Ray Goff will be the first to tell you he's just an ordinary guy. Married to his wife, Ruby, for 54 years, and father of four children, he lives in West Chicago, Illinois, a far west suburb. A retired businessman, he now owns a cleaning service with his son and spends several evenings a week helping him clean office buildings—including Christianity Today International's (home of Today's Christian).
But this ordinary man has an extraordinary insight and commitment to prayer. To become a prayer warrior, he says, we simply need to recognize windows of opportunity. Windows that are all around us as we move through our daily routine: eating, working, playing, sleeping—even grocery shopping.
Ray wasn't always this committed to his faith. Though a pastor's son and raised in a Christian home, as a young adult he drifted away from the church. "If you had asked me, 'Ray, what will happen if you were to die right now?' I would have answered, ' I'd go straight to hell,' " he says. "I knew it."
After a tour in the Army during the Korean War, he met and married Ruby. The next years were spent building their family of three boys and a girl. Their lives were busy and full, but God didn't figure into the equation. Then, when the children were in grade school, Ruby began taking them to a local church. And nudging Ray to attend as well.
"It didn't seem right to send my kids to church and not go myself," he recalls. "I knew I should be there too."
That decision set Ray on the path to a renewed faith and commitment to Christ. It didn't happen overnight. Instead, it was a gradual process of shedding old habits, such as smoking and gambling. He was doing what he could to become the man God wanted him to be.
Journey Through the Valley
Then, nine years ago, he received news that would put his faith to the test: his youngest child and only daughter, Michelle, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her doctor gave no hope for her survival; the best he could do was try to keep her pain free. Ray was devastated. Though she'd committed her life to Christ as a child, Michelle had recently drifted away from the church, consumed instead by the responsibilities of caring for her husband and five children.
Ray poured out his heart to God, pleading for healing. "I told my daughter, 'Honey, I can't stand the idea of you dying while there's this distance between you and God,'" he recalls, tears in his eyes. "She'd answer, 'You're praying for me. I'm not going to die.'"
As Ray continued to pray for Michelle, he felt clearly God reassuring him that she would be healed. Yet her condition continued to deteriorate.
Then one night, as he was watching television, he saw a report on a local church that was holding a healing service. When he called to invite Michelle, she agreed to attend. After some hymns and Scripture readings, the pastor asked if he could pray for anyone. Michelle walked down the aisle. As he laid hands on her, she broke down and through tears rededicated her life to Christ.
Her rediscovered faith gave Michelle the strength and hope she needed through the darkest days of her illness. When she passed away a year later, Ray realized that God had kept His promise: He had healed Michelle's soul and brought her to be with Him, where she would never hurt again.
"According to the doctor, she should never have lived for four years," Ray recalls. "God gave her more time so she could find her way back to Him."
A New View
Michelle's illness and death started Ray thinking about the power of prayer—and how we as Christians fail to make use of it. "I had asked people all around the country to pray for my daughter. And I realized we shouldn't have to call people to pray for us. It should be automatic," he says.
Those thoughts became purposeful when he read a statistic in a Christian magazine that said the average Christian spends five minutes a day in prayer. "I thought, Wow! Only five minutes?"
Shocked, Ray started asking himself why the figure was so low. "I remembered how hectic things were when Ruby and I were raising our family—activities, school, work, and just the day-to-day tasks of running a home," he says. "There never seemed to be enough time. Then I thought, Wait a minute. There are windows of opportunity in that busyness that we aren't taking advantage of."
That realization sparked Ray's new attitude toward prayer. Now as he moves through his day, he keeps his eyes open for chances to pray for those around him. That could be the teller at the bank, a grocery store clerk, or the kid selling him a cup of coffee. Ray says, "I just talk to God. If I'm sitting in the dentist's office, I don't read a magazine. Instead I pray for everybody in the room. I'll pray, 'God I don't know what that young man's needs are, but you do.'"
Other times the need is an obvious one. One day when Ray was in the bank, he noticed a woman with a broken leg. "I walked up to her and said, 'Ma'am, if you'll give me your first name, I'd like to pray for you.'" Rather than reacting suspiciously, she grabbed his hand and squeezed, saying, "Thank you and God bless you!"
In fact, with all the times Ray has offered to pray for strangers, he's rarely been rejected—an amazing response considering the negative attitude toward Christianity much of our culture expresses today. Ray, however, isn't surprised. "It's a hurting world out there. People are looking for love in all the wrong places, and they're thrilled to hear somebody cares for them. And that's exactly what I'm saying—'I care for you.'"
The people he's praying for aren't the only ones reaping the benefits. When the woman in the bank took his hand, Ray felt the warm glow of God's blessing. "I think I get more out of it than they do," he admits.
And it's a blessing anyone can experience, he stresses. "It just takes practice. Did you ever see a football player become an All-American by sitting on the bench? When you pick up your mail, pray for your mail carrier. When you take out your garbage can, pray for the person who will pick it up. Pretty soon you'll get in the habit of doing it all the time."
Getting started is as easy as making up your mind and opening your eyes, says Ray. "God will take care of the rest."
Dawn Zemke is assistant editor for Today's Christian and Marriage Partnership magazines.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
Click here for reprint information.