I’ve heard it said before, “Be careful what you pray for, God might answer you.” One of those times was when I was going to be working with ten and eleven year old boys for a week, one of my instructors said I didn’t need to pray and ask for God to teach me patience! That we were already going to be taught to be patient.
Well, this week in service we prayed a prayer together, “God, I ask you to lead me into the places of this town where your good news needs to be heard.” I prayed along with everyone else and them promptly forgot all about it. I know, I shouldn’t be admitting that I didn’t take prayer to heart, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to lie and imply I did. But, God took it to heart.
Two days later I was walking along the promenade, minding my own business, on my way to a meeting. All of a sudden I noticed that the weight at my left hip was gone – someone had just snatched my coin purse. I turned around and saw a cloaked figure moving quickly away from me through the crowd. I started following the figure, trying not to run into anyone, but he or she was leaving me behind. By the time I reached the end of the promenade, the figure was a good half a block ahead of me and headed down into the lower town.
I started running, as did the figure. I was keeping up, but getting no closer. At this point I guess I should tell you a little bit about the town I live in. Maple Grove is a beautiful town in a beautiful valley, tucked way in the mountains. Just about 3,000 people live in town, with a few hundred more in the farms around town. That’s 3,000 officially; I would guess there are a lot more. The town is built in three parts. There is the old town, which is on top of a hill. It is filled with very old stone buildings. It is where the fancy shops are and the fancy people live. It’s where I live, but in one of the less fancy places. At the bottom of the hill, to the north and to the south are the two lower towns. There the buildings are mostly made of wood, and mostly are not fancy at all. A stone wall encircles the the lower towns, and another stone wall encircles the old town.
As I ran after the cloaked figure we headed deeper and deeper into the northern lower town. I kept losing site of my quarry as he or she disappeared around corners. The stone street turned to dirt and then into mud as I ran. I was slowing dow, breathing hard, and then I rounded a corner and saw a group of children huddled together. I didn’t see the cloaked figure, but I heard crying. In an instance I had to make a decision – do I keep following the cloaked figure, or I stop and see why someone is crying. I stopped.
Holding my side, I walked up to the group of children. There were six of them. Four were standing in a circle looking at the other two. One was laying on the ground crying. The last one was holding the crying one’s head in her hands, stroking his hair softly, and talking quietly. “Don’t cry Jimmy. You’ll be okay. Don’t be mad at the man, he was just in a hurry.” Jimmy stop crying as he was comforted by the young girl.
“You know Jimmy, I think we should pray for that man. He was in too much of a hurry. Will you pray with me?”
Jimmy nodded his head yes and the little girl continued to stroke his hair.
“God, please be with the man who was just here. Speak to him and let him know that you love him. Let him know that there is more to life than running from here to there. Let him know your peace.”
Jimmy nodded his head and added, “God, help him to be slower.”
“Amen,” the little girl added and gave Jimmy an little hug.
I stood there watching this, wondering how a little girl of seven or eight could be so wise. I wondered how her prayer for the thief who robbed me, might apply to me as well. I had run like him. I had run through these streets not seeing where I was. If I hadn’t been so tired, I might have run right past the children like he did. But I didn’t run by them. I stopped and watched and listened. Then I remembered my prayer earlier in the week, “… lead me into the places of this town where your good news needs to be heard.” Here I was, in a part of the town I had never been in, and hearing God’s good news coming from the mouth of a child.
I knelt down next to Jimmy. “How are you doing, Jimmy?”
Jimmy looked up to me and smiled. “I’m doing fine now.” Then he looked up into the girls eyes and smiled.
“Do you believe what you just heard? Do you believe that the man who ran by here needs God’s love?”
“I think so. At first I was just mad at him for running into me, but I think Jenny is right. He was in too much of a hurry and God needs to help him.”
“Do you know what believe means, Jimmy? It means to trust and to do. It looks to me like you believe. You trusted Jenny and you prayed with her, too. Do you know what the next step is?”
Jimmy shook his head no.
“It is to follow. Do you want to follow, too?”
“I guess so.”
“Then you should pray for that man everyday for a week. Can you do that?”
“Yes – but I don’t know If I can.”
I smiled at Jimmy. “I’m trying to believe and follow what God is showing me, too. How about if I meet you here everyday for the next week and we can pray for the man together?”
“I would like that,” Jimmy said.
“Me too.” added Jenny.
We’ve meet now for three days, Jimmy, Jenny and me. We’ve only spent a couple minutes together each day, but it has changed my week. Today I’m taking some muffins with me so we can spend a little longer together.
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