In Part 1 of this sermon, we learned that in dealing with prodigals, God sends storms to get our attention, he allows others to suffer because of our sin, and he sends someone to challenge us. In this case the captain woke up Jonah who was sleeping below deck and told him to start praying. What a rebuke! The people of the world may not want our sermons, but when the storms of life come, they definitely want our prayers.
Let me tell you a story. We attend a Baptist church in Tupelo, Mississippi. Several years ago our youth choir (called the Zamar choir, from the Hebrew word for “praise”) took a summer missions trip to New York City. When I heard about their plans, I was a little bit worried. All those fresh-faced, clean-cut, innocent Mississippi teenagers heading north to evangelize the Big Apple.
I wondered what would happen.
I love New York. Great city, exciting place, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I wasn’t worried about anything bad happening, but I did wonder how the folks in New York would respond to our youngsters from Tupelo who came to town hoping to do some good.
They helped in a soup kitchen, they led a VBS, they worked with some ministries already in the city, and they had a great time. They worked with a church in Spanish Harlem and with a ministry based in Brooklyn.
When it came to Manhattan, the leaders made two decisions that turned out to be very wise. First, they decided to sing a lot. Everyone loves music, and our kids can really sing. That went over well in New York City. They sang in parks and other open areas and gave away 5000 free music CDs.
Second, they decided to pray for people. Here’s what they did. They found various locations in Manhattan where they put up “Prayer Stations.” The young people would set up a card table with a poster than said (in big letters) “Prayer Station."
That was the whole plan.
If people stopped, they just asked, “How can we pray for you?"
That’s it. A table that said “Prayer Station” and a simple question, “How can we pray for you?”
How would the folks of New York City respond to something like this? Would the kids be laughed out of town?
As it turned out, people stood in line waiting to be prayed for.
That shouldn’t surprise us because we’re all in the same boat. People are hurting, families are in crisis, people struggle to make ends meet, there is sickness of one sort or another in every family, and everyone is touched by pain and sorrow. It’s no different in the big city than in the small town.
I heard about one man who was stopped at a traffic light near one of the prayer stations. He leaned out the window and said, “I’m having a lot of trouble in my life. I need you to pray for me. I can’t stop right now, but please pray for me.” Then the light turned green. As he pulled away, the teenagers yelled, “We will! We’ll pray for you!”
The lesson is clear.
The world waits for us pray.
The world wants us to pray.
The world wonders why we don’t pray.
They don’t understand our doctrine. They aren’t that interested in our sermons. The world wants us to pray.
“Wake up! Wake up!”
"You call yourself a Christian. Why aren’t you praying?”
"My life is falling apart. I need you to pray for me.”
You can read the rest of the sermon online.