Friday, July 07, 2006

A lesson in prayer

An interesting thing happened to me on the way home from work a few years ago that I would like to share. I have many times shared this story around Christian friends, Bible studies and personal testimonies, but I have never shared it outside the ‘Christian circle’.

It was a cold and rainy winter day in January 1996 as I left the office and headed the short distance home. I had just turned onto the main highway and started up the hill when I noticed a hitchhiker, thumb out, going in my direction. This hitchhiker looked liked the proverbial San Francisco hippie who was MIA from 1967 and had been transplanted on this highway as a result of some freaky wormhole incident. As I mentioned, it was cold and rainy this day. This hippy was wrapped in a bundle of what should have been warm flannel shirts and a couple jackets. He had on a red bandana holding back his wet, matted long black hair which had almost the same exact appearance of his beard. I don’t know how long this guy had been trying to hitch a ride, but judging from his completely soaked clothes, he had been out there awhile. Did I mention it was cold? The temperature was probably somewhere in the mid to high 30’s. There had been talk of some sleet accumulating later in the evening, but for the moment it was just a very, very cold rain.

As I was passing by this incredible sight, this throwback to another time and place, our eyes met. In that moment, time seemed to slow down as we stared into each others gazes. His eyes seemed to say to me, ‘how can you pass me by….how can you not help me out?’ His countenance went from hopeful to a head hanging sadness that I will never forget. At that moment I said out loud and from my heart, ‘Lord, I would rather do anything than pick up this hitcher, anything.’ I repeated this over and over as I tried to rid my mind of that last image I had of his sad, rejected face.

I was a new Christian. It had been only a little over a year since I had been saved by the grace of God when I passed that hitcher. I was still learning in leaps and bounds all I could about my new faith in Christ and I was about to be schooled by the Lord Himself on the power of a heartfelt prayer.

I’m not in the habit, even to this day, of picking up hitchers. I will, and have many times, stopped and helped people change a tire, push a car off the road, take someone to get gas, help someone in an accident, but I don’t pick up hitchers.

I continued to pray, out loud, my prayer of doing anything for the Lord except picking up the hitcher.

As I rounded a turn on the highway a couple miles up the road, there off on the side of the road, was a very elderly woman trying to look under the back end of her car. This car was a very bad looking, faded green, 70’s something Ford Maverick. As I approached the car it was obvious that this was my answered prayer in opposition to picking up the hitcher.

I pulled in behind the Maverick, got out and asked the woman what was wrong with her car. She said she didn’t know. She said that she was on her way home when all of a sudden, about two minutes ago, there was a bad niose coming from the back of her car. Two minutes ago I thought. Hmmm. Coincidently about the time I started praying for something other than picking up the hitcher.

I told her to get back in the car and get out of the rain and I will have a look under her car. Well I bent down as far as I could to look under her car to see what that matter was, but couldn’t quite see without crawling under the vehicle. I went back to my car to get an umbrella and maybe find something to lie on so I could crawl under the car in my office apparel. I found neither. So I made an executive decision to just go ahead and get under the car and figure out what was wrong and get this lady on her way. The part of the road where she pulled over had been freshly graded off for a road to the woods. This same road later became the entrance to the sub-division where I live now. Hmmm. Needless to say with all the rain, the road was very muddy and it had been partially filled with loose gravel to make crawling under cars the perfect mixture of mess and pain.

When I finally got under the rear of the car I found the problem. The rusted pipe that led to the rusty muffler had finally broken off and the only thing holding the rusty muffler to the car was this leathery looking strap. So I crawled back from under her car and went rummaging through my car for anything that might cut loose the strap that held the muffler. I found no such instrument of destruction in my car. I walked back to the woman in the Maverick and tapped on her window. By now I’m soaked, wet, muddy and very, very cold. My light jacket that was meant for a walk from the office to the car was not holding up well to the conditions I was putting it under. The elderly lady slowly rolled down her window and, after telling her what was wrong; I ask her if she might happen to have a knife of some kind in her car. She finds a butter knife (of course) in her glove compartment and I gladly take it and crawl back under the car. After about ten minutes of trying to cut through a half frozen wet leathery strap with wet frozen fingers I finally manage to free the beast that was dragging under her car. I put the muffler in her car and told her she would be able to drive home but to get it fixed right away.

She asked me how much she owed me for helping her out and I told her that I couldn’t accept any money for doing what I asked to do. She said thank you and drove on in the same direction I was going. When I got my frozen wet muddy self back in my car I understood at that moment that I had just been schooled on the power of prayer. As I pulled my car back onto the road and headed home I realized that the Maverick was no where to be seen. Only a few seconds had passed since she pulled out and there was no way she could have sped off that fast. I hustled my car up around the next turn and she was no where in sight. There is a road that turns off in the little town of Nelson but she would have had to really hustle it to beat me to that road. Was she an angel sent specifically to answer my prayer and test me to see if I would indeed do anything but pick up that hitcher? To this day I believe she was. Heck, the hippy could have been angel that was there to see what I would do for all I know.

Here’s what I learned from that incident.

* The power of a heartfelt prayer is something to behold.

* Be careful of what you pray for.

*You just never know when you might be interacting with an angel.


Darius said...

Love what you did. But when you can't figure something out, logically it doesn't mean an angel did it. It would be as logical to suppose an alien did it. Or the Rain God.

Just because you don't have the answer doesn't mean the only possible answer can be a supernatural one.

WayneDawg said...

Actually, Darius, I did figure it out. I said so. Right there in the end.

sunshinedaily4me_wuz_here said...

That is really cool. And I do believe in the power of prayer and that God does send angels. He tell us that! and I believe it! Thanks for sharing the story.

one more patriot said...

My pastor told me when he was going through seminary that he was ready to give up and quit. He was traveling home one day and stopped to pick up an old, strange man. The man told him after a while that God had sent him to tell him not to give up and that he would be used greatly one day. The man then proceeded to tell my pastor things about himself that no one could have possilbly known. After some time the old man told him to let him out- still in the middle of nowhere. My pastor let him out and continued to drive. A few minutes later he just had to go back and find out more. When he returned the man was gone. He also believes it was an angel.

God Bless

Wadical said...

Powerful testimonial there, Dawg. I wonder how much more awkward it would have been if the hitchhiker had walked up on you fixing that car and wondered why you were so willing to help her and not him. Perhaps she was real....and the hitchhiker was the angel. Two minutes of driving vs. 10 minutes of walking, surely he would have reached you by then.

Darius, I believe in Angels. I believe they occasionally, if not often, walk this earth as instruments of God. How do I know they're real? How do you know they're not??

sunshinedaily4me_wuz_here said...

I had the same thoughts as Wadical. In fact, I wondered if you didn't stop to help the lady because you feared the hitchiker would catch up to her, a poor, defenseless old lady....

Darius said...

"Actually" means, "in fact."

But what you arrived at by the end of your narrative was an interpretation of an experience, and one that is by no means logically necessary. Your conclusion isn't factual in nature. At best it's highly speculative.

Still, your experience was highly meaningful. For you, the meaning is enhanced by your ability to convince yourself it must have been an angel. For me, it's more meaningful without that!

Imo, the meaningfulness of your experience is its main point and purpose, regardless.

Wadical: No one can ever disprove assertions about the existence of entities and processes beyond our shared ability to observe them. People are free to believe in past lives, angels, witches... Maybe Santa does exist.

So I would say neither of us knows that angels exist or don't exist. However, I would add that I do not believe they exist for lack of evidence. I might like to believe in them, or past lives, or that my friendly golden retriever is really an incarnation of the one I loved as a child. But in honesty with myself and God, I can't believe something on the primary grounds of wanting to.

WayneDawg said...

I also believe the world is round but I have never been to space to see if what other people and physical evidence say is true or not.

I also believe that man walked on the moon but I have never been to the moon to see if what very few astronauts and physical evidence say is true or not.

I also believe that there were two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 but I never actually saw it happen or had any physical evidence of my own to say whether it’s true or not.

To which God are you referring to when you say ‘But in honesty with myself and God, I can't believe something on the primary grounds of wanting to.’?

It is not the God of the Bible. It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is it? It can’t be. These men along with many, many others in the Bible can tell you a few incidents of interaction with angels. If you are speaking about ‘another’ god then you are correct in your statement; but then again you would be worshipping a completely different god and practicing idolatry against the I Am.

Badbeans said...

Not everything has a completely logical explanation. This is where faith comes in. If you have faith only in things that you have physical evidence of, then you do not have much faith.

Angels do exist. In both the Old and New Testament, we have documentation of angels being seen of men. Even Paul admonishes us to "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Darius, I know that the ways of God are hard to comprehend. Some of his ways defy rationale. However, His ways are far above ours, and this is where faith comes in.

It would defy logic that the whole world could be flooded, and yet men have sought to find Noah's ark for years. It defies logic that the Red Sea could be walled up with dry ground in the midst, and yet men have tried for years to describe meterological phenomena that could explain how this happened. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Wadical said...

Yes you can believe in something you've not seen. It's called FAITH It's the quintessential backbone of Christianity. Jesus said “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

You believe in so many things today that you can't possibly understand simply based on the observations and calculations of others...that is faith in man. Your inability to believe in God is IN FACT your refusal to do so.

Yeah, yeah, we all got the point. You've made it loud and clear...YOU don't believe. Great. But you, like all who come before you will find it fruitless, indeed futile, to convince those of us "who have not seen and yet believe" That you are right and we are wrong.

But I will promise you this, Darius: The Bible says that There WILL come a day when YOU TOO will bow down and confess with your own tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord. You'll do this alongside all who've not seen and therefore not believed. Unfortunately, that day will be too late.

That will also be the day that you discover that there are no "past lives". It is appointed unto man once to die. You will get no "second chances".

So sleep comfortably with your agnostic assuredness that you can never be assured. Embrace the blackness that awaits you upon the culmination of your life. Skip blindley into the map, no directions. It must lead you somewhere, so that is just where you'll be, right? A life with no faith and no, that must absolutely suck. But then again, "Ignorance is Bliss", is it not? A flool and his folly can never be separated.