When I was ten or eleven years old, one of my friends came over to our house on Claremont Ave. in Beverly where we lived. Gerry, yes his real name, came to play and several hours later, when it was time for him to go home, I decided to walk with him to his house, four or five blocks away. Doug, one of my younger brothers, went with us. Anyway, we had been playing Cowboys and Indians, running around the neighborhood and shooting rubber tipped arrows at one another. Gerry decided to act out the famous Longfellow poem titled, “The Arrow”; and promptly took the rubber tip off an arrow and let it fly as he yelled, “I shot an arrow into the air; it fell to earth I know not where” – the first two lines of the poem.
Well, Doug knew where it landed, because it hit him in the top of his head; and broke off. It was serious. Doug had this little piece of arrow sticking out of his head and was bleeding pretty heavily. We ran home and as I recall, they had to cut his scalp and pull the arrow tip out of his head. Thank God it did not go all the way through his skull and kill him, but I never forgot that story. I have really been a part of some stupid stuff in my life…
Well, I have been thinking of the arrow story this week-end, because I have had another encounter with an “arrow” and it didn’t turn out well either. In fact, I feel guilty about something and I need to confess it and get it off my chest.
I received an e-mail near the end of last week from a dear pastor friend of mine in Nova Scotia, who happens to be one of our subscribers. Anyway, Ryan asked me, and a number of other ministers from around the U.S. and Canada, to pray for a little five year old girl who was very sick from the e. coli bacteria. He asked us to pray for her and finished his e-mail by telling us that the situation was serious. I read the note, bowed my head, and said a short little prayer, something I call “arrow” prayers, to God. Now an arrow prayer is one that you “shoot up” to God; kind of a short remembrance prayer, but not a full blown, down on your knees, take it to the Lord in prayer, kind of prayer.
And because I was so busy, that was pretty much how I handled the situation. I prayed, but….. I had somewhere to be, and I was distracted. Ever do something like that? Know that you should pray, but you feel too busy to pray and so you use a little arrow prayer instead. Well, imagine my surprise when Ryan wrote me another note after lunch that read, “Little Kalei went to be with Jesus a little while ago. She was 5 yrs old. Please remember the Welch family in your prayers.” That was it. I actually felt sick to my stomach. Who dies from e. coli? I knew he said it was serious, but …. and then I felt guilty. Because I could have prayed more, or harder, or something….. Not that God would have necessarily spared this little girl, but at least I would have felt that I did all that I could possibly do.
But that didn’t happen. Sure, I have told myself that I prayed, but as a Christian, I should have assumed a more appropriate attitude of prayer. And therein lies the rub. You better believe that I prayed for the Welch family – and it was no arrow prayer. But it doesn’t end there – because I started asking myself several other questions this week-end as I have been processing this. For example, was one prayer for Kalei enough? Does an arrow prayer have the same impact as a truly devotional, worshipful, prayer? I don’t think so….
And did I depend on other people to do the praying that I should have been doing in concert with them? Maybe you think I’m stuck thinking about this, but to me, especially in a pastoral role, with other men and women of God depending on me, prayer must be the number one priority. And that means no matter how busy I am, I can never be too busy to pray. Period. The more I think of it, that goes for all of us – and as Christians, many of us have become too casual about our prayer lives.
But this was a real wake-up call to me. In fact, I went to the Lord in prayer and asked His forgiveness for my casual attitude about approaching Him in prayer. And, I have to be able to forgive myself. As Janet has taught me throughout the years, nobody can live with guilt. God understands my human frailty and my limitations, but I sure feel better confessing it to Him, and to you….
The verse for tonight comes from Paul, who is speaking to his young pastor friend Timothy; in 1 Tim. 5:16-17, (KJV) Paul tells us, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.” That means all the time – we should have an attitude of rejoicing in the Lord and praying regardless of where we are or what we are doing. I know that sounds like an impossible thing to do, but it’s something I personally vow to do better. I hope that you will join me in this commitment.
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God forgives us for our mistakes; but it is important to confess them. And my prayer is that we will all take our prayer lives more seriously. Because God deserves our worship in prayer; and our fellow Christians depend on us petitioning the Father on their behalf in their time of need. So when you say your prayers today, please remember that the Welch family is starting life without their little Kalie – they can use our prayers. And all God’s people said………”Amen.”