Dateline: 5 December 2006
|Billy Graham, in 1970|
A couple of my friends asked me if I was Catholic or Protestant. When I told them I didn’t know, they said, “You’re Catholic. Come with us.” So I followed them, and discovered that I was not Catholic.
Not long after that, I was watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. I listened to Billy Graham explain that, because of Adam’s sin, all men were sinners. He was talking to me. I knew I was a sinner and it became clear to me that, because of my sin, and because God is holy, I was separated from Him. That being the case, I was destined for hell.
Billy Graham explained that God provided a miraculous solution to the problem of sin by sending His son Jesus to Earth. He said that being good didn’t get a person to heaven, because none of us can meet God’s standards. By ourselves, by our own efforts, we don’t have a chance. But Jesus willingly gave His life when he was crucified on the cross and, in so doing, he took the penalty for our sins. Jesus paid the price.
Mr. Graham explained that in order to be saved, I needed to admit I was a sinner and accept Jesus into my heart by praying a prayer, and that’s what I did. I think I was 13 years old.
Now, thirty-five years later, having grown considerably in my Christian faith, I wonder if I chose Jesus or did He choose me?
Clearly, what seemed so obvious, and simple, and true to me back then does not come across the same to so many other people. That being the case, I've come to believe that God, through His Holy Spirit, supernaturally opens individual hearts to the reality of who He is and what He has done, and in so doing, enables them to find the salvation He offers only through the shed blood of His beloved son.
I have had plenty of discussions with friends through the years who do not share my Christian faith. They reject it outright, or embrace a worldly view of Christianity—a Christianity in which Christ is not the focus. God is not holy to them. They do not respect His law. They do not know Jesus as their Lord. They may mentally believe in Him, but they do not follow Him.
No matter how well I point out the error of their pagan belief system, they cling to it. Theirs is a religion of doubt and unbelief. How can they not see the obvious? Because God has not revealed it to them. And why not? I don’t know why not. But I do have an idea why not.
In recent months I have been convicted more than ever that the most powerfully effective way to “lead someone to Christ” is through prayer on their behalf. In fact, it has occurred to me that it might be only through the prayers of other Christians that any unsaved person comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. Now that premise may not hold theological water, but it’s what I’ve been thinking, and it is something I have been keeping in mind as I pray for others.
I’ve also felt led, for the past few years, to pray more for people I don’t know. Specifically, for my future daughter-in-laws, whoever and wherever they are, that God would work in their hearts and draw them to Him, that He would prepare them to be godly wives and mothers to my grandchildren. And I pray regularly for those yet-to-be-seen (but so greatly looked forward to) grandchildren. On occasion, I’ll pray for the next generation too.
All of which leads me to wonder….. Who prayed for me? How have I come to a life-transforming knowledge of, and a close relationship with, Jesus Christ while others in my family have not? How have I come to avoid so many of the heartaches of rebellion and sinful life choices while others I know have not? How is it that I went to a secular college and actually grew in my faith while other “Christian” kids around me turned away from Christ? It is a mystery. But I keep thinking that someone must have prayed for me, from an early age, perhaps before I was born, and those prayers are what made all the difference.
My grandmother Kimball and my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Philbrick, were women of faith. Did they pray for me? I’m sure they must have.
My Grandmother Kimball once gave me a small, worn, Gideon pocket Bible that belonged to her mother. I have only a brief recollection of my great grandmother, Kate Towle. But I have her little Gideon Bible and inside the cover, under where she wrote her name, is a blank line to fill in “when you received Christ as your savior.” In the shaky handwriting of an older person she wrote: “Many years ago.” Perhaps my great grandmother prayed for me.
There may have been others. Of course, my mother was praying for me later in life, after she experienced a spiritual renewal (she watched the Billy Graham crusades back in the day too). Perhaps there were more distant relatives or neighbors I never really knew who prayed for me, or even just someone who looked at me as a little boy somewhere and said a prayer for me.
Have you ever done that—Prayed for a little unknown child's salvation? Have you prayed that spirits of sonship and adoption would work in the childs life to lead him or her to Christ, because God put it on your mind to do so?
If not, you really should. It may be among the most important things you ever do in your life. And that makes me think of something else….
As Christians we know that prayer is important, that we are called to prayer, that prayer changes things. But most modern Christians do not pray as they should, like they could, like they otherwise would, if they didn’t live a fast-paced, busy, busy, busy lifestyle. I am among them.
I could blame it on the Industrial Revolution. In fact, I will do just that… The Industrial Revolution changed it all—even down to the prayer life of God’s people
But that is no excuse.
I believe the agrarians of yore were more inclined to prayer because they lived and worked closer to the natural world, closer to creation, a creation that reveals the Creator in so many ways.
Even something so simple, yet so remarkably beautiful as a summer sunset, is a metaphor for Christ. The sun setting in a red sky: the sun is Jesus. The red sky signify’s his blood shed for sin. The darkness to follow signifys death. But then, in the morning, the Son rises bright. No wonder I feel like praising God when I stand in my garden and watch a summer sunset.The message of redemption and resurrection is "preached" by creation every day.
Well, today’s blog has ended up being a ramble. Believe it or not, I intended to tell you about a book I am reading titled, Flee to The Fields. It is about the Catholic Land Movement. I guess we can talk about that next time.