Prayer is the invitation from God to a conversation. Consider this short story –
A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her dying father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The pastor assumed that the fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.
“No, who are you?” said the father.
“I’m the new pastor at your church,” he replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”
“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, the pastor shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “For all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church, I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because Jesus promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’ So I tried it and I’ve like it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, talked a little more with him and returned to the church.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her dad died that afternoon. “When I left the house about two o’clock,” the daughter told the pastor, “he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”
The pastor responded, “Don’t worry, he was in good hands.”
No special words. No magic formulas. Your thoughts, concerns, praises, thanksgivings, desires and hopes. Your speaking and silence. Your talking and listening. And God will hear and answer. Try it, you’ll be in good hands.