May 1, 2016
Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Letter #433: When God Says Pray, Pray
Ever have those moments when God prompts you to pray for someone and you stop what you’re doing to pray? I’m sure you have, and the goal is to become ever more sensitive to the subtle promptings of God’s Spirit in your life. Well, I wish I could say that God and I have become so like-minded that I can instantly discern whom He wants me to pray for and when. I’m working on that. But the lesson He taught me this week was the value of being instantly obedient when He prompts me to pray, no matter how I feel about it or whether it is “convenient” for me to do so.
While running laps around our small dirt prison yard a couple weeks ago, I noticed a young man standing by himself near the fence, gazing off into the distance. This wasn’t particularly uncommon, as there are no rules stating you must stick together while at yard and chatter incessantly, as one of my friends must believe. As I drew closer, I felt impressed to stop and tell him that God loves him. Then, I quickly tried to convince myself that I probably shouldn’t do that. You know, it would be awkward, right? Well, let me tell you what is even MORE awkward than simply telling a man the truth about a great big loving God who cares about him: shunning the promptings of that same loving God. To be fair, I didn’t exactly shun the promptings; I just told God that I’d stop on my next lap, a very short 45-second delay.
I turned the corner, looking for him, but nothing up ahead even remotely resembled the guy. I calmly began scanning the yard looking and looking, but I couldn’t find him. I started apologizing to God as I wondered if the young man was possibly contemplating suicide. What had I missed? How could I be so selfish?
A week and a half later, I saw the guy in the chow hall at breakfast. He got up to leave, and I shoved food in my face, dumped the rest of my tray, and shot out of the chow hall, trying to catch up to him, which I finally did just outside my dorm. I said: “Excuse me; I’m Christopher. What’s your name?” He told me his name is Dusty, so I said, “Well, Dusty, I saw you at yard the other day and God asked me …”
I could just barely speak, as tears formed, not so much from embarrassment in front of Dusty but from compassion that began to flow through me from God. I told him that God wants him to know he is loved by God, and Dusty smiled at the stranger in tears in front of him and said: “Thank you! God bless you!” I quickly said good-bye, grateful to escape into the anonymity of the dorm, saying over and over to myself that it must be easier to instantly obey. It must, because that was horrible.
Well, I was only a bit quicker with my obedience training the next time. During church services last Sunday, God prompted me to pray for my neighbor who sleeps on the lower bunk next to the bunks I’m on. While sneezing earlier in the week, he’d injured his side, and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. Though just a few years older than me, he began holding his side as he walked, and especially if he coughed or laughed, just trying to hold in the sharp pain shooting through his body.
While at church, the “praying for him” idea seemed really great, though my first reaction was to—I lie not—tell God that I am “not that guy” who walks up to people, “lays hands” on them and prays for their healing. He calmly assured me that HE is “that guy” who heals, so not to worry.
I realized that God and I were doing a terrible job of communicating lately, because He didn’t seem to understand what I’m good at, as if He didn’t remember what happened to Dusty. Now, my friend Sako, with the pain in his side? I returned to the dorm after church and carefully avoided him until just before 11:00 p.m., when all the lights dim for the night. I saw him walking back to his bunk with his hand on his side, and my heart was flooded with compassion for him, though I’d wished his pain would’ve gone away so I didn’t have to pray for him.
I couldn’t put it off any longer. I argued with God, with myself; this guy had done some bad things to some people. He won’t like me assuming he wants to be prayed for! The lights went dim, and I realized I could make my move under cover of darkness. There was a slim possibility he wouldn’t notice me touching his side to pray for him. No, he’d notice, and he’d probably kill me.
So, I just approached him. I couldn’t even look him in the eyes as I said: “Hey, Sako, I was wondering if I could tell you something. It’s difficult for me to say it, though.”
He smiled. “Sure, Buddy! What is it?”
I told him that God told me that I should put my hand on his side and pray that he would be healed from whatever it was. Sako heard the crack in my voice, and without saying a word, he just reached out, took my hand in his, and brought it to his side. I looked up at him, questioning. He didn’t wait for words to come out but softly said, “Then pray for me, Christopher.”
Pray I did. I felt an incredible anointing flow through me, all mingled with nervous energy and raw emotions. I knew God planned to heal Sako, so I told him to keep me informed when it happened.
The next morning, he felt a bit better, and that night, Sako asked me to pray for him. The next day, the same thing, and the same the day after that. I witnessed God doing a miracle for Sako, healing him from the serious pain, but God was working on his heart too. As I’d pray for him, I’d also ask God to change his heart so he’d stop wanting to do crime for a living. He’d squirm while I prayed about that, but he began to soften.
Of course, Sako is now completely healed, but I’m changed too. I beg God to not give up on me: give me more opportunities to serve through word or prayer! I’ve promised God to be instantly obedient, whether I like it or not!