Bromide Prayers and Safe Trees
- Tim Kimmel Author & Speaker
- 2005 16 Mar
He was about two-thirds my size: hair: black, skin: a dark bronze. His eyes were tucked back below a prominent forehead but sparkled in compliment with his ear-to-ear grin. He was my "prayer partner" for the moment but I found myself looking around to see if there might be someone more "conventional" to spend the next half hour with.
I was in Amsterdam. Darcy and I had been invited to gather with 15,000 itinerant evangelists and Bible teachers from all over the world to sharpen our skills and network our efforts. Our host was Billy Graham.
There were the normal plenary events where passionate speakers followed corporate worship to challenge us in our calling. Then there were the breakout options that covered the gambit of needs that people who travel for the Lord tend to have. To double our efforts, Darcy and I decided to split up for the optional sessions and compare notes after we were back together. She was off to learn more about the administrative side of itinerant Christian work. I chose to learn about the power of prayer in ministry.
For about 45 minutes, the presenter shared great insights from the Bible as well as his personal experiences on how to make prayer an anchor tenant of our efforts for God. And then he shifted his lecture into a laboratory experience. He encouraged us to turn to the person next to us, exchange prayer needs, and then lift each other up before God.
That's how I ended up with the diminutive young man from Sri Lanka with the permanent smile on his face. As I recall, he was so anxious and excited to be able to pray with me, an American. Shamefully, I have to confess that I wasn't as excited to be with him.
It wasn't anything about him in particular that caused me to look to see if there might be another candidate to pray with. It's just that I...I...I didn't know why I didn't want to pray with him. I have to assume that deep down in my heart, I felt he had little to offer me. I was simply a prideful young preacher from America with more spending money in my pocket than this man saw in a year, and I didn't think there would be much for us to relate over. As it turned out, I learned that I wasn't worthy to carry his Bible for him.
He slid over a couple of chairs to be right next to me, shook my hand, and introduced himself. His English slipped off of his tongue with the heavy slur and accent distinctive to his region. He wanted to know all about me. When I told him about my wife and family, he wanted to see a picture. He asked specific questions about each member. And then he asked how he could pray for me.
I gave him the normal safe stuff you give to strangers or people you don't want getting too close to your insides. "Pray that God will give me open doors and open hearts. Pray that God will watch over my family in my absence." He listened. He wrote down every word I said under my name on the inside flap of his Bible.
And then he prayed. Oh, my, did he pray! He lifted me up with the strength and tenderness of a person who was clearly on a first name basis with God. And then he wept as he asked God to watch over my family in my absence. He mentioned Darcy and each child by name. I found myself staring at him with my eyes wide open in amazement over his sincerity and passion. And then he whispered, "Amen."
I shifted myself uncomfortably in my seat, pulled out a small piece of scrap paper to write down what he said and asked him the same question he asked me earlier, "How can I pray for you?"
He was quiet for a moment. And then without fanfare or panache he said, "Oh, Brother Tim! Please pray that when I come into a village to bring the precious good news of Christ's love and grace that I can find a safe tree to sleep in at night."
I was writing as he spoke. I started to write "safe..." and then stopped to look at him. "Safe tree! What's a safe tree?" He said, "Oh, Brother Tim! One night I was deep asleep in a tree when I was suddenly awakened by a vicious reptile who had wrapped himself around me."
"What?! What are you talking about?" He went on to explain how he had climbed into a tree to spend the night and while he was asleep, a python had slid into the tree and decided to have him for dinner. Pythons first wrap themselves around their prey and suffocate them with their tremendous muscles, and then they consume them. He put up the fight of his life and was able to escape. But he said since that night, he's had a difficult time drifting comfortably off to sleep in trees.
I asked the obvious questions. "Why don't you stay in a hotel?" They didn't have such places in most of the villages. Besides, if they did, they would require money that he seldom had to spare. "Why can't you stay in someone's home?" Most of the time, he told me, he is ministering in areas where Christianity is not welcomed. People could be persecuted by fellow villagers for inviting him in.
And so...I prayed for this young man...for his ministry...and for him to get a safe night's sleep without fear of snakes. And then we parted into a sea of Christian workers and I never saw him again. But he has never been far away from me since.
There were times before our paths crossed that I actually found myself frustrated with room service at my hotel, or with the fact that room service was closed by the time I checked in. There were times when the pillows weren't very comfortable or the people in the halls were too noisy. There were even times when I took these frustrations to the Lord.
But I can't say I was praying when I did it. I thought I was at the time, but I knew I wasn't after I met the young evangelist from Sri Lanka. Actually, what I was doing was whining. It happens more than many of us think.
Instead of focusing on the opportunities we have to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, we instead cast our gaze on the inconveniences that people in other parts of the world would consider luxuries, and we pout about them.
There's no place for that kind of "praying" in the heart of a person whose mind is thoroughly fixed on Christ. I've grown a lot since that time. And I'm grateful to a little man from Sri Lanka for the inches that have been added to my spiritual height.
By the way, what have your prayers been sounding like lately? Are you praying for quicker room service or safer trees?
O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief...
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Psalm 143:1, 8
Dr. Tim Kimmel is one of America's top advocates speaking for the family today. He is the Executive Director of Family Matters™ whose goal is to equip families for every age and stage of life. Tim and Family Matters™ conduct conferences across the country on the unique pressures that confront members of today's families. Over the past few years, Tim has spoken to millions of people throughout the country. He has spoken for Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family's Life on the Edge Tour, and he and his wife, Darcy, are speakers for FamilyLife Ministry's Weekend To Remember and I Still Do conferences. Visit the Family Matters website at www.familymatters.net