A Door Always Open

J. M. Cook

(A Young Adults Group's Adventure Wth Prayer In A Prayer Band)

Perhaps because it was yesterday's sunshine nothing in my sight today can equal it. Yet, maybe the mountain air gave it its special qualities of brightness and clearness, making it so much more than any sunlight I've seen recently. Anyway, my academy memories are filled with it. Of course, we had rain and snow, and I remember those too, but what I remember most about my academy in the Ozarks is the sunlight.

"Through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite. We may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in compassion and love; but this is even so. We may not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in love and pitying tenderness."

Steps to Christ, 96

The green hills in the sunlight, the woods, the water, the apple trees in the sunlight, and I feel pity for any youth who must attend a city academy.

We became great walkers; how could we avoid it? The bursting beauty about us could not be ignored. And, in walking, we make friends of the villagers.

Most interesting of these village friends was an Elder Hankins who lived in a tiny house that sat so close to the road one could hop right from a car onto the tiny front porch. Not that we ever arrived by car. The Dorcas ladies did, though. They brought him home-cooked food and cleaned his house several times a week because he was dying of an incurable disease.

It was so hard to believe that he was ill when you were near him and when you looked into his bright blue eyes. He wasn't so old—at least his eyes weren't. They were as young as the morning's sunrise.

His face was full of color and expression. We were told that he was formerly a General Conference Secretary, and we saw his name under impressive articles in old Reviews. But really he seemed so utterly ours because he made us feel as if we were the most important people he had ever talked to.

If I heard of his wife, or any other family, I have forgotten. All we knew about was Rick, his young son—twenty, maybe, and always gone from home. Handsome, mysterious, sure of himself, with nothing but a shallow smile at the mention of religion. How the father's heart yearned over this wayward boy. His prayers were never ended without a plea for Rick.

That spring we formed new prayer bands. Frankly, I found prayer bands a little dull. This one seemed the same, except that Susan, the leader, approached the band more simply and naively than most leaders. She read neither the continued stories nor the sentimental poetry other prayer bands had accustomed me to. She read simply of the science of prayer as outlined by Ellen White. "Through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite. We may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in compassion and love; but this is even so. We may not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in love and pitying tenderness." We read and reread our favorite statements, trying to make them realized in our prayer life.

During our second prayer band meeting we began our prayer list, which at Susan's insistence included only earnestly desired, well-thought-out requests. Nancy wanted help to stop stepping on the edges of the Sabbath; she was slow and never seemed to get things done. Betty asked for more patience with her work supervisor, the stern matron. Norma had bad reading habits. Peggy wanted our prayers for her older sister, in attendance at one of our colleges and engaged to a nonbeliever. I asked for prayer that I might have courage to make a wrong right.

I recognized then, at that second meeting, that here was a sample of the power intended to be felt at meetings of prayer. As we prayed for those very real, intimate goals, the wonder of God's interest in us, each one personally, became so important, so miracle-working.

With much happiness and solemnity we were able to cross requests from the list as prayers were answered. When we added a few new requests, someone suggested that we pray for Elder Hankins. Susan said, "I know what would make Elder Hankins more happy than any other blessing he could receive— Rick's conversion." We all agreed, but felt shy of putting such a formidable goal on our list. It was hard to imagine Rick in church at all. Still, we wrote down his name.

A few weeks later Susan suggested that someone should speak to Rick, for after all, we couldn't leave it all up to the Lord. No one would volunteer, so we finally agreed that the next girl to see him would try to influence him to come to church.

But he was always with a gang of boys, and it would seem so bold to walk up and act like a missionary, we all said. Once Betty did see him at the store and she tried to say, casually, that since his father was so wonderful, Rick should make him happy by coming to church. He smiled his shallow smile but answered nothing, making Betty feel very much a miserable failure. As she was leaving he said with bitterness, "How can you call a God good who would let a man like my father die a slow, horrible death?"

Betty didn't have an answer for him, and as she related her experience we all reminded her of things she could have, should have, said. Then as she was almost in tears, Susan pointed out that none of the rest of us had even tried to speak to him and that, really, it was some help to us since we could now understand Rick's cold attitude a little better. At least he loved his father. That was news.

Still, when our Sunshine Band called on his father and caught Rick at home he smiled cruelly and asked, "Have a pamphlet for me ?" He left before we sang or prayed. And he left tears in his father's eyes.

We prayed for him week after week. Finally everything was crossed from our list except Rick's name. We added no new names because it was the second week from school's close.

That Sabbath as I sat with the choir, I stared ahead out the open door at the back of the church. The minister's sermon ended with an altar call. Several people left their pews and came to the front of the church. And then Rick walked in through the church door, straight down to the altar. He must have been standing out there, listening to the whole service. I certainly didn't want to cry, standing up there in the front row of the choir, but I had to, a little, anyway.

I never knew how much of the sermon he had heard. Maybe he had stood out there other Sabbaths, hearing God's voice but too proud to answer. I don't know. I know only that he came in from just outside the front door; that he walked without a trace of his former arrogance or bitterness, and that he gave his heart to Jesus.—J. M. Cook, The Youth's Instructor, September 4, 1962