Have you ever considered that your greatest contribution to the cause of Christ just might be the time you spend in intercessory prayer for your children and others we consider to be part of this “next generation”?
Diane and I are in that “empty nest” phase of life and there are a lot of things we are learning from it. Energies once given to chasing down the pitter patter of little feet and waiting up for teens to get home from an activity are now channeled in prayer. Of course we have always “known” that the “greatest work is on our knees”, but we have not known it like we do now. Things we have always known… we now more fully realize.
This week we are on the Gold Coast of Australia. Our children and grandchildren are scattered in different parts of the world as are many others we have invested in. So, we find ourselves praying more—constantly through the day and often in the secret place.
Across the water and a thousand miles to the east of us are the islands of Vanuatu (formerly The New Hebrides). Over 100 years ago John G. Paton wrote a most incredible story of his missionary experience and how the Gospel changed that part of the world. What few people know is the story of his praying father. He writes;
Our home consisted of a ‘but’ and a ‘ben’ and a ‘mid room,’ or chamber, called the ‘closet.’ The one end was my mother’s domain,… The other end was my father’s workshop,… The ‘closet’ was a very small apartment betwixt the other two, having room only for a bed, a little table and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding diminutive light on the scene. This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home. Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and ‘shut to the door’; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy colloquy. The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light as of a new-born smile that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived. Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, ‘He walked with God, why may not I?’ (The Story of John G. Paton Or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals. Kindle Edition Location 126).
There is an old saying that should give us pause: “When man works, man works. When man prays, God works”. I am certain that prayer holds much more strategic significance than is ever evidenced in my life. I have been tempted to think, “well, when you get older all you can do is pray”. I am thinking now that the older we get, the more we realize the futility of so many of our activities in comparison to our times of intercession. What will always stand out in my mind about the John G. Paton’s story is – his father’s prayers. Shouldn’t I long to be a father like this?
What if “the greatest work” was my greatest contribution?