Pray in all circumstances

Published on: 1 March 2018

A personal reflection on prayer from John Brownlee of Postwick.

A friend gave me a plant for my back garden flower border. It had no label and I did not know its name. Over the years it spread its root system and it produced lovely bright green leaves, but no flowers. We are avid listeners to the Garden Party on Radio Norfolk, so my wife took a leaf from the plant to the Forum, with a request for identification. Alan Gray identified the plant as an Acanthus that would have Lupin-type flowers. I was doubtful, as I already had a different type of Acanthus, which flowered freely and produced darker green leaves.

The following day I went out into the garden, stood before the newly identified plant and told it “You are an Acanthus and you should flower freely and regularly”. Blow me down, three weeks later, the first of five flower spikes appeared. I spoke to the plant regularly after that! Was it then the spoken word that did the trick, or was there some divine intervention?

That experience reminded me of an adventure I had in 1958, when serving with the Overseas Audit Service in Tanganyika (now known as Tanzania after its amalgamation with Zanzibar). I was travelling in my trusty old standard Vanguard, from Iringa to Mbeya in Southern Highlands region, when I had a puncture in my rear tyre. This was the second puncture that day, as the first one had occurred half an hour earlier (those were the only punctures I had during that tour).

Having already used the only spare wheel and because I had no puncture repair outfit, I sat by the roadside and I delivered up a silent prayer, in the hope that help would arrive. Although I had already travelled 150 miles that day, I had seen only a few other vehicles on the road. It was already getting dark and as there could be hyenas roaming around, I sat in the car and waited.

After about an hour I noticed a glimmer of light in the darkness in my rear view mirror, so I leapt out of the car and flashed an SOS in Morse code with my torch. The headlights drew to a halt beside me and I could see it was a large truck with a young African driver.

“Jambo Bwana do you need any help?” I told him my troubles, whereupon he drew from the cab behind him a large tool box. After about an hour I had both punctures repaired and put the spare wheel back in the cradle under the boot. Fortunately, the truck driver was going to Mbeya and I agreed to drive in front of him, so that if I had any other misfortune, he would be available to help.

I arrived in Mbeya about 9 pm without further incident and rewarded the helpful driver accordingly. A few days later I was washing the car and I noticed there was no spare wheel in the cradle under the boot. It must have dropped out on the last lap of my journey, never to be seen again.

I now remain convinced that prayer is not just for a time of need, but it is forever.

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