I PRAY WHEN I FEEL LOST
My wife and I hoped to visit Vienna. We did three years ago and we still marvel at its splendor. It was Mecca for us. In the midst of all that history and glamour, we strolled along and found ourselves distancing from where we had to end up to return to the airport. I was overcome by the feeling of being lost and in need of some assistance. We asked a delivery young man for direction and he happened to come from Poland where I also was born. He sensed our predicament and drove us back to the train station. Vienna is not like modern cities where the streets run east and west or north and south. In those days, they build first and then built roads around these castles and palaces. In this unknown territory, we did behave like lost sheep and whispered a few prayers.
Being lost is quite common. I have had periods in my life when I felt very much lost in this world. I was uprooted at the age of nine and transplanted into a new area surrounded by strangers and then again at fourteen when we lost our home and friends forever. At fifteen, I ended up plowing with a horse and a cow. And while I was working the field, I cried my heart out and prayed as never before. We could not stay there either and we had to make new friends because the Americans left and the Russians moved in. Then we moved into the American Zone and remained as strangers. Only one local girl showed some interest in me. All the others were refugees like us. At twenty-one, I went to Canada as a farmhand in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba, where I reached the pivotal point of being totally lost. I was so lonely and left out in this world, that I longed to talk to someone about my needs, but there was no one interested in me. Only, the people that surrounded me were far too preoccupied with themselves to notice a lonely boy’s needs.
During this time, I sought out people that lived alone and were withdrawn from society. I found them to be pleasant and understanding. They were carefree and not in the race to be noticed in society by how they dressed, what car they drove, what house they lived in or what organization they belonged to. The establishment felt uncomfortable when one of these people showed up, except when they were needed for some demeaning task for minimum pay. Like myself they lived like lost sheep, except I was still learning, while they already had a heap of exposure and experience. Some were well educated and informed, far more so than the people in their high and fast style of living. They were not unbelievers or scoffers regarding faith or morality – they were merely questioning why any one had to pay God to save a soul? In that sense, Jesus was their champion and it took me years to realize what some of these loners were trying to teach me. It was even more astounding that Jesus was specifically sent to find these loners because they were willing to bend to the will of God.
People in Jesus’ day, sought out a loner by the name of John the Baptist by the river Jordan. Jesus had this to say about the man, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’ (Mal. 3:1). “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mt. 11:7-11). The loners or lost sheep understood what Jesus was saying while the establishment regarded it as an attack on them. The truth is, and it has always been, that salvation was in the hands of loners and not in the hands of the establishments. From Noah to John, the Baptist and from Jesus’ disciples to us, God has entrusted salvation to individuals that fully identify with His will and demands. Jesus did not believe that the establishment in his day was congruent with God’s demands (Mk. 7:6-13; Jn. 8:42-47).
The most lost were the people God had chosen to be His witnesses in the world. When a Canaanite woman sought help for her mentally tortured daughter, Jesus hesitated with this answer, “ I was not sent (to her kind), but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 15:24). The house of Israel did not heed the call to repent and Jesus fulfilled another prophetic message, “A people not my people will become my people” (Hos. 2:23). Time had come for Jesus to announce, “I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this fold that too I must lead. They too will listen to my voice (Message), and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:15-16). Some lost Greeks had had come to worship on the Passover and they requested to see Jesus and Jesus’ response was, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn. 12:23, 32).
Jesus, Himself, was a loner. At the age of twelve, His parents were upset with Him when He tried to learn more about His heavenly Father. And when Jesus grew up and told his folks that they had to change to please God, the establishment drove Him out of town (Lk. 2:49-50; 4:28-30). To assist Jesus in His mission, Jesus chose twelve men and formed a lonely club. He told them that they would fish for people but in reality they became seekers after lost sheep – lost human beings. Jesus send out the twelve and instructed them, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his home until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your blessing. If the home deserves, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that town” (Mt. 10:5-6; 11-14). In other words, the loners were looking for loners that were unhappy and discontent with the way the established religions operated. It was through small groups that Jesus’ mission spread. When the groups became too large, they replaced the lonely hearts’ relationship with someone else or with organizations. Successful organizations and systems have relied on lonely hearts’ clubs to sustain their existence.
Jesus felt uneasy with large crowds. He preferred the two or three in a group. In fact, He promised that He would be present in such small gatherings. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Mt. 18:19-20). Jesus, Himself, fostered the two and three idea. On time, Jesus chose seventy-two and sent them ahead two by two to the places where Jesus would stop (Lk. 10:1). On special occasions, Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John (Mk. 5:37; 9:2; 14:33). On their second day, Jesus allowed two of John the Baptist’s followers to spent the day with Him (Jn. 1:35-41). However before Jesus met with His disciples, Jesus withdrew to be alone in prayer (Mk. 1:35; 14:35), and it is for such a reason that every person should seek a closet (Mt. 6:6). It was when the lost son began to pray that he saw the need to go back home (Lk. 15:17-20). This was also the way I found my way back to a fold where Jesus Christ is Lord.
I began this article with being lost myself and I shall end with it because for as long as I am in this earthly house, I do make mistakes, stray a bit and leave the comforts of Christ’s sheepfold. Especially, when I boast about my faith, I am in danger of doing what Peter did and Paul warned us about. Jesus warned Peter that Satan would trip him and he did deny his Lord three times (Lk. 22:31-34; 54-62). Paul knew how he had strayed and issued this warning, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall” (I Cor. 10:12). And again, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Cor. 9:27). I too, like Paul was religious, but also lost because I agreed with those that never questioned their salvation. Do not stop trembling, my friend, keep on praying (Phil. 2:12).