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~ A Prayer Story ~
- Part One -

        He had taken a few weeks off from work to hike alone in the mountains.  Soon he met another, much older hiker, who seemed to embody the wisdom of creation and the Creator.  The old man's backpack was well worn, yet appeared lacking the bulk of his own heavy pack.

        His eyes scanned the old man's curious features, stopping frequently on the tattered black leather bond book in his right hand.  "Why isn't the book in his pack?" the hiker asked himself.

        The two men exchanged greetings, and the hiker lost no time in asking about the book.

        "This is my Bible.  I keep it handy because it answers questions that come to my mind, and I let it speak for me as much as possible."  The old man's entire gentle face smiled as he talked, lovingly holding his holy book with both hands.

        "Sir," the hiker began, "I'm a follower of Jesus the Christ and, through His gift of redemption and His Holy Spirit, I am joyfully God's child.  Although He abides in me and I in Him, I still have my own thoughts.  How is it the Scriptures can always speak for you?"

        The old man opened his Bible and smiled again.  "The Lord says, 'My thoughts and ways are not like yours.  Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, my thoughts and my ways are higher than yours...My words don't return to me without doing everything I send them to do.  When you are set free, you will celebrate and travel home in peace.  Mountains and hills will sing as you pass by, and trees will clap. Cypress and myrtle trees will stand as a lasting witness to the glory of the Lord!'" (Isaiah 55:8-9, 11-13).

        The hiker kicked his boot into the trail dirt as he reflected upon the words of the Lord.  Then, slowly looking back up at the smiling old man, he asked, "Then how is it possible to have God's thoughts in me?"

        The old man held his Bible upright and let it fall open into his waiting hands.  He read, "Let the Spirit change your way of thinking, and make you into a new person.  You were created to be like God, and so you must please Him and be truly holy."  (Ephesians 4:23-24)

        Hiker's legs trembled a little.  He read these Scriptures before, but never did he feel shaky and overwhelmed as he did upon hearing those words spoken so deliberately by old man.  "My words to not return to me without doing everything I send them to do."  God's words echoed in his heart.  Even though he asked nothing further of old man, hiker heard his soft voice continue anyway, speaking again God's words: "What God has planned for people who love Him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard.  It has never even entered our minds!"
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

        Old man waited a bit in silence, deeply breathing in the coolness of the pine scented mountain air.  Tears clouded hiker's vision and, as he blinked them away, he heard old man continue: "God's Spirit has shown you everything.  His Spirit finds out everything, even what is deep in the mind of God.  You are the only one who knows what is in your own mind, and God's Spirit is the only one who knows what is in God's mind.  But God has given us His Spirit.  That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think.  That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us." (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)

        "Like this one," hiker thought to himself.  "Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of your words spoken through this old man.  This is indeed my daily bread, for your words are food for my spirit."

        Slipping out from his pack's straps, hiker stood up and approached old man, marveling that this voice of God had not moved, except for his Bible caressing hands.  "Sir," hiker uttered slowly, "the 23rd Psalm is among my favorite Scriptures."  The smiling old man quietly asked, "How does it feel to dine at our Lord's table, sitting in the presence of your enemies?"

        Hiker's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.  Old man continued, "To sit, relaxed, at our Lord's table, surrounded by your enemies, must mean you have taken the long journey.  It must mean you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death without fear, to the other side, finishing with a feast at the Lord's table as your enemies watch, powerless to pursue you any longer."

        Hiker's eyes teared again, this time with shame.  Until that moment, the 23rd Psalm was beautiful poetry of emotional and spiritual comfort.  Never did he hear that psalm as a challenge in pursuing his walk through the valley.  He pondered what would qualify him to dine at the Lord's table.

        As though old man was hearing hiker's thoughts, he spoke the Scriptures again.  "The people I treasure most are the humble; they depend only on me and tremble when I speak." (Isaiah 66:2)  And tremble hiker did.  He had heard God's proclamations all his life, but could not recall trembling at hearing His words.  And hiker never remembered a time when he depended only on God.  He always had a back-up plan in case God would answer "no" to his prayer, relying on someone or something else other than the Lord.

        "God's answer is never 'no.'  That isn't scriptural."  The old man's words startled the hiker.  "What?" was the only thing he could say.  Again, old man read Scripture: "Christ says 'yes' to all of God's promises.  That's why we have Christ to say 'Amen' for us to the glory of God.'" (2 Corinthians 1:20)

        "I tell you for certain that the Father will give you whatever you ask for in My name.  You have not asked for anything in this way before, but now you must ask in My name.  Then it will be given to you, so that you will be completely happy." (John 16:23-24)  "If you have faith when you pray, you will be given whatever you ask for." (Matthew 21:22)

        Pacing the rocky trail back and forth, hiker remained thoughtful for a time.  Finally, he stopped in front of old man.  "I prayed for love.  I prayed for truth.  I prayed for the light of understanding.  I prayed for life itself!  And I am still waiting upon the Lord.  That's why I'm here in these mountains, hoping God would answer my prayers here."

        Old man smiled again and read, "Your prayers are not answered because you pray just for selfish reasons." (James 4:3)  "If any of you want to be My followers, you must forget about yourself.  You must take up your cross and follow me.  If you want to save your life, you will destroy it.  But if you give up your life for me, you will find it.  What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself?  What would you give to get back your soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26)

        "Sir!" Hiker was now crying audibly.  "My prayers for light, truth, love, for abundant life, are not to serve myself!"

        Old man replied, "You cannot have these things apart from God, or else you are serving the self.  Listen to God's words: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life!' (John 14:6) 'God is love.' (1 John 4:16)    'I am the light for the world! Follow me and you won't be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.'" (John 8:12)

        "Then sir," hiker spoke through his tears, "what I really want is more of God, for He doesn't give love or truth or even life apart from Himself, as God is all that and more."

        "Yes," replied old man.  "God's spirit is in you and you desire Him even more fully and abundantly."

        Hiker grew more excited.  "So I will pray for grater intimacy with my Lord and the renewing of the fullness of His Spirit in me."

        "Yes, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you.' (Luke 12:31)  'I tell   you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.'" (Luke 11:9)  Old man reverently closed his Bible, carefully tucking it under his arm.

        "Will you help me in my prayers?"

        Old man took a while to answer this request of hiker.  Finally, he said, "Prayers are very powerful.  And those who pray fervently and seek to love and serve God with all their heart and strength will come under heavy and violent attack from satan and his diabolical angels.  God declared, 'Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and lives for Him will be persecuted.' (2 Timothy 3:16) Are you ready for this?  Are you ready to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil?"

        Hiker's legs began trembling again, so he eased himself down onto a rock, head resting in his arms, staring down at the play of shadows on the ground.

- End of Part 1 -

(Click here for Part 2)

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © November 23, 2000

Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com

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