A friend sent a rather lengthy tale to me several decades ago, but I never learned the identity of the author. The story is not a historical account, but more like a parable to illustrate a moral, and the following is a portion of the narrative.
A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men survived and managed to get to a small island. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.
The first thing the one man prayed for was food. The next morning, he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island, but the other man’s parcel of land remained barren.
However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.
After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a puppy. The next day, he found a pooch swimming to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing came ashore.
Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. Each time, somehow, the food and the material for all of these came ashore. However, the second man still had nothing. The first man did, begrudgingly, share some of his food with him.
Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his puppy could leave the island. By morning, the wind had blown a deserted boat to his side of the island. He boarded the boat with his puppy and decided to leave the second man on the island.
He thought the other man was unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.
As he was about to leave, he heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”
“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were all unanswered and so he doesn’t deserve anything.”
“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you wouldn’t have received any of my blessings.”
“What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”
“His only prayer these past two months was that I would answer your prayers.”
In the legend, both men initially understood their plight, realized that prayer was the only recourse available to them, and amicably began their experiment.
The reason this stood out so strongly to me is that I’ve seen the same qualities in people wherever I go. Some folks are humble, good-hearted, and want what’s best for others. They go out of their way, even to the point of depriving themselves of some benefits of life so they can reduce the hurt and pain others are experiencing. These people are obeying Jesus.
But I’ve also seen other folks who are out to get what they can for themselves. Not helping others in a material way, these self-centered people sometimes go out of their way to destroy reputations, mock others, and make life hard for their imagined enemies.
What those self-absorbed people don’t understand is, the people they are attempting to hurt could be cherished friends if allowed to be.
But let’s continue about the fable above, and perhaps we should reconsider the concept of prayer.
The blessings we receive might not always be the fruit of our prayers alone, but are perhaps benefits from others praying for us. I can write a book about dangerous and life-threatening situations people have faced and how they escaped or survived, but I’ll tell about only one.
My father was in the USS Yorktown during WWII, heading for what would erupt into the Battle of Midway. A terrible fear gripped dad’s mind and he couldn’t do his job. Five thousand miles away, mom had a powerful burden to pray for him … not even knowing where in the world he was. After an hour of intense prayer, mom stopped praying, and the fear suddenly lifted from dad’s mind. Unknown to dad, God answered mom’s prayers.
I encourage all you who are reading this blog: when someone comes to your mind, pray for him or her. Pray however you feel like it, but pray. You may be the “ministering angel” God uses to rescue or help someone.