Many of you know that I enjoy fishing. But, perhaps you don’t know that I also golf from time to time. In fact, now that I am retired almost weekly this summer. However, I’ve never been a great, or even a good golfer. Sometimes, however, I do have a surprisingly good round. It seems that I do better golfing when I’m distracted, for example when I’m on my phone. Maybe not overthinking as I golf helps me to “just hit the ball.”
So, on Tuesday, July 28, I was playing golf with Pastor Tony Schultz, and St. John members Randy Luffberry and Gerry Zellar. However, I had set our tee time on Monday morning, and then Monday evening I learned I had a phone meeting which would take place during the golf game. So, from the 13th hole to the 16th hole of Tuesday’s golf game, I used my blue tooth and was on my phone talking with others about possible opportunities to make our efforts to serve our Lord more effective. Anyway, at the end of the phone call I had an opportunity to speak with one of my friends who was still on the phone. “Linda, how are you doing?” I asked. “I want you to know that Kathy and I have had you on our prayer list for the last number of months.” Linda lost her job when Concordia Portland closed and, we were concerned for her. I know that the Lord hears and answers prayers, and Linda seems to be doing fine. However, just sharing that we have been praying for her and with her, that we had been asking our Lord to show His mercy and love in her life, these prayers seemed to touch her heart.
But, I have recently been touched by joy many times as my prayer list turned over and I spoke with those for whom I have been praying. I have for years written the people and situations for which I am praying on a list. I have columns and write names or other needs under column headings. My columns include “Life Trouble,” “Chronic Illness,” “Cancer,” “Current Illness,” “People needing faith,” “Grief,” “Country,” “Thanks,” “Military,” “Personal Needs,” “The Christian Church,” “St. John,” “Families,” and “The Rockey Family.” As you can imagine there are a lot of people and concerns about which I can go to our loving and saving God and ask His divine intervention and help. A couple of times I have counted the number of entries on my list, and usually there are about 150. But, I wrote my last list on February 8 of this year. Since that time there have been changes. Some have healed. Some have passed away. Others have made it through their troubles. New people need prayers. After a few months, the old list gets messy and maybe even unreadable, so I write a new one.
So, last Sunday, July 26, I wrote my new prayer list. Later, I was in church and got to tell a mom, “I moved your son from my “ill list” to my “thanks list.” Sharing my prayers touched her and she asked me to keep praying. But, having this connection through prayer also seems to build a bond between us as fellow Christians. In church two weeks ago I was able to talk with a person whose mom was ill. I told her, “Your mom has been on my list. Now I’ll change my prayers for her. Your granddaughter is there too.” Even in these coronavirus times, we hugged. And she updated me on the situations so my prayers could be more specific.
On Monday and Tuesday I got to call and check on three people who have been on my list. One elderly person has cancer, and has not been able to come to worship, acting to stay safe in these times of pandemic. I also called Ernie who had lost his wife of over 60 years. I couldn’t take away the loss, but I wanted to see how he was doing. I wanted to let Ernie know I and others had been praying for him and for his wife while she was ailing. On Tuesday night I talked with a dad whose daughter has undergone 3 heart surgeries in her first year of life, and has another major surgery coming. We talked primarily about baptism. But, I let him know his family has been in my prayers for almost 2 years. He told me, “Pastor, I have never felt and seen God’s love in my life as much as I have in the last year and a half.” But, knowing that I and others from his church are praying for him just strengthened our relationship.
One of my most joyful sharing of prayers happened a couple of weeks ago on the banks of the Kenai River. I have a friend, Mark, whom I’ve known for perhaps 10 or more years. We have fished together. Mark suffered kidney failure and was on dialysis, hoping for a kidney transplant. I heard through a mutual friend, a relative of Mark’s, that he had received his new kidney and was doing really well. So, when he got out of the boat and started fishing on the bank next to me I told him, “Hi, Mark. I had you on my prayer list for a long time. I hear you’re doing better.” I could see he was touched. Later he came to me and said, “Thank you for praying for me.” We then got to talk about the many others who prayed for him, and about the goodness of God.
Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior taught in The Sermon on the Mount, 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8) What a WONDERFUL promise. We don’t always understand when and how God will answer us. But we know that our merciful Lord hears our prayers and does answer in His wisdom and His love. Kathy and I have discovered that truth as we have prayed for each of our children and grandchildren. Sometimes we have concerns about which we feel powerless. But, God is good, and we can tell you stories of His loving answers to our petitions.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He spent much of His time with His disciples in prayer. We know He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. But, John 17 tells us that Jesus also prayed in the upper room for His disciples concerning the trials of ministry they would face after He ascended into heaven. In addition, Jesus, the Son of God, prayed for us – for you and me! 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21) As you come to faith in Jesus, and grow in that faith, you see the Father’s answer to Jesus’ prayer.
So, in the last week I have had the privilege and the joy of talking with people for whom I have been praying. Who are you praying for? Have you seen God’s gracious answers in their lives? Have you thanked the Lord that He not only cares about our eternity in His Son, Jesus, but that He also walks beside us in this life of tears?
By the way, if you have something in your life about which you would like me to pray, please let me know. God is good, and He does hear and answer our prayers for the sake of His Son, Jesus.