Even though life can throw a landslide of unexpected curve balls, there’s never a prayer that goes unanswered. Just ask Raymond Gregory, the California-based contemporary pop/rock recording artist and worship leader with Greg Laurie’s Harvest Ministries, whose journey has certainly taken its fair share of joyous, heart-wrenching and surprising turns, as so eloquently chronicled in his latest release “Your Mercy to Me.”
“The point I try to stress is that no matter what season you are in, The Lord will always remain faithful, whether you’re experiencing prosperity or tragedy,” the singer/songwriter relates of the incredibly connective track “You Are Faithful” and the body of work from which it’s culled. “There are truly no ‘unanswered prayers.’ God is always faithful to answer us, just in different ways.”
In fact, one of the first prayers Gregory remembers saying was a fervent petition for healing after being diagnosed with degenerative hearing loss, which came after a bout with spinal meningitis as a mere infant. As he grew from a child to a teenager, the loss of higher frequencies became increasingly apparent, while his overall abilities to hear even common conversations were getting progressively worse. In fact, he was already learning sign language by the time he was fitted for hearing aids, and soon after, was declared legally deaf.
“I was also taking speech pathology classes in school so I wouldn’t loose my ability to speak effectively and my family had days in the house where I was allowed to talk, but no one else was allowed to and they had to communicate with me through sign language,” he remembers. “The entire time, I was really into music since my dad was a worship leader at church, my mom had a bachelor’s degree in music and even my grandparents and great grandparents were all artistic. For as long as I can remember, I would pray to God to give me my hearing back so I could serve him as a musician.”
Against the odds, Gregory bought a guitar at 14, and despite barely hearing the notes after plugging it into a karaoke machine and turning the volume all the way up, he became surprisingly proficient at the instrument. All the while, he continued to couple practice with prayer, and by 15, nothing short of a miracle occurred.
“I remember a day when I could actually hear leaves wrestling outside and also hearing my mom much more clearly in conversation,” Gregory continues. “I kept telling my parents ‘I think I’m getting better,’” and though they were very cautious in their reaction, they took me to an audiologist, who said I was showing surprising improvement. They tested me again in a few months and continued to do so to the point were I was no longer legally deaf! And before I knew it, I was back in public school, and from then onward, it was pretty much all about serving the Lord through my music.”
Before he wound up becoming a full-fledged worship leader and recording artist, there was another major obstacle the family would have to overcome. Right around the time of his healing, Gregory’s adopted brother became gravely ill following extremely sorrowful circumstances, and though prayers were again being cast for a complete healing, the Lord answered that it was time to take him home to heaven.
“My brother was adopted when he was one-and-a-half, and when he turned four, we found out his biological parents had passed away and that his mother was HIV positive,” recalls his somber sibling. “We had my brother tested and it turns out she passed it on to him, which is when we hit our knees and asked ‘Lord, if it’s within your will, we pray that you would heal him,’ but His answer was that his time on earth was over. That was very hard to deal with, but throughout it all, we never questioned God’s faithfulness and overall plan.”
As the tragedy of loss and triumph of hearing again were impacting the Gregory family, yet one more roadblock popped up in their path. It turns out their mother was diagnosed with cancer, which sparked yet another season of intense prayer and a round of God answering in a way that wasn’t quite to the extent of what they requested, but nonetheless worthy of their praise.
“God basically came back to us and didn’t exactly say ‘no’ and He didn’t exactly say ‘yes,’” the troubadour asserts, noting his mother is still alive and faithful after 13 years of battling the beast. “But He let us know that His grace is sufficient and reminded us once again that His power is made perfect in our weakness.”
Amidst it all, Gregory stayed steadfast towards honoring his calling, landing a worship leader position at a small church right after school finished (which also corresponded with marrying his high school sweetheart). After three years of steady service, Gregory felt called to return to his childhood home church (Harvest) and simply volunteer as a praise leader, which may have sounded like a risky move for the relative newlyweds, but was simply the next chapter in God’s perfect plan.
“Within a year, I was hired for a full-time position with the understanding that I’d start leading anywhere I was needed,” explains Gregory. “This past year, I started splitting my time leading worship at the Orange County and Riverside campuses, alongside my ongoing involvement with The Harvest Crusades. It’s just unbelievable to think ten years ago I was just getting my hearing back and now I’m leading worship at Angel Stadium for 45,000 people alongside artists like MercyMe and Jeremy Camp, and releasing a record, and hearing my songs on the radio.”
From a musical perspective, this national newcomer combines the guy with a guitar stylings of John Mayer with the vertical slant of Chris Tomlin with equal emphasis on artistic excellence and inspirational appeal. And from a ministry point of view, Gregory recalls a few comments made by Pastor Greg Laurie, who once told him “if you preach to the hurting heart, you’ll never lack an audience,” and perhaps even more directly on a different occasion, “don’t waste your pain.”
“I haven’t been through the fire like other people, but I feel like I have an obligation to share my story because the Lord has given me a second chance,” he sums up. “I feel like I can relate with people and I just want to take the word and minister to as many people as I can. I think one of the reasons ‘You Are Faithful’ is connecting so much is because it reminds people we can always rely on God’s promise. No matter what season we are in, if we place our trust in Him, He will never leave us or forsake us. When we are broken, He is not shaken! He will always remain faithful.”
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