Hmm, sounds a bit like an old horror movie. In Christ, we live a different sort of life. A stranger may call to pray with us. How does this stranger know that this call of prayer is needed? Through the Holy Spirit of course. We may be isolated by our workplace, but the Spirit of God unites all those who believe in a web of support. The close friend as well as the stranger may call you to offer the support of prayer. A stranger may come to your door with assistance of another kind, and then remain to pray with you. A friend may arrive unlooked for with prayer and good humor to lighten your cares. We are not disconnected, though at times it may seem so to our limited vision. What brought this to mind for me this afternoon? Well, a stranger called to pray with me on a day when I most need it.
This action of the Holy Spirit should not surprise me. I have been moved at times to write something that made a connection with someone far away. Others may drop an e-mail to me 'out of the blue' as they say. The minister in church may preach a line or two that he later thinks did not fit in with the sermon, while a person in the back pew sits up with a conviction on her heart. In Isaiah, I came across a part of a verse that did not seem to fit with the message of the chapter. Isaiah 7:9 begins, "And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah." Okay, but suddenly it is like God has a message that stands out. The latter part of 7:9 is, "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all." If we start reading back a bit, the message to Ahaz does contain other warnings about a quaking heart and not fearing. Then there is a lot of information about what is going on with other kings and nations. The statement about standing firm is God's warning at the end of the message. It stands out because it comes after what seems as almost unrelated information. If we imagine Isaiah, filled with the Spirit of God standing in front of Ahaz shaking his finger at him, then the short message makes sense. "If you are not firm in the faith, you will not be firm at all!"
That is a good message for you and me in our deep trials. Did you ever wonder at Paul's exhortation to work out or exercise your faith? I have, and let me tell you what that can feel like. In a dark situation, alternating periods of faith and fear send me to my knees in prayer. "I want off this roller coaster!" I plead with the Lord. However, He tells me that this is exercising my faith, like building up a muscle is done through reps of strain and rest. I'll admit that I didn't expect that answer. The down valley of fear is not fun, as you might imagine. The up peak of faith is much more to my liking. Can we stop the roller coaster on the up side for a bit, Lord?Thank you, Lord, for the prayer of friends and strangers.