One of the great blessings of my life has been to know some great men of God, including Vance Havner, Ron Dunn, Lehman Strauss, and others. They were not only mentors and heroes…they were friends. They loved me unconditionally, and I am forever indebted to them. One of the last of that generation died this past week. He was one of a kind.
On April 22, Don Miller, a great prayer warrior, went to be with the Lord. He was 93 years young. More than anyone else, Don helped me to understand the importance of Intercessory Prayer Ministry in the local church.
Every time I hear someone mention the Intercessory Prayer Ministry of Sherwood, I think of Don Miller. Every time I see someone praising God for an answered prayer or I see a HIM-possible prayer request laid on the altar, I remember Don Miller.
When I knew God was moving me out of youth ministry and toward the pastorate, I accepted a position at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth. We were only there two years, but they were pivotal years for me because 1) I was able to preach consistently, and 2) I got to know Don Miller.
During those two years, I realized if I was a pastor, I needed to make prayer a first priority in the life of the church. And not just your typical prayer meeting of organ recitals (livers, kidneys, ears, noses, and throats), but true intercession for the spiritual needs of people inside and outside the church.
Don helped me establish two Intercessory Prayer Ministries, one at the church I pastored in Ada, Oklahoma, and the other one at Sherwood. For 25 years, the Prayer Ministry has been the DNA of all that we’ve been able to accomplish at Sherwood. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude for God sending Don and Libby Miller down our path.
Through the years, Don’s son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Dana, have become dear friends. We’ve shared this journey on multiple levels. Gary has been used of God to encourage me and pray for me at times when I couldn’t pray for myself.
On our 20th Anniversary at Sherwood, Don and Libby surprised us at the celebration service. Don was suffering from shingles and had fallen backwards down the escalator in the Atlanta airport. He said, “I wouldn’t ride backwards on an escalator for just anyone.” That was Don, always finding a way to see the bright side, even when he wasn’t feeling his best.
Don and Libby have faithfully lifted my family and this church before the throne of grace. I am tied to this family as much as if we were blood kin. (We are, in fact, blood kin because the blood of Jesus binds us together.)
This past Monday was a celebration service of the life and ministry of Don Miller. His children, Roger, Gary, Joy and Ken, were the speakers. There was no casket at the front of the church and no body to stare at – all a typical Don Miller reminder that the focus needed to be on Jesus, not the shell.
Roger said, “If you cut dad open, you’d have found God. He practiced what he believed.” Gary referenced Matthew 26:41, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Don called that the greatest prayer PACKAGE in the world.
Don Miller took his last breath on this earth on a Wednesday evening at 5:32 pm. I like what Gary said, “Dad wanted to be sure he got there in time for prayer meeting.”
Allow me to share a few of the nuggets the kids shared regarding their father:
• His personal intimacy with God fueled a fire for personal evangelism.
• When he could no longer go around the world, he went across the street. He led neighbors and nurses to Christ.
• When he started Bible Based Ministries in the late 1970s someone said to Don, “Nobody is doing Prayer Conferences anymore.” Don replied, “That’s why I’m starting them.”
• Don believed that “God and I make a majority.”
• He said in the last days, “Prayer! Peace! Power! We can have all three.” He defined peace as being right with God. When we are right with God, anything can happen.
• Don said, “Awakening is a prayer away.”
• Don underlined and marked the 5,486 references to the word all in the Bible.
• He consistently prayed three prayers: 1) Lord, make me humble. 2) Lord, make me real. 3) Lord, make me honest.
• One of the closing thoughts was from Ken who said, “When Dad entered heaven, he needed no introduction to the Father when he walked through the gates.”
At the end of the service, Gary invited a pastor and a layman to the front to stand by Libby and to pray for her. Only, it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. I had the privilege of being that pastor. Instead of us praying for Libby, she prayed for us and asked God’s blessings on us. Standing there, being prayed over by Libby, representing the pastors of 1,000 churches where Don did a prayer conference, was overwhelming to me.
I will miss Don Miller. I will miss his smile. I will miss that booming voice. I will miss his positive attitude no matter what he faced. I am blessed to be in that small circle of pastors who have become the “sons of Don.”
Prayer warriors are an endangered species. We have people who pray, but we don’t have enough praying people. We have churches that pray, but we don’t have enough praying churches. Because of the impact of Don Miller on my life, I cannot imagine having a church without prayer at the core of her ministries. If it’s not birthed in prayer, it’s probably illegitimate. If it’s not birthed in prayer, we can’t ask God to bless it. If we aren’t doing the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to do, then how can we say we are His disciples, committed to His will on earth as it is in heaven?
Thank you Don Miller. I know, even now, your prayers have not stopped. Just because the saint dies, doesn’t mean his prayers die with him.