Prayer can be a gentle hammer

As a young preacher trying to get traction at my first church, I was assigned to visit a tough character who’d quit attending services… years before. I look back on it now and wonder if the folks thought, “He’s new, let’s see what he can do… we can always get another preacher!”

Anyway, I hesitantly agreed to go, but I had enough good sense to pray first. And as I prayed for this man, whom I barely knew, the tears inexplicably began to flow. I wanted him to find his peace in God. And it mattered to me.

When I arrived, he met me in the front yard of his modest, working class home. He’d been a highway worker for the state. Now retired, his health had begun to slip. I noticed that he limped, favoring one leg that had obviously been damaged sometime in his seventy-plus years. (I found out later that he had been run over by a highway department truck and lived to tell the tale.)

He and his wife seemed happy to see me. They soon invited me in, where we had coffee and I popped the question.

“If the Lord were to return right now, do you think you would go to heaven?”

He quickly admitted, “No, I know I wouldn’t.”

His refreshing honesty caught me a little by surprise (preachers regularly hear some quite creative excuses), but his answer was in character for a tough, no-nonsense working man like Jack.

In response to his candid remark, I said, “Did you know that you can be certain that you’re going to heaven?” Then I read 1 John 5:13 to back up my point.

I continued to read verses and explain while he listened politely. Then I said, “Jack, if you’d like to be sure that you’re going to heaven, and if you’d like to make things right with Jesus right now, I’ll pray with you and then be on my way.”

He agreed and wanted me to pray (but he wasn’t ready for me to leave, yet).

When I finished praying, I looked up to see tears flowing down Jack’s weather worn face.

Jack was a different man from that day forward. After that, he never missed an assembly of the church, and radiated a joy noticed by all.

He died six months later, assured of his place with Jesus. The gentle hammer of prayer had hit its mark – on both of us.

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