What do the department store Target, handcuffs, two sobbing women (one old, one young), and a “no shirt wearin’, boxer brief showin’” teenager have in common? Absolutely nothing, unless your name is Elaine and you happened to be cruising the Target parking lot around 5:00 PM this evening.
No. We weren’t robbed. We were simply witness to the arrest of a young man who had apparently done something worthy of handcuffs—a rubber-necking moment if there ever was one! Police cars and flashing lights were enough to garner our immediate attention. But as soon as we had passed the scene of the crime, my curious attention suddenly turned to tears. Lots of them. Before long, I had my daughter crying and my son and husband wondering as to the reason behind my emotional outburst. I can sum it up in one word.
When I saw that young man standing beside the patrol car, half-dressed and with a look of warranted fear in his eyes, my heart beat with the love of a mother. Through choking sobs, I spoke the penchant of my heart’s pause to the carload of dazed companions. Words like…
*That is somebody’s child.
*This boy didn’t start out this way.
*He was made for more than handcuffs and crime.
*Somebody’s getting a phone call tonight that they don’t want to get, and it is likely to bring heartache.
*Who is going to tell him that life doesn’t have to be this way—that there is a Jesus who loves him and died for him so that he might truly live?
*How will he ever know the hope of heaven?
*Who is going to stand beside him when he comes before the judge?
Words like that, and before we’d left the parking lot, everyone else was caught up in the drama of my tearful wondering. We took a few moments to pray, asking God to shatter the darkness of this young man’s heart with the truth of Jesus Christ. To bring a person of influence alongside him who will lead him to the foot of the cross.
It may not sound like much. I suppose in the grand scheme of issues that now await this boy, it offers little in the way of an immediate salve. But it’s all I have to give him. And prayers, when offered on behalf of others, are sometimes the difference between heaven and hell. Between life and death. Between handcuffs and freedom.
I will probably never know the outcome of tonight’s prayers. At least not now. But I do know that my Father heard me and that he is faithful to act on behalf of all of his children, especially those so prone to their shackles and their cells. What happened tonight in my van wasn’t contrived or superficial or #10 on the list of “30 Full Proof Methods for Raising Godly Children.” No, what happened tonight was solely rooted in the witness of God’s Spirit living within, provoking me to compassion and moving me to action.
That action was prayer. It doesn’t always breathe this way. Sometimes, more is required. Sometimes, I am the one charged with the responsibility of coming alongside. But tonight, my requirement was different. It was about lifting the life of a young man before the throne of heaven in love and asking the Father to move in his favor. It was also about the drawing of young hearts and minds to do the same.
Sacred seeding on both counts. One seed for another mother’s child. Two seeds for my own. All seeds acknowledged before God because God is in the holy habit of receiving our prayers.
Intercession is a privilege and is the sacred ladling from our heart’s well. Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time and energy underestimating its power. When prayers go seemingly unanswered, we are prone to keeping our silence. We closely guard our words for fear of having our faith challenged when God doesn’t breathe in compliance with our requests. Thus, we level the assumption that prayers matter little when all along, the very opposite is true.
Prayers matter much because prayers voice the witness of our relationship with the living, breathing Creator of the entire universe. Our words mean something to him. And when our words breathe on behalf of his children, he is tendered by our outward focus. We may not know them by name, but he does, and he is well-pleased when we take the time to acknowledge the value of a single human life.
I want my kids to grow in their understanding of prayer. I don’t want their lives to be so cloistered within the walls of a church that they forget the reason and purpose behind the church.
To go. To preach. To baptize and to make disciples of all people. To cry on behalf of a lost soul and then to petition the heart of the Almighty because they understand that heaven and hell hangs in the balance. That kingdom work can be accomplished through the pure intention of their young hearts. That sacred shaping doesn’t just happen on Sundays, but on every day. At every occasion, even when that occasion includes the Target parking lot.
If faith is to be raised in this generation, then prayer must find its witness through our voices. Yours and mine. We are who they are watching.
And tonight, while my daughter may not have fully grasped the weight of my tears or hers, she nevertheless gave way to something deep within. She gave way to her gut, and her gut told her that something of kingdom value was going on, and she wanted to feel it…just like her momma.
Oh for the heart of a child, so easily taught and so easily moved to her own well-intentioned prayers. May it be so for each one of us this day, and so I pray…
Move us quicker to our prayers, Father. Swifter to our knees in times of trouble, and truer in our petitions on behalf of your creation. Forgive us when our focus remains secluded toward self. Foster your outward focus within us as we live and move and have our being in you. Let our casual prayers be less and our intentional prayers find room to breathe in their absence. Thank you for always listening, and by the power of your Spirit and through the saving work of your Son, Jesus Christ, I ask for grace to come to a jail cell tonight for a young man who needs to know that a King and a kingdom await his arrival. Seed his heart for your forever. Amen.
Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.