I was so busy that Friday preparing to go to the church campout. Organization and management were not skills that came naturally to me. I had procrastinated and put off so many things and felt a lot of pressure. The kids really wanted to go. I hadn’t made the list of what to pack. I hadn’t purchased the food. The kids were too young at the time to leave them at home to do the packing, so we all got into the car and drove the back way into Cleburne to get groceries. In my head I was going over the stuff I needed, when we passed a lot of cars and an official looking van in a field. The kids wanted to know what was going on. The only thing I could think of was maybe a child was lost. I thought about stopping to pray with the people, but that seemed kind of arrogant. How do you ask if you can pray with complete strangers? I was so busy and we really didn’t have time to help. What help could a mom with three kids be? And anyway I could pray in the car.
So I prayed my generic ambulance prayer with the kids, “Lord, please be with those that need help and those that are helping, in Jesus name, Amen,” and went on my way. On the way home it was easier to drive by all the vehicles. It was late. We still had to pack and there was no way we could stop and still be ready to leave for the campout when my husband got home from work. And the thought of praying with complete strangers was still overwhelming. It was easier to drive by the second time and pray, “Lord, be with those who need help.”
We weren’t ready on time. My husband got home from work and told me that a two year old boy was lost in Alvarado. We told him we had driven right by the place where he went missing. I don’t remember, but I’m sure I must have prayed a quick, “Father, please help them find the child.” It was much easier to finish getting ready for the campout with my husband in charge. We didn’t make it there as soon as we wanted, but I think we got there before sunset. The kids had a lot of fun on the campout. I started to relax. It felt good to no longer feel the pressure of needing to get ready. We really did have fun with our church family. Once during the campout someone mentioned the child being lost and I said, “We need to pray.” But they didn’t take me up on it and I didn’t press.
We headed home from the campout that Sunday afternoon, tired but still happy and refreshed. We stopped to get gas and bought a paper. On the front page there was a story about a toddler that was still lost in Alvarado. I don’t know what the rest of the family listened to on the radio or talked about. The rest of way home I talked with God. I thought about how nice my weekend had been with my children, and the torment the parents of this little one must have endured. I thought about the different things that could have happened to the child. I realized that it was God who had asked me to stop and pray, and that I had been arguing with Him. I had been too busy and stressed to respond to His call. I hadn’t even recognized His voice! I asked Him why He needed my prayers, weren’t there lots of other people praying? He didn’t answer me. The thought came that the baby might not be found because I refused to take the time to really pray- not just a generic prayer, but to pray like it was my baby that was lost. I thought of the anguish I would be going through if my toddler had been lost that entire weekend.
And my heart was broken. In sorrow and repentance I turned towards the window and prayed for God to forgive me as tears ran down my cheeks. It no longer mattered why God wanted me to pray. I no longer thought that someone else more righteous than I should be the one praying. It didn’t matter to me anymore that I wasn’t that righteous man whose prayer availeth much. I begged the Lord to bring the baby back to his parents alive. I pleaded with Him not to hold my sin of indifference against this child. I came home broken and weighed down in sorrow for the child and for my own sin and selfishness. I did not have the assurance I would have had if I had listened to His voice and responded right away.
I went to bed early that night. I didn’t want to think anymore. My husband woke me up several hours later when he saw on the news that the child had been found late that afternoon. My heart was overwhelmed with gratefulness and praise for the mercy and loving-kindness of our Savior.
I still do not really understand the whys and wherefores of prayer. I do not understand why it was so important that I pray as I did that day. I only know it was. I have heard different people explain prayer but it always seems like there is more to it- like all our answers are just the surface of something too deep for us to fathom. What I do understand is that we pray far too little. Jesus longs for us to be less selfish and begin to truly care about the concerns of those around us. He longs for us to bring their petitions to Him and our own as well. Our only righteousness is found in Jesus and as long as we are abiding in Him we are that ‘righteous man’ and our prayers will avail much. I no longer see it as arrogance to believe that our prayers make a difference. I have learned that it is okay to pray with complete strangers, too. Our Father loves us and longs for us to take everything to Him in prayer and will do things in answer to our prayers that He wouldn’t otherwise do. It is so good to have a friend in Jesus!
--Cynthia Reyna has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southwestern Adventist College, as well as a specialization in special education from Tarleton State University, Texas. She was a teacher before changing careers to motherhood. She has especially enjoyed visiting national parks and historic sites, traveling, camping, and kayaking with her family and being able to consider it “school.”