Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stop – A Lesson in Listening

True Story

     During the summer months our church women’s ministry suspended in-depth Bible study, instead meeting once a week for prayer, devotional time and a two-mile walk through the neighborhood beside our church. We started as one group, but as we prayed for families, waved to homeowners and chatted with children, we usually returned to the church in three groups—fast, slower and slowest.
     One evening I shared the slower spot with a young woman named Christina. As we entered the church parking lot, we spotted an old well-used pick-up truck—driver’s-side door open and no one in sight. Wanting to be safe, we walked a distance away from the truck.
     As we stepped even with the passenger-side door, I heard a voice in my spirit as loud and clear as an air horn at a ballgame. I recognized the LORD’s voice as He said, “STOP!” I stopped, throwing my right arm across Christina as a mother does to protect her child. I tiptoed to the truck’s passenger-side window and looked in. Grasping the steering wheel and leaning over the seat stood a gray-haired man in obvious distress.
     While Christina ran to call 911, I approached the gentleman to assure him that help was on the way. I hoped to engage him enough to keep him from passing out. I asked his name. He struggled for air and responded.
      “Art, would you mind if I pray for you?”
     As his upper body continued to slump further into the driver’s seat, I laid my right hand on his sweat-soaked back and began to pray. Art was dying. I could sense it. My prayer for help remains engraved in my memory.
     “Father, I don’t know Art, but you do. I don’t know what is happening with his body right now. I do know that it is bad. Lord, you know exactly what is going on with Art. Lord, I ask that you keep him safe until medical help arrives.”
     As I continued, I could feel a Holy Spirit infusion of power to pray an urgent prayer.
     “Lord, don’t you let him die on me standing here in this parking lot. Father I do not know Art’s spiritual condition or if he knows Jesus as his Lord and Savior. But I’m asking you right now that you give him one more opportunity to make a decision for Christ if he has never done that. Lord, please don’t let him die before he knows Jesus!”
     I do not remember saying Amen. I only know that God and Art heard that desperate prayer, and I heard a feeble breathy response, “Thank you.”
     I continued to talk, trying to calm myself as much as Art I suppose; reassuring him that an ambulance would arrive quickly. Soon all of the ladies gathered in a circle to pray and the ambulance appeared. A tall red-haired man stepped from the driver’s side. I quickly gave him what little information I had and stepped out of the way. The driver, a childhood friend of Art’s sons, recognized Art and spoke with concern and compassion. I was glad.
     As we stepped back to allow the medical team to work, Art’s heart stopped. We prayed. The team laid Art in the bed of his truck to resuscitate him. I think I held my breath until Art breathed again. Finally, they slid him into the ambulance and the driver thanked us for calling 911 as he assured us that Art was in good hands. I remember whispering one more time as the flashing lights and sirens sped away, “Lord, don’t you let him die if he doesn’t know Jesus.”
    Art survived. The first time I walked into his hospital room, he was lying in bed. He had never seen my face—only felt my hand on his back and heard my voice. When I said hello, he replied, “You are the angel that saved my life.”
     I knew he was wrong on two counts. I am certainly no angel, and I did not save his life. But it was not the time for that discussion. I stayed only a minute but asked if I could return in a day or two when he was feeling better. He said I could.
     When I walked into his hospital room two days later, I found him sitting in a chair. Once again, he called me his angel. We chatted, and I discovered his wife was a Christian and had been praying for Art’s salvation for many years. I asked him if he wanted to accept Jesus Christ into his heart, and he said yes. We prayed, and I thanked God that he had answered that prayer I prayed standing in the middle of an asphalt parking lot with my hand on the sweat-drenched back of a dying man.
     A couple of days later, our pastor visited Art. He and Art also prayed and Pastor Roy came away confident that Art had accepted Christ as Savior. I wept during the following Sunday worship service as pastor explained to the congregation what had transpired in Art’s life.
     That parking lot encounter reminded me of several things. God is real. He cares. He is present in the lives of His children. He speaks. It is my responsibility to pay attention. When I do, it can be life altering. I will never forget how, on that hot summer evening, one word linked two lives for eternity.

© Joyce Powell

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