by Paul Zabel
The theme of our most recent Lutheran Church–Canada synodical convention was “Come to Him Who Answers Prayer.” As this convention is now past and a part of our church’s history, the three districts of our synod will now be earnestly preparing for each of their own district conventions taking place during the spring and summer of next year. And as has been done in the past, the three districts will be building upon or expanding upon our synod’s convention theme as they proceed to carry out their plans and activities throughout the next triennium also.
The theme that has been chosen for the East District’s upcoming convention is “God’s Will for Us: Rejoice Always, Pray without Ceasing, and Give Thanks in All Circumstances,” based upon 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Having this theme now etched in my mind, I have been ever diligent to keep this theme in front of me to apply it not only to the many activities of our East District, but for my own personal devotional life and activities as well.
One of the Scripture passages that seems to automatically come into my mind when I am thinking about my prayer life and the prayer life of those near and dear to me is Psalm 50:15: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” Bearing this in mind, I can recall two stories or illustrations I have come upon that I would like to share with you.
The first involves a little boy who was determined to keep the promise he had made to his Lord after receiving an answer to one of his prayers. One day a minister was about to lock the front doors of the church that he served and happened to notice that a certain statue of Jesus that was placed in the narthex on one of the window sills was missing! Hurriedly he rushed outside hoping to find the one who had taken it away. Much to his surprise, as he looked down the street, he saw a little boy pulling a brand new red wagon down the sidewalk and in the wagon was the statue of Jesus. He walked up to the lad and when he asked him why he had taken the statue of Jesus, the little boy replied, “I prayed to Jesus that I would get a red wagon for Christmas, and I promised Him that if He answered my prayer I would give Him the first ride in it. And after I have kept my promise, I will bring Him back to the church.”
So often that’s the way we pray: when we want something desperately we turn to God in prayer and we tell Him that, if He will just get us out of this emergency or grant to us this or that particular blessing, we will really serve Him the rest of our days. Then when the dark clouds disappear and the sun begins to shine again we forget all about the promise we have made and go about our own self-sufficient ways, unmindful of our dependence upon Him who is the Giver of all good gifts. Every one of us can learn a lesson from that little boy. He made a promise and he kept it. Those who really know the love God has for them, a love that caused Him to die on the cross for our sins, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances!”
So often that’s the way we pray: when we want something desperately we turn to God in prayer and we tell Him that, if He will just get us out of this emergency or grant to us this or that particular blessing, we will really serve Him the rest of our days.
The second illustration records what took place when a pastor was leaving the home of a grieving member of his congregation. The husband of the woman whom he had been visiting had recently died, and a few days following his death the pastor had come to pay her a visit. As he was leaving the woman’s home a car drove up and out stepped a middle-aged woman who had suffered the same separation not many months before.
She looked expectantly at the pastor and as she approached the pastor she asked him, “Does she have it?” This woman had come to also offer her help to this one whom she knew was now suffering as she had suffered, and she also was aware that if this friend of hers would only keep praying to our Lord and our God, His help would surely come. “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you,” is a promise that our Lord will surely keep.
Rev. Paul Zabel is President of the East District of Lutheran Church–Canada.