Many years ago, hymn writer James Montgomery, wrote that prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try, and yet (it is) the most sublime strains that reach the Majesty on high. He wrote those words as a reflection of his own experience with the practice of seeing unusual results from prayer. I was touched by reading a soldier’s story of just such a beneficial happening.
Larry Alexander followed up his book Biggest Brother, with Shadows in the Jungle. Its tales of an outfit called The Alamo Scouts. They were a varied bunch of brave soldiers who went deep behind the Japanese lines in World War two. The 108 missions they undertook supplied MacArthur’s army with vital intelligence. I said they were dissimilar in many ways, but resourceful toughness was their common characteristic. In all the missions none of them were ever captured. Shadows in the Jungle is a collection of anecdotes in which the Scouts managed to outwit the enemy.
Thousands tested for the honor and only 138 made it into this elite band. I was not surprised to read that many of them were profane in their speech. Having been a soldier, I understand that it’s not a profession that attracts only pure minds and gentle speech. There were a few of us in my unit who had, shall I say, a wider range of adjectives than the others and I discovered that other armies have such soldiers too. Yet there are also some godly souls. In the book, Alexander relates how one of the Scout’s leaders was a devout man who often shared daily scriptures with the troops.
So, there were among the Alamo Scouts, those who believed in prayer. Here’s a story so strange in coincidence that it will stretch your faith in luck to its breaking point. The mission to Puerto Bello landed them in big trouble when the Japanese deployed extra troops to expedite their capture. Scout Leader, Sumner, ordered a relocation to higher ground. Near the village of Valencia was a Japanese airfield. The scouts were peeved when their radio broke. They had no spare parts with them. Radio was their life-line. They prayed. Two days later a wicker basket came floating down at the end of a parachute from a Japanese plane. The pilot seemed disorientated and made the drop after droning about for a while. In the basket was a radio set with spare tubes. The ingenuity of their radio man, “Blaze”, was tested, but he made the repairs they needed by cannibalizing what had been dropped to them.
One week later the radio broke again and it was repaired by yet another mis-dropped Japanese radio. So if we calculate the first “coincidence” at one chance in a thousand, what odds will you lay that pure luck made the second happen? Get the focus clear: at no other time in the war did any other scout team receive a gift of two radio sets out of the sky by courtesy of their enemy. Yes, I know the easy answer is to claim that it was an answer to prayer. Some won’t like that theory. So perhaps one of my more skeptical readers would like to suggest how two parachute drops made at separate locations (the Scouts had to stay on the move for their safety) contained the very things the scouts needed.
When you get done with your “non-prayer” explanation of lucky solutions to problems, I have 40 years-worth of similar stories that need your clever alternate explanations. On the other hand, I have to admit that there is much that is mysterious about prayer. It certainly isn’t some secret code by which I, the infinitely small and flawedly human, get to give the Creator of the universe some instructions that would make God my Divine Butler.
One of the greatest lessons prayer has imparted to me has been as to who I really am and Who God is. True prayer is a great refiner and definer of sincere motives. To quote Montgomery again: “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.” That hidden fire is the experience of sharing life with God’s Holy Spirit. When you have that happen to you, regularly, you understand this Bible verse: “Pray in the (Holy) Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Andrew Paton of Clinton Church of the Nazarene, born in Africa, has pastored in Hunterdon County since 1997. Before that he ministered in Durban and Bedfordview, South Africa and prior to that was an officer in The Salvation Army. He has been in full time Christian leadership since 1975. He and his wife Carol have two married sons and five grandchildren.
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