“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)
Never underestimate the difference a prayer can make. “Never stop praying” is one of the shortest verses in the Bible and yet it conveys a remarkable and unmistakable truth. Prayer makes a difference! Even when it may seem like a brief formality or something one does simply out of habit, prayer is nonetheless important and does make a difference. I learned this in an unforgettably humorous way back when I was a youth pastor.
One practice of prayer since my early days as a believer in Christ has been to pause before embarking on any long journey and pray to God for His traveling mercies. Typically it is a spontaneous type of prayer asking for His presence and protection as I and those with me travel to our destination. It is as simple as sitting in our vehicle just before starting out and bowing for a few moments in prayer. And as a leader I have always been particularly cognizant of the necessity of doing this whenever I have had a van or bus load of people heading out on an outing together.
One winter I chartered a school bus to take the youth from our church located in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) up into the woods of Northern Wisconsin for a weekend retreat. The retreat center was a rustic one that was situated just off an isolated forest road in the middle of nowhere. The scenery was spectacular. The bows of the tall pine trees were laden with snow and the white expanse of the nearby frozen lake provided a crystal clear contrast to the cloudless azure sky. All the students and counselors had a wonderful time participating in outdoor snow activities and then in the evening gathered around the fireplace for times together of worship and Bible teaching. It was the perfect retreat every youth pastor dreams of, no threats to send someone home or having to deal with some pranksters disrupting our sleep in the night.
Sunday afternoon, after the typical cajoling and herding of the flock, we finally had everyone on the bus and were ready to go. It had been a hectic time cleaning and packing up and we were an hour or so behind my schedule of departure with a four hour drive yet ahead of us. As I was standing at the head of the aisle, having completed the head count, I was anxious to get rolling. The bus driver had closed the doors and was paused waiting for my final instructions before hitting the road. I thought to myself “Now it’s time to pray.” But I can remember very clearly reasoning within myself “Oh it is really not all that important, it’s just a formality anyway, we need to get on our way.” And with that conversation in my head completed, I dropped the idea of prayer and gave the bus driver the nod to go.
The driver drove down the driveway and as he took a right onto the road, for some reason his turn was too wide, causing our bus to plow into the huge show banks lining the far side of the road. There we were, not even one block into our trip home, parked helplessly and precipitously at a nearly 45 degree angle straddling the shoulder and the ditch. We had everyone get out of the bus as soon as we could, fearing it would tip over. As all of us were standing on that desolate road we began to puzzle what to do. Being miles from the nearest town it could take hours before a tow truck would be able to find its way to us.
It was then that the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit came upon me as I realized that we were in the ditch because I had decided prayer really wasn’t all that important. Having no other recourse I shared with the entire group what I had done and asked their forgiveness. Then all of us prayed acknowledging to God that prayer does matter and asking Him to help us. No sooner had we finished saying “Amen” then we all had to clear the road because a vehicle was approaching. It pulled to a stop beside us and to our surprise it was a big Budweiser truck. The driver was a very congenial man and as he marveled at our predicament, he offered, “Why don’t I try to pull you out?” He proceeded to drag out a huge chain and literally within minutes he had us towed back up onto the road. With profuse thanksgivings on our part, he was soon on his way and so were we.
Imagine, in a delay of a mere fifteen minutes, God had engineered an invaluable and indelible lesson about prayer that would impact me and many others for a lifetime: Never underestimate the power of your prayer! And here is God’s sense of humor, in the midst of our dilemma it is as if He was saying to us . . .“This Bud’s for you!”
Do you have any stories of how God taught you the great value of prayer?
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