Summary: Sometimes we misinterpret the purpose of prayer. The response we expect isn’t necessarily the response we get. Anyone else experience that?
Other Scriptural passages
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
There’s a poem entitled, “Footprints,” that illustrates our walk with Jesus. Many of you may even have a copy displayed in your home. It begins:
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed that he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him, the other to the Lord.
When the last of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the Footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path
there was only one set of footprints.
He recalled that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in his life.
He questioned, “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
Then why during the most troublesome times in my life
When I needed you most, would you leave me?”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trials and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.” (Anonymous).
I’d like to add to that image, because I believe there are other times in our lives when there should be only one set of footprints, but for a different reason.
During the times of temptation in our lives, often our footprints wander away from those of Jesus as we leave the path he’s on and wander into the dangers of the surf zone or the rocks.
There are hazards and dangerous creatures living in the rocks and under the water in the surf zone. I’ve seen many injuries from people slipping on the rocks or stepping on sting rays in the surf. But I’ve never seen an injury from someone walking on the flat sand at the edge of the beach.
During some of the times of temptation in our lives, we don’t wander away from Jesus. There is one set of footprints, because we are walking in his footprints, following him exactly, living as he lived and doing what he did.
When we choose to follow Jesus, we are walking in his steps.
When I was being taught how to clear a minefield our instructor told us to step precisely in the footprint left by the person in front of us. The concept was simple: since the person in front of us stepped on a spot that didn’t set off a landmine, the only spot guaranteed to be safe was the ground under that footprint. Stepping anywhere else meant risking death.
The person at the front of the patrol is called the “point man.” His job is to make sure he clears any mines or booby traps before moving forward. Everyone else’s job is to walk where he walks and step where he steps.
When we say we’re following Jesus, living as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus did, we are letting Jesus be the point man in our lives.
Our Collect today refers to God as our protector, who will guide us through the dangers of this temporary world so we can enter the joy of the next eternal one.
Walking in someone else’s footprints is also often easier than trudging through new ground.
Anyone who has walked through deep snow recognizes that it’s easier to walk along snow that’s been packed down than through a snow drift.
Unlike our own, Christ’s footprints aren’t always easy to see, are they? We can’t see them from a distance. We have to be right there with Jesus or they fade away. And when you’re walking that closely with someone, you’re usually communicating with them aren’t you?
You may not be talking about anything really important, but you’ll be talking to the person you’re walking with. Can you imagine walking that closely to someone that you can actually step in their footprints, without talking to them?
Or driving around without speaking to anyone else in the car? Silently strolling through the mall with someone? Weird isn’t it? Yet that sums up the prayer lives for most of us who claim to be walking with Jesus.
Prayer was important to Jesus; it kept him close to the Father. We can learn a lot from his example. After all, his disciples did.
They saw Jesus praying all the time, and noticed the benefit it had for him. He would go off by himself and then come back refreshed and recharged, ready to do the Father’s will. The standard repetition of scripture that they had known all their lives did not have the same effect, so they asked Jesus to show them how to pray.