by Mike McKinniss
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:17-18
A senior on my college campus invited me to a men’s prayer gathering. “Cool,” I replied. “I’ll check it out.” But, I confess, I was a little leery.
Prayer is a powerful and essential aspect to our faith. Uttered by the right kind of people, prayer causes droughts and ends them (James 5:17-18). Prayer changes things in remarkable ways. But prayer is also mysterious. Like most mysteries, it can attract some weird people, and I am weird averse.
So I was a bit nervous about this prayer meeting, but I showed up anyway. The place was packed with men, thereby dramatically escalating the potential for weird. With some trepidation, I wedged myself between two other guys at the kitchen table and wondered where this whole thing might go.
I was relieved things were wholly normal. So normal, in fact, that all these years later, I can hardly recall a single thing that day. Except for this: Steve.
Steve was a member of the basketball team, a quiet guy. I knew who Steve was, but we weren’t close friends. Since it takes an act of God for me to introduce myself to someone new, I think we were on facial-recognition terms only, maybe even nod-in-your-direction-when-we-pass terms. Anyway, Steve had blown out his knee playing summer basketball. He was supposed to be our schools starting center, but now it appeared all hope of playing that year had been burst, like a ligament stretched too far. For those who have suffered such injuries, there comes the question of ever playing again.
As the prayer meeting progressed, the guys prayed for Steve’s knee; his comfort and solace under the circumstances. Let not the let down get him so down, Lord. And so on.
I was uncomfortable because I imagined that this prayer gathering might get weird. It wasn’t weird. It was normal, but my discomfort was growing in inverse proportion. I was about to get weird.
Before I knew it, I began asking God for something I thought would have been impossible at the time. I didn’t ask for Steve’s immediate healing because that would have been too much for me…then. Instead, I declared that Steve would find himself playing that season, that his recovery would be so speedy that all would know that the Lord had done it.
Having thus spoken, I shrunk back against the cinder block wall and kept my mouth shut. Who was the weirdo who prayed such an outlandish thing? Me!
By spring, I’d long forgotten that prayer meeting as classes and homework and papers and exams took over my life. I don’t recall if any men kept meeting for prayer, as the organizer had hoped because I never returned. But one evening in March, I sat in our gymnasium’s bleachers, textbook and highlighter in hand, half an eye on a late season snooze of a basketball game (our school’s sport was soccer; basketball games were a decent place to get some homework done). A friend seated next to me nudged me with his elbow.
“Hey, check it out! Remember when you prayed for Steve to get playing time this year, in spite of his knee?”
Steve was checking into a game for the first time all season.
“I did?” I had seriously forgotten. “Oh yeah. I guess I did.”
Slowly it began to dawn on me in this near empty gymnasium: Weird is nothing to fear when it’s focused on something good. In fact, it’s favorable. You never know, God may just be into the same kind of weirdness you are.
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