Note to My Readers: Due to the busyness of my summer schedule, in which I'm serving as a camp pastor on top of my normal duties, I'll be putting my ongoing Thursday and Friday series on hold until mid-August. All other days will continue to feature new content as usual, and the Thursday and Friday slots will offer devotional and theological reflections (heretofore unpublished) from my seminary years.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Answered Prayer: A Cautionary Tale
They say to be careful what you ask for, because you might get it. I discovered that there are certain prayers that God almost infallibly answers, and you’d better be ready when the answer comes. Towards the end of my senior year of high school, as I continued to grow in my faith and desired to push myself beyond my comfort zone, I began to pray, day in and day out, that God would give me opportunities to share my faith and witness for him. Well, after a couple weeks of this prayer, I found myself sitting in study hall one day. I was helping three of my classmates, some of the more popular and respected guys in the school, with our calculus work. Then, out of the blue, one of them paused and said thoughtfully, “You know, I wish I could know God better.” This is something that I had never heard any unchurched person say before—certainly not a Mainer, for whom things of religion are some of the most personal, and therefore least-talked-about subjects. “Yeah,” said another, “but, you know, after you’ve done enough bad stuff…” The defeatist note of that remark hung in the air for a long moment. My blood ran cold. I hadn’t been expecting this. They knew that I was a believer—were they intentionally setting me up, trying to see what I would do? For those few seconds, something inside me was crying out for me to speak up, to say something, to tell them that they could know God, regardless of any amount of evil they had done. But, to my everlasting shame, I said nothing. I was too afraid—too scared of what they might think of me if I started pushing my faith on them. Not only was it fear; a large part of it was the simple shock of the situation, unlike any I had ever faced. But the moment passed, the talk went back to calculus, and I kicked myself inside. I have to believe that the Holy Spirit was doing something in the hearts of those young men, and that his purpose for them would not fail simply because of the momentary weakness of his servant. But that one moment helped me become a better prayer warrior--not only to give myself to prayer, but to make myself ready to act on God's answer when it came.
(Painting: "Prayer," by Laszlo Mednyanszky, 1852-1919, oil on canvas)