Prayer

Prayer, a Water Bottle, and a Baby Doll

I love the following story about prayer and God’s provision. I shared it this morning with my Sunday School class and was asked to share it online. The story comes from Helen Roseveare (1925–2016), English missionary to the Congo. Justin Taylor did a profile of her when she passed in 2016.

THE HOT WATER BOTTLE – A True Story By Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Helen Roseveare a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa, told this as it had happened to her in Africa. She shared it in her testimony on a Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Praying for VBS from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Guest post by Gretta Weaver. Gretta prepared this as a prayer guide for our church in preparation for our Vacation Bible School. I post it here in case others would like to use it for their Vacation Bible School or adapt it for other children’s ministries.

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Galatians 1:1-3

  • Thank God for it the power of the gospel that He used to save us from our sins.
  • Pray that workers and teachers of VBS would proclaim the gospel that saves and allow it to motivate them this week in serving.

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

  • Pray that God would reveal himself to the children through the gospel this week at VBS.
  • Pray that the teachers would be able to present the gospel clearly. Pray for the children to respond through faith and repentance.

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Galatians 2:4-5

  • Pray that God would have shield the VBS classes from untruths that would distort and confuse the gospel truth.
  • Pray for those who are hearing a false gospel regularly (at their home church or from their family) that they would hear the true gospel and respond by faith and repentance.
  • Pray that parents would recognize the difference and believe the true gospel.

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:10

  • Pray that God send poor, dirty, misbehaving children who have been hurt.
  • Pray that we would be compassionate and love them like Jesus would.
  • Pray that God would send outcasts and those who are difficult to deal with due to broken homes, poverty, and sin.
  • Pray that God would equip, by His Holy Spirit to minister to these children instead of criticizing them to others.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:14

  • Pray that this would be the attitude of workers toward each other, as well as the children.

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15

  • Pray that as the week goes on and the workers get tired, that they recognize the temptations of the enemy to cause disunity and be intentional with encouraging one another and promoting peace.

 

A Prayer By A Dying Reformer

February 17, 1546 was the last night in the life of the German Reformer Martin Luther. As he lay in great pain that night he prayed,

O my heavenly Father, one God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Thou God of all comfort, I thank Thee that Thou hast given for me Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, in whom I believe, whom I have preached and confessed, loved and praised, whom the wicked pope and all the godless shame, persecute, and make fun of. I pray Thee, dear Lord Jesus Christ, let me commend my little soul to Thee. O heavenly Father, if I leave this body and depart, I am certain that I will be with thee forever and can never, never tear myself out of Thy hands. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Luther biographer Frederick Nohl records this as the last prayer which Luther ever prayed. Shortly thereafter he had an attack. The doctors were called in but they quickly gave up all hope of a recovery. One of Luther’s friends, Justus Jonas, sensed the end was near and asked Luther in a loud voice: “Reverend Father, are you willing to die in the name of Christ and the doctrine which you have preached?” Luther answered with one word loudly enough for those present to hear: “Yes!” With this answer Luther fell asleep in Jesus.

It’s important to begin well. It’s also important to live well. But it is much more important to die well. May God grant to each of us such dying grace!

Preacher, Pray!

I am convicted by the following words by the Prince of Preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

Minister! Preach on; you shall have no success unless you pray. If you do not know how to wrestle with God on your knees, you will find it hard work to wrestle with men on your feet in the pulpit. You may make efforts to do so, but you shall not be successful, unless you back up your efforts with prayer. You are not so likely to fail in your efforts as in your prayers. We never read that Joshua’s hand was weary with wielding the sword, but Moses’ hand was weary with holding the rod. The more spiritual the duty, the more apt we are to tire of it. We could stand and preach all day, but we could not pray all day. We could go forth to see the sick all day, but we could not be in our closets all day one-half so easily. To spend a night with God in prayer would be far more difficult than to spend a night with man in preaching. Oh! take care, take care, church of Christ, that thou dost not cease thy prayers!

(NPSP Vol. 3, p. 47)

A Prayer for Preachers

The following prayer is taken from The Valley of Vision which is a collection of Puritan prayers. I believe this is a very important devotional book to have in your library. God has often used these God-saturated prayers of the Puritans to revive my own dead, dry heart. This prayer is called “A Minister’s Preaching” on pp. 348-349 in my leather edition printed in 2002.

MY MASTER GOD,

I am desired to preach today,
but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony might be borne for thee;
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertinent to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
Help me to offer a testimony for thyself,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people,
and to set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached,
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments
drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings,
that men might be made holy.

I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of thy grace,
and be able to do something for thee;
Give me then refreshment among thy people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer,
or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end,
from lack of warmth and fervency.
And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.

Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayersand Devotions (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975) Leather edition reprinted in 2002.

Puritan Prayer: Paradoxes

O CHANGELESS GOD,

Under the conviction of thy Spirit I learn that

the more I do, the worse I am,

the more I know, the less I know,

the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,

the more I love, the more there is to love.

O wretched man that I am!

O Lord,

I have a wild heart,

and cannot stand before thee;

I am like a bird before a man.

How little I love thy truth and ways!

I neglect prayer,

by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,

by knowing thou hast saved my soul.

Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be

an evangelical hypocrite,

who sins more safely because grace abounds,

who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood

cleanseth them,

who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,

for he is saved,

who loves evangelical preaching, churches,

Christians, but lives unholily.

My mind is a bucket without a bottom,

with no spiritual understanding,

no desire for the Lord’s Day,

ever learning but never reaching the truth,

always at the gospel-well but never holding water.

My conscience is without conviction or contrition,

with nothing to repent of.

My will is without power of decision or resolution.

My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.

My memory has no retention,

so I forget easily the lessons learned,

and thy truths seep away.

Give me a broken heart that yet carries home

the water of grace.

Taken from The Valley of Vision, The Banner of Truth Trust.