Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsWednesday 7 Oct 2020Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
It was a plane ride like no other. You may remember June 2017 when AirAsia X flight D7237 left Perth for Kuala Lumpur. But the plane had to turn back over the ocean. Passengers heard a loud bang and the plane shook violently. It was an awful experience for many on board.
I can image what it was like. But what the captain said grabbed the headlines—he announced that everyone’s survival depended on cooperation and also that they should pray. [The pilot] “He said, I hope you all say a prayer, I will be saying a prayer too, and let’s hope we all get back home safely,” passenger Sophie Nicholas told The West Australian newspaper of the ‘terrifying’ ordeal.
The captain was widely criticised for these comments from within the airline industry. Many colleagues said he shouldn’t have told people to pray. But as I thought about that incident, I realised, why not pray? That Sunday was indeed a time to pray and seek God’s help.
We May Think of Prayer Only in Emergencies
F. B. Meyer, the author of the book The Secret of Guidance, said, “The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but un-offered prayer. Instead of it being something we do every day, like breathing, eating and walking and talking, prayer seems to have become like that little glass-covered box on the wall that says, Break in case of emergency.” It is true that so very often we associate prayer with crises in our life. We only think of prayer in a time of emergency.
Talking about flying, I read the story of a man who encountered a bit of trouble while flying his small one-man aeroplane. He called the control tower and said:
- “Pilot to tower: I’m 300 miles from the airport, six hundred feet above the ground, and I’m out of fuel. I am descending rapidly. Please advise. Over.”
- (Then came back the answer) “Tower to pilot: Repeat after me: Our Father Who art in heaven…“
In 1952, Albert Einstein was delivering a lecture on the campus of Princeton University. A doctoral student asked the famous scientist, “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” After a while Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.”
A Prayer Answered in Advance
Dr Helen Roseveare worked as a missionary in the Congo between 1953 and 1973. During the political upheavals there in the 1960s, this remarkable woman set up hospitals and survived being kidnapped, beaten and raped, later describing her suffering in her autobiography Give me this Mountain (1966), as an ‘overwhelming privilege’ that helped her to understand God’s goodness.
She wrote about a mother at the mission station who died after giving birth to a premature baby. They tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot-water bottle they had was beyond repair. So during prayers that morning, the staff asked the children to pray for the baby and for her little sister who was now an orphan. One of the girls prayed, Dear God, please send a hot-water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.
That afternoon a large parcel arrived from England. Eagerly the children watched as it was opened. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot-water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to delve deeper, exclaiming, If God sent that, I’m sure he also sent a doll. And she was right! God knew in advance of the child’s sincere requests, and five months before, he had led a ladies group to include both of those specific articles.
Making Prayer a Daily Practice
Although many of our prayers are not answered so dramatically, God always sends what is best. Now, you may say, Well, that water bottle and doll was already on its way long before the girl prayed, so the items were going to be there anyway. But remember: that shipment could have been stolen before it ever arrived. Indeed, it could have burned up in a building before it was placed on the delivery truck. Many things could have happened to the shipment before it arrived. Don’t try to second-guess the Lord—he knows what we need. Our problem is our lack of faith.
Howard Hendricks—who for years taught at the Dallas Theological Seminary and pastored in the area—shared this story:
Years ago in a church in Dallas we were having trouble finding a teacher for a junior high boys class. The list of prospects had only one name—and when they told me who it was I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I couldn’t have been more wrong about that young man. He took the class and revolutionised it.
I was so impressed I invited him to my home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book. On each page he had a small picture of one of the boys, and under the boy’s name were comments like “having trouble in arithmetic,” or “comes to church against parents’ wishes,” or “would like to be a missionary some day, but doesn’t think he has what it takes.”
“I pray over those pages every day,” he said, “and I can hardly wait to come to church each Sunday to see what God has been doing in their lives.” What a wonderful example of what happens when we pray, not just for ourselves, but for others. It’s too easy to become focused on ourselves.