Leading the Leaders: Rosalind Rinker '45
As a 15-year-old girl in North Dakota in 1921, Rosalind Rinker ’45 came to an understanding of her relationship with God that would shape not only her life, but the lives of evangelical Christians for the rest of the 20th century and beyond.
Not long after giving her heart to Jesus, Rinker attended a prayer meeting in which she was the only teenager. As the group knelt to pray, she struggled with the idea of praying aloud before strangers — what could she have to say that would be meaningful to these adults? As she argued with herself, an older woman began praying in German. The love for the Lord in her voice — a love that expressed itself without verbal translation of the prayer — touched Rinker deeply.
“The rapid conversation in my heart went on: And you can speak English and you belong to God in a new way since last June and are you still afraid?” she later wrote. “That was enough. I recognized the voice of Jesus, Lover that He is. I would pray aloud, and I would speak straight to Him. I would not be afraid and I would not care if there were tears, and I would not care if my words got tangled up and I would not care if my prayer was like the others or if it wasn't. I would forget all those people and just think about Him.
“And I did. ‘Dear Lord Jesus . . .’ I heard myself praying aloud for the first time in my life. And I did cry and my words did get tangled, but it was all right. I had spoken to Him. He was there. He had been there all the time I was arguing with myself. And He was there when I spoke to Him aloud with other people listening. As the snow crunched under my feet that cold winter night on my way home, my heart was warm with the freshness of talking with Jesus Christ. I had met Him. I had had my first flash of insight about prayer.”
Rinker went on to serve as a missionary in China for 14 years before returning to the United States and graduating from Asbury in 1945, at the age of 39. In 1959, her experiences in conversational prayer grew into a book, “Prayer: Conversing with God,” that marked a dramatic new approach to prayer for a generation that had grown up in a time of more formal spirituality.
In 2006, Rinker’s book on prayer was selected by the editors of Christianity Today as the book that has most shaped evangelicals, beating out authors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Elizabeth Elliot and C.S. Lewis.