He would have wished prayers

Pray for one another.
— James 5:16

His face lit up when I asked the question.

Shannan and I were off the interstate and meandering the back road that is Smokey Park Highway yesterday afternoon, a fine strip of asphalt between Ashville and Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Folks who opt for the Interstate on the premise that the shortest distance between two points is four lanes of superhighway don't know what they are missing. For starters, you're not going to get The Hot Dog King, May Motors, railroad graffiti art, and an aging VW bus on I-40.

My wife embraces and endures my circuitous quests. She knows I enjoy the sublime and the ridiculous, and especially any piece of Detroit steel regal or rusting from "better days." Of course this means quick stops, U-turns, curb-hopping, field-crossing, back-tracking, and long pauses so I can get a picture or in this case, talk.

We had built up some fine motoring momentum now that I scored a shot of the Hot Dog King when I spotted a 1950 GMC Suburban resting in a driveway, down a little valley . . . that was now quickly disappearing behind us. No big deal. Stop, u-turn, backtrack.

I saw a future hot rod project. Yes, My dreams exceed my days.

I nosed Shannan's SUV down the hill and pulled up pulled into the drive. On a whim I asked the young man standing near the car (he was on the phone but I wasn't going to let that stop me) if he would consider selling.

"It's my dad's, but he's out back if you want to talk with him." I did.

If this post is going to post then I can't pause to describe the delight I had for the next 45 minutes talking cars with the 60-year-old, Harley-loving, arm-tatted, proud father, mechanic and artist I'll call, Bill. His shop was any motorcyclist or hot-rodder's dream. What this man created and fabricated is living testimony to the creativity God breathes in people.

Bill has fibromyalgia, enough stories to write a book, and enough pain to make it a sad tale. He wasn't looking for pity, but he did appreciate my offer to pray. As I noted at the outset of this meandering devotional trail, his face lit up when I asked the question.

Can I pray for you?

At this point we were saying our goodbyes. I was back in the driver's seat of Shannan's Equinox. Bill was standing by her window. He drew near. Shannan laid her hand over his and we prayed for our new friend.

His smile spoke volumes.

Taking time to pray wasn't hard, and I had that gnawing feeling that I should ask him, but I vacillated before I asked. Why?

My little prayer meeting calls to mind words penned by Gordon MacDonald in Mid-Course Correction, one of the volumes I'm reading on this study break. In MacDonald's masterful fashion (he himself was 60 years of age when he wrote this), he looks at the life of Abraham and describes the way God changes people.

Midway through the book, MacDonald is imagining a conversation with a wizened Abraham who himself was looking through the rear-view mirror at his life.

Looking back over these challenging times, how would you like to have been prayed for? I need to know because I'm acquainted with a lot of people facing realities similar to yours."

The aged man thinks for a moment and then forms a response. He would have wished prayers, he says, for wisdom to make gutsy business decisions such as the one he had to make in connection with Lot and his people. He would have loved intercession for courage as he went out to face hostile warlords and small-town kings. And he would have profited from a plea to God for patience as he waited for a son.

And then he adds: "I would have given anything if someone had interceded for me on the way as I took my son to the mountaintop. No one will ever know how close I was to breaking that day." After a thoughtful pause, he speaks again: "Have you ever asked yourself if there are not people going to similar mountaintops every day to offer up whatever their 'Isaac' is? Because my 'Isaac' could be another person's career, his health, everything he defines as security.

Bill's mountaintop was fibromyalgia. In fact, that was just one peak he was climbing. Today you and I will meet others with stories to tell and troubles to summit.

What help can we offer? MacDonald's words and my new friend's face tell me: He would have wished prayers.

I would have given anything if someone had interceded for me on the way.

You don't need a pastor and a pew to pause and pray. Any ordinary conversation, any car door window sill, any office water cooler, any sports field sideline, any telephone conversation will do.

Pray for one another.

Notes:

  • "Looking back over these challenging times . . ." from Mid-Course Correction, by Gordon MacDonald. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2000. Page 107.