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The Unexpected Prayer

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
The Unexpected Prayer
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

The best gifts pastors get don’t come under the Christmas tree or during Pastor Appreciation Month. This season I’m sharing the stories of some of the great gifts I’ve received.

Jim and Evy first met Kim when she was giving out food samples at a store. They struck up a friendship. Kim was most definitely not a Christian. In fact, she called herself an angry atheist. But Jim and Evy invited Kim to their home and for her to ride with them to church. She came but she was locked and loaded! She never came off as angry, but she often dominated their Sunday School class with her questions. Some were honest. Some were just skeptical. And quietly, people prayed for Kim.

Gradually, she warmed up. She moved from angry atheist to agnostic. Her questions and objections just kept on coming. Months passed. Gradually she relaxed. Some questions were answered, and others dissolved. What mattered most for Kim was being around Christians, seeing our love for one another and for her. She liked the life of the church family, and we liked her spunk and smile.

Someone asked her to be an usher, and with her big smile and greetings, she was a natural. Meanwhile, God kept dropping little signs along her way—things that wouldn’t have meant much to me but to her were divine messages. When she found a penny, with its motto, “In God we trust,” she took it as a sign straight from God, and she found lots of pennies.

When we formed a choir to sing for Good Friday and Easter, Kim joined. As we rehearsed each week, she was internalizing the messages of the songs about Jesus’ death and resurrection. On Good Friday evening the choir met early to go over the music one more time.

At the end of the rehearsal our director pointed at Jim in the back row, “Jim, would you lead us in prayer?” But when she pointed at Jim, Kim, who was one row in front of him, thought she’d been invited to pray. “I’d love to,” she said. People in the choir glanced at one another sideways.

Then Kim prayed. She thanked God for the gift of his Son, and for the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross for us as sinners. She said how wonderful that was, and how much God must love us. After her Amen, I glanced at Ric, a fellow elder, both of us wondering what in the world we had just heard!

A few minutes later, I caught up with Kim in the hallway. “Your prayer sounded like a Christian praying,” I said. She looked at me, paused, and said with surprise, “I guess I am!” Somehow, there on Good Friday, in her prayer with us all listening, Kim trusted Christ. A few minutes later she was telling others what had happened to her.

Here’s the interesting thing: no one led Kim to Christ. We all led Kim to Christ. Our whole church preached, as did Christian friends from other churches. A couple of weeks later, when we put out a white rose on the Communion table celebrating her new birth, the whole church applauded the good news along with the singing angels.

I was sitting in the back row of the choir that Friday evening. I’d been in the back row, so to speak, throughout most of Kim’s journey but the steady witness of our church and finding a lost sheep was a gift I’ll never forget.

So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Cor. 14:25)

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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