Thursday 30 August 2007

The Lost Pawn

This is a story about answered prayer. It's a bit of a roundabout story because it starts with my brother-in-law, Antti. I suppose my kids must be among a very tiny elite of English children who have an uncle called Antti, but my wife and therefore my in-laws are all Finnish. Antti is the Finnish equivalent of Andy, and Antti is handy: he is very good at woodwork and carpentry of all descriptions and frequently takes commissions from friends and neighbours.

This summer we drove into Antti's place to discover that he had built a tower in his yard - a great big wooden thing with a ladder up the side and a platform on top. But what on earth was it for? It turned out that a neighbour had asked him to build a hunting tower for him. You put it in the forest near a trail and you are up out of sight among the leaves when an unsuspecting elk comes wandering by.... It was awaiting dismantling to be moved to the neighbour's house. Crucially, it had been waiting quite a while, and long grass and thick weeds had grown up around its base.

The next factor in the story is our youngest, Ben. There had been one or two dull spots on holiday, when it had been raining and all the TV channels were in Finnish. So Ben had borrowed his cousin Vilma's chess set and become very keen on chess. He brought the set with him on our visit to Antti's. When the grown-up conversation became a bit too boring, he went to look for a nice place to play a quiet game of chess with himself. You may have already guessed where. Who would think that the top of a hunting tower could be so perfect?

And the inevitable happened. One of the pawns fell off the board, slipped between the planks of the platform and disappeared into the weeds below. Of course we had to find it. It wasn't our chess set, and it would be useless to Vilma with one piece missing. So we searched and searched. Antti even got the scythe out and hacked at the weeds. Someone suggested dropping another pawn and seeing where that went - we didn't take up the suggestion.

After half an hour we could tell we weren't getting anywhere. As a last, desperate measure (why do we always try God last?) I decided we needed to pray. We stopped for a moment of quiet. "Lord," I said, "we don't know where that pawn is. But you know everything, and you know exactly where it is. Please show us where to look. Amen." Within about 30 seconds, there was the pawn, sitting in a spot we'd combed through several times before!

Well, what to make of that? I've prayed quite a few big prayers in my time that seemed to me to be quite important. Why had God answered that little prayer about a much more trivial matter and apparently ignored the big stuff? Here are my thoughts so far:

- It provided a timely witness to Antti that God answers prayer.
- It boosted my faith. Even though there are other prayers God hasn't answered (or at least hasn't answered yet), He still has the power to answer prayer, He knows our situation as exactly as He knew where that pawn was, and cares about us enough to help. In other words, we can trust Him even when the answers aren't so apparent.
- Are any prayers "big" prayers for God? After all, if you are the infinite Creator of everything, then actually everything on the planet is small beer by comparison.
- A God who knows where all the lost pawns and other bits and pieces in the world are is not a trivial God. He must be an amazingly huge God to keep track of everything.

I wonder what you think? Post a message below and let me know! And remember, don't play chess on top of an elk-tower...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God answers prayers, and is indeed the biggest and best answer to prayer in Himself (by providing the Way, the Truth and the Life). Personnally I am less confident in identifying a definite circumstatnce/eventuality as a specific answer to my prayer; it's a bit like we might need the outcome as reinforcement to our own faith or as some "carrot" to dangle in front of unbelievers who might need a little bit of encouragement.

For me, the purpose of prayer lies much more along the lines of how it changes me from the inside rather than what external events and people might be changed as an answer to my prayer - but that doesn't stop me from praying very ernestly for the good health and wellbeing of those I love! ... or even the location of a pawn when it matters.