prayer just doesn’t happen. It has to be anchored…and you’ve got to make time. And I know that that is more challenging at different seasons of your life…whether you are in college…or corporate…young mother. In this season of my life I feel like I have never been busier. So my thing is…regardless of what season of life you are in…there is enough in life that you are always going to be busy. It takes time to nurture our relationship. So my one non-negotiable is making time with God. My second is the Word of God…my non-negotiable is scripture. Prayer is birthed in knowing who God is…His character…how He lives…what His will is…and it’s found in scripture. The more you fall in love with the Word the more your prayer life will be a mirror of who He is. I was raised not in the Word so I feel like I am always catching up…there is so much…but number two…is the Word. And my third non-negotiable is journaling. I think that’s interesting…I do journal…but it’s out of the box. Everybody needs to find a way that they can journal…because God speaks….for us not to write it down…we are doing ourselves a great disservice and also of what God’s saying. I was teaching a class in Frisco several years ago on journaling…and at the end when I was praying for the people…I had this sensing come over me that the prayer was weightier…and that the prayer had a more prophetic weight to it. It is because I have seen and witnessed at Yad Vashem and other places as you relive times of history where bibles are taken and books are burned. I have a sensing that one day it could be that the journals are the testimonies of the living God…working through peoples lives. My journals are not diaries they are conversations with God. They are what God is saying to me…what God is saying through scripture. How God deals with me in my prayer life. So…those are my three non-negotiables for my personal prayer life. Make time, fall in love more with the Word of God, and journal.
Me: I love that…and I am also sitting in the Listening Chair.
Mary Jo: You are.
Me: So…that’s perfect.
Mary Jo: Oh, that is! So I pray that you hear more of what I am saying.
Megan: So..this is your prayer chair (I point to it) and this is your listening chair.
Mary Jo: It is. I will also tell you my three non-negotiables for intercession.
Megan: Oh yes.
Mary Jo: One is…what’s the will of God? Because when you start mediating on behalf of someone, some place, or a city, or a situation…God…what’s your will? For example, I cannot pray for my grandchildren the same today as I did for them last month. God knows what is going on in their lives. He knows how I need to pray for them. Finding out what is the will of God…and then what is His strategy? Sometimes it is fasting. Sometimes it’s declaring the Word. Sometimes it’s looking up every scripture that has the word hope in it. So…what’s His strategy? Then…how to pray it through…so those are the three for intercession.
First off…I am still digesting all the wise words that I gleaned…and this is only the first post of three. Second, I want a prayer chair AND listening chair. I am officially adding it to my Christmas list….now…if I can only find the room.
Okay, so as a mom…I have been trying to find my rythym when it comes to prayer, studying the Word, and journaling. It seems that sometimes I just pray and that is it. I hear a door sling open and little feet coming down the hall and…. I have run out of time to study…or at least study in quiet. I have a three year-old girl and 10 month-old boy….so…it can get a little loud around here. For the last few weeks I haven’t been in the Word in a solid study, and have instead been praying and journaling. After coffee with Mary Jo…I got back into a study…consistent study. Right now…Hanukkah and what does Being a Light to the World mean? I gleaned that I can adapt those non-negotiables to my own life and work them in during the day the best that I can…most of the time it is spaced out…and praying is often times over the dishes or folding laundry, but I have found the time to pray in a more set apart relational form. I will not be legalistic about it but work them in through out my day…and have fun with it.
I’m not quite sure if I ever separated prayer and intercession before meeting with Mary Jo. To know that prayer is about relationship and intercession is about partnering with God….blows a few of my brain cells. It has shifted my thinking and now I am even more curious than before. I THOUGHT that I was interceding for my children, family, and friends…well I was…but I can go a step further. Intercession demands us to make so much more room for God and to listen to His specific instructions from Heaven. I now come to the prayer room with this strategy….”I am here to pray and partner with you Lord…how do YOU want me to do that?” Not….”Here is my same written prayer that I have recited and prayed over and over again until I am flat out bored with it…but…I hope it is working…because I know you are good.”
I have been the worst at going into prayer with tons of scriptures ready to machine fire at the Lord and then when I am done getting them all out I say…”Thank you Lord and I trust You.” Then I am done. No listening. No room was made. After coffee with Mary Jo…when I intercede OR pray…I will now listen and make room for the Lord and see what He is up to for THAT day…then do it again the next. This is SO exciting!! What an adventure!!!