Part Two: Prayer
Somewhere about 1020 BC, David, the anointed king of Israel, was being chased and persecuted by the sitting king of Israel, King Saul. While he fled from Saul and from the armies of Israel, David and some four hundred men of Israel, men who had joined themselves to him, fought the enemies of Israel and defended the Southern cities and villages of Israel from marauding Bedouins.
There was a day when after three days of riding they reached Ziklag, their home, and found it burning. Their families, “their wives, and their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” (1 Samuel 30:3-4)
At this dark hour, after years of a hard life, running from Saul and battling the enemies of Israel, in that terrible grief, in the sight of the horrifying loss, the men who were with David counseled together to stone him. At this most desperate hour is when David truly shown forth as a leader of God’s people. The Bible tells us that he encouraged himself in the Lord and sought His guidance in prayer! (1 Samuel 30:6)
We all have those times when the road seems so painfully long, when we feel at the end of our own strength, when it seems that everything is stacked against us, in that desperate hour we need to take David’s example…
From: Kenneth James Solheim Th.B.
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 05:04:53
I love miracles and I love to share them with others. By sharing them I hope to bring Glory to God and encouragement to His people. A number of years ago I found a small white book in a used bookstore. The title of the book is "The Comrade in White" written by Rev. W. H. Leathem, M. A. and introduction by Hugh Black. Fleming H. Revell Company published it in 1916. There are just four short stories of miracles witnessed during the First World War. I want to share with you the last story, my favorite, "The Prayer Circle".
The Great War has put a strain on the resources of human nature, as well as on material resources. Men who have come through the hell of the trenches have discovered some of the secrets of life and death. Many or them have known a reinforcement of spiritual power. It is quite natural that this fact should often be described in emotional form as direct interposition of angels and other supernatural agencies.
Among these the most beautiful and tender stories are those of 'The Comrade in White'. In essence they are all testimony to the perennial fount of strength and comfort of religion-the human need, which in all generations has looked up and found God a present help in trouble.
The origin of the many stories brought back to England from the battle fronts by her soldiers is that to the average Briton this a religious crusade, and men have gone with an exaltation of soul, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, willing to die that the world might live. Men and women are face to face with eternal realities, and are driven by the needs of their hearts to the eternal refuge. Unless we see this we miss the most potent fact in the whole situation.
The tender stories in this little volume are a reflex of the great religious stirring of the nation. They describe in a gracious and pathetic way the various abysmal needs of this tragic time, and they indicate how many human souls are finding comfort and healing and strength. They are finding peace as of old, through the assurance that 'earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.'
Lieutenant Roger Fenton had a lump in his throat when he said good-bye to his boys. There they were in a bunch on the station platform, the ten wayward lads into whom he had sought to instill the fear of God on Tuesday evenings in winter, and with whom he had rambled and played cricket every Saturday afternoon in summer. Boys of fourteen to seventeen are a tough proposition, and though Fenton would answer for them for their bowling and batting he wasn't over sanguine about their religion. But they had filled a place in his lonely life in the dull little country town, and now he had to leave then and lose them. For the great call had reached him, and be bore the King's commission, and in his heart of hearts he had the feeling that he would never come back.
"Now the chaff and the parting words of good luck were over, and the train was panting to be off. 'Boys,' he cried suddenly, 'I want you to do something for me, something hard." 'Anything you like, sir,' they answered eagerly. But their faces fell when they heard their teacher's word. 'Look here,' he said, 'it's this. You'll meet in the old place every Tuesday evening for a few minutes and pay for me that I may do my duty, and, if it please God, that I may come back to you all. And I'll pray for you at the same time even if I'm in the thick of battle. Is it a bargain?"
I wish you had seen the dismay on those ten faces. It was any odds on their blurting out a shamefaced refusal, but Ted Harper, their acknowledged chief, pulled himself together just in time, and called out as the train began to move: 'We'll do it, sir. Don’t know how we'll manage it, but we'll do our best. We'll not go back on you.’
As Fenton sank into his corner he was aware of the mocking looks of his brother officers. 'I say', said one of them, 'you don't really think those chaps are going to hold a prayer-meeting for you every week, and if they did you can't believe it would stop an enemy's bullet or turn an enemy's shell. It's all very well to be pious, but that's a bit too thick.'
Fenton flushed, but he took it in good part. 'Prayer's a big bit of our religion,' he said, 'and I've a notion these prayers will help me. Anyhow I'm sure my lads will do their part. Where Ted Harper leads, they follow.' "And sure enough the boys did their part. It was fine to see them starting out in the wrong direction, and twisting and doubling through the crooked lanes till they worked round to the Mission Hall, and then in with a rush and a scuttle, that as few as possible might see. The doings of the Fenton crowd, as they were known locally, were the talk of the town in those first days after Roger departed. Would they bear the ridicule of the other boys of their own age. And how in the world would they pray?
"Time answered all these questions except the last. They met, they continued to meet, they faced ridicule like heroes. But how did they pray? That mystery was as deep and insoluble as before, for whatever awful oath of secrecy bound them to silence not a whisper of the doings of those Tuesday evenings was divulged to the outside world.
"I was the only one who ever knew, and I found out by chance.
Ted Harper had borrowed 'Fights for the Flag' from me, and when I got it back there was a soiled piece of paper in it with something written in Ted's ungainly hand. I thought he had been copying a passage, and anxious to see what had struck him, I opened the sheet out and read these words: -'O God, it's a hard business praying. But Roger made me promise. And you know how decent he's been to the crowd and me. Listen to us now, and excuse the wrong words, and bring him back safe. And, O God, make him the bravest soldier that ever was, and give him the V.C. That's what we all want for him. And don't let the war be long, for Christ's sake. Amen.
I felt a good deal ashamed of myself when I came to the end of this artless prayer. I had got their secret. I could see them kneeling round the Mission forms, two or three with crumpled papers in their hands. They were unutterably shy of religious expression, and to read was their only chance.
The boys on whom the fatal lot fell the previous Tuesday were bound to appear with their written devotions a week later. This war has given us back the supernatural, but no miracle seems more wonderful to me than those ten lads and their ill-written prayers. And, remember that liturgical service lasted six months, and never a break in the Tuesday meeting.
What a grand thing a boy's heart is, when you capture its loyalty and its affection! "It was a black day when the news came. The local Territorials had advanced too far on the wing of a great offensive, and had been almost annihilated. The few survivors had dug themselves in, and held on till that bitter Tuesday faded into darkness and night. When relief came, one man was left alive.
He was wounded in four places, but he was still loading and firing, and he wept when they picked him up and carried him away for first aid. That solitary hero, absolutely the only survivor of our local regiment, was Lieutenant Roger Fenton, V.C. "When his wounds were healed, and the King had done the needful bit of decoration, we got him home. We did not make the fuss they did in some places.
Our disaster was too awful, and the pathos of that solitary survivor too piercing. But some of us were at the station, and there in the front row were the ten men of prayer. Poor Roger quite broke down when he saw them. And he could find no words to thank them. But he wrung their hands till they winced with the pain of that iron grip.
"That night I got a chance of a talk with him alone. He was too modest to tell me anything of his own great exploit. But there was evidently something he wanted to say, and it was as if he did not know how to begin. At last he said, 'I have a story to tell that not one in fifty would listen to.
That Tuesday evening when I was left alone and had given up all hope, I remembered it was the hour of the old meeting, and I kept my promise and prayed for the boys of my Class. Then everything around me faded from my mind, and I saw the dear lads in the Mission Room at prayer. I don't mean that I went back in memory. I knew with an absolute certainty that I was there invisible in that night's meeting.
Whether In the body or out of the body, I cannot say, but there I was, watching and listening. "How wonderful!' I said. "That's not all, there's something stranger still,' he went on. 'They were kneeling on the floor, and Ted Harper was reading a prayer, and when it was done they said, 'Amen' as with one voice. I counted to see if they were all there. I got to ten right enough, but I did not stop there. I counted again, and this is the odd thing - there were eleven of them!
In my dream or vision or trance, call it what you will, I was vaguely troubled by this unexpected number. I saw the ten troop out in their old familiar way, and I turned back to find the eleventh, The Comrade in White, and to speak to Him. I felt His presence still, and was glad of it, for the trouble and perplexity were all gone and in there place a great expectation. I seemed to know the very place where He had been kneeling, and I hurried forward. But there was nothing to be seen, nothing but the well-remembered text staring down at me from the wall - 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'
I remembered no more, till I found myself in the hospital. But of course I knew then how I had been saved, and what my boys had done for me, "It makes a man feel strange to have his life given back to him like that; it's as if God would expect a great deal in return.
But there's a stronger feeling still in my heart. I believe the lads got their answer not for my sake but for their own. Think what it means to them. They've got their feet now on the rock of prayer. They know the truth of God. I'm not sure, but I don't think I'll ever tell them that I saw Christ in there midst. They know it in their own way, and perhaps their own way is best.' "And as he said it, I saw that Lieutenant Roger Fenton was prouder of his boys than of his Victoria Cross."
This is my favorite of the four stories found in that little book. I love the Lord! He is precious and dear to me! Every time I pray with my friends I invite my Savior to join us and in Faith I am certain that He is with us, adding His intercession with ours.
To God Be the Glory!
Eyewitness, Kenneth J. Solheim