My father was a simple man who offered simple solutions to problems. When I was a teenager and trying to be a good Christian, I would ask his help with some problem, and more often than not his advice would simply be: “Why don’t you just pray about it?”
That would be it. Just pray. I saw that as a cop-out, an unwillingness to hammer out the details of a resolution. As a result, I probably over-reacted the opposite direction. I tried to resolve all conflicts. I tried to figure out the complex issues, and talk for hours. In the long run, prayer became a “last resort” for me. If all else fails, then I’ll pray about it. But for my dad, prayer had always been a “first resort.”
I wish I had learned from him a little earlier.
Along the way I’ve accidentally discovered the power of prayer.
It would take too long to list the many opportunities I’ve had to discover the value of prayer, but it is necessary that I tell at least one.
In Vietnam, I had my first bout with fear and depression after about 8 months in the country. My fiancee had dropped me, and my family was going through a huge crisis, and I was out of touch, unable to call home and communicate. And remember, I liked to talk things out and work out long resolutions. The helpless and hopeless feelings slowly drove me into a deep despair, and one day I simply walked away from my duty post without explanation. My commanding officer saw me and yelled at me, but I waved him off, telling him I couldn’t function. I wandered aimlessly, then wound up at my hooch, and fell across my cot. Still didn’t pray though. For a long time I just lay on my face and tried to think things through. There had to be a solution. I just couldn’t see it yet. Finally, in complete, silent helplessness I just leaned back on my knees and stretched one hand toward heaven, with my eyes closed tightly.
When I did, one of my buddies had apparently been watching me over the plywood divider between our cots, and he actually reached down and gripped my hand. I flushed with embarrassment, and wondered which of my friends was so ignorant that he would do this to me.
I kept my eyes closed tightly while I counted to 10, trying to think of a comment I could make that would get us past this awkward moment. Finally I decided I would just look at him and say, “You nut, what are you doing?” and see how he responded.
So I took a breath, and opened my eyes. To my surprise, no one was there. No one gripped my hand, although I had felt it squeeze, and squeezed it back. And even now, looking up, I felt the hand in mine, though none was there.
Chills raced up my spine. I was shocked for a moment, and then I heard the kindest voice whisper, “If you’ll just hold to this hand, I’ll work out everything back home, and everything in your life.”
I fell across my bed, and now the dam burst. I wept, over and over. But it was good weeping. I was consoled. I understood that life and its problems were not always in my hand to resolve. I could “just pray,” and know that there was a Friend listening, and He could work things out.
Are you holding His hand?
Not sure? Just pray. You’ll know.