The Prayer List
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE EARTH trembles beneath our feet and all familiar pillars of reality are shaken; until the only reality we know is the name and presence of the Lord God. This may occur while the preacher is pouring forth the Word of God or it may happen in the hospital room or the funeral home or by the graveside, or...an unexpected pink slip comes your way.
OUR TEXT TODAY PRESENTSA SCENE from the writing hand of the prophet: Isaiah. He speaks on the behalf of God and pleads with people who feel God has forsaken them. The feeling of being forgotten is before us in the text. To counter that misplaced notion, God has Isaiah to write this striking thought: “I have written your name on the palms of both My hands.”
SEEING THAT HE IS ADDRESSING MANY INDIVIDUALS in the land of Israel, we can rightly assume that God had many names written on the palms of His hands. It is a huge prayer list written in duplicate: that is, the names are written on both hands of the Lord. That’s duplicate. God does not pray to Himself but here He is portraying Himself as one of them and we human beings have to be reminded of things.
GOD DOESN'T HAVE TO BE REMINDED OF ANYTHING, but He condescends, brings Himself down to the level of the people He loves so they can understand how precious they are to Him. This is a reminder list. If we were to use it, we would call it our prayer list.
WHEN I HEARO SMEONE MENTION A PRAYER LIST, I often think of a night in Chattanooga, TN when I was the lone attendant at a Shell Gas station on the Old Ringgold Road, South, going toward Atlanta. It was 1956 and Hwy. 41 South was the main drag to Atlanta, trucks and all. I-75 didn’t yet exist.
I CAME ON DUTY AT 11:00 P.M., worked five nights for $45. Since we were a full-service station, I pumped the gas, cleaned the windshield, checked the oil and fan belt, received payment and made conversation if they chose to do so. We had a lot of rest room visitors and this required a close watch to keep them clean and orderly.
NIGHT ATTENDANTS WERE INSTRUCTED that if someone wanted into the cash register, to help them put it in their car if need-be and not to be a hero. So, the big guy in a white T-shirt who wanted change for a dollar for cigarettes didn’t bother me much until I noticed he didn’t buy any cigarettes and left in a hurry. Almost as quickly, the night policeman came in and asked what the man had said. I went out to the squad car and listened to his radio. In about 15 minutes he heard a report from another police car. Someone had robbed a Kayo station nearby. No doubt, he wanted change for a dollar to buy cigarettes. They got him.
ONE OF THIS POLICEMAN'S SKILLS (he was about 60) was getting the cars that ran away from him. He had a souped-up engine. If a guy wouldn’t stop, he would bump the rear of the car on one end of the rear bumper. It would throw the car off balance. He would bump the car in rhythm until it flipped the car over onto its top. Those who knew him, didn’t mess with him. It was a good feeling to have him checking on me several times every night. He knew the service stations were targets for robbers, so he kept a close watch on them. He wasn’t a bully. He just did his job.
THE BRASS RAIL WAS DOWN THE ROAD A MILE OR TWO. The bar lady loved her product and often needed a dollar’s worth of gas to get home after 3:00 a.m. More than once, while I was pumping gas and cleaning her windshield, she slumped over. I would urge her to scoot over enough for me to get under the steering wheel and move the car away from the gas pump. She was usually gone by daylight.
MY JOB WAS TO SERVICE GAS CUSTOMERS UNTIL TRAFFIC DIED DOWN and then hose off the whole paved area, the grease rack and clean the rest rooms and sales room. I needed to work 1-2 hours of piano practice into my day somewhere, so I bolted to the floor of a retired bread van, a spinet-size Wurlitzer piano. I backed the truck into the lube bay, hooked up an overhead light and pounded away on Bach and Beethoven.
ONE NIGHT, A TROUBLED LAWYER, about 45, poked his head into the van and listened a while. I played a hymn for him. He began to inquire about this strange thing of a piano on a grease rack. Then he shared his troubled life and it became several times a week, thing. One night, I was pushed for time and I said to him: “I’m going to put you on my prayer list.” I shouldn’t have said that. It was like I had slapped him. He was high on the booze and came back at me: “Well, I was beginning to think you cared something about me but if you have to write my name on a prayer list to remember to pray for me, just forget it, you hear? Just forget it!
MAYBE HE HAD A POINT, I THOUGHT. I saw he had been in church a lot and knew about prayer lists and he wasn’t impressed by what he had seen in his home church, apparently. That was 63 years ago, and I have never completely stopped thinking about what caused him to flare at me. I wish I had known about God’s list of names He has written on the palms of his hands. I would have told him about it.
HE DIDN'T HAVE SELF-RESPECT and he was getting used to the idea that maybe God knew about him. His wife and mother-in-law didn’t think much of him. (It was probably more about the obnoxious person he had become.) And then, his hopes were dashed when he saw that he was a name on a piece of paper. He was not worth enough to be remembered without being on a prayer list. I had never encountered such, before or since. All learning does not come from a book. Learning is wherever you find it or wherever it runs over you and that one ran over me.
I STILL THINK PRAYER LISTS ARE A GOOD THING and every once in a while, I will write down some names to help me remember who I should pray for; especially the names on FaceBook and people I meet here and there, Walmart, etc. But, I also remember that night when that drunken lawyer almost lost it because the “preacher boy” thought so little of him that he had to write his name on paper to remember him. But, I would have to say:
“LAWYER MAN, YOU'RE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO SETTLE FOR WHAT YOU CAN GET. If I pray for you by name, I’m going to have to write down your name.” I could pray for the lawyer who drove the new, green Ford car. I’ve often wondered about this fellow. Alcohol about had him. I changed jobs and never saw him again. Problem is, he still goes with me a lot of places. I’ve never told another drunk that I would put his name on a prayer list. I do tell them, sometimes: “I’m going to pray for you.” Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
SEPTEMBER 20, 2019 - FRIDAY
A.M. Ecclesiastes 10-12 P.M. 2Corinthians 11:16-33
(Bible Gateway will read this to you if you like. Look for the speaker icon.)
A Good Verse to Memorize:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:6)
Song for Today:
I Know He Heard My Prayer (4:26) (Gaither Assembly)
(You may have to adjust the volume and delete an ad. This is the best version of this I could find.