Walking to the hot tub at Killarney pool yesterday I heard a voice from the diving pool call out my name. The moment I heard the thick Persian accent I knew it was my friend Reza.
We'd probably spoken a dozen times over the past two years, about his life as a police officer in Tehran, about the time he was saved out of a deep ravine after a car crash, about the meaning of the Christian symbol of the cross. Most of our conversations were short - his English was very limited and my Farsi more so. "John, John, I need to talk to you!“ There was an urgency in his voice. With great seriousness he told me about an appointment he had the next day regarding a mass on his kidney.
He was filled with fear. With all of his heart he asked if I could pray for him, and for his meeting, and for his cancer; which of course I told him I would. After talking a bit more, and assuring him a bit more, I went and sat in the hot tub with my son Edward. The whole time I sat there I thought, "You could pray for him now." But then, true to character, I reasoned, "How awkward would that be for him; praying poolside?" For the next 20 minutes I battled with myself. I knew what I should do, but I didn't want to do it. It was clear what I shouldn't do, but that was exactly what I wanted to do. What a mess I was; under the guise of, I don’t want to embarrass the man, I didn't want to embarrass myself. And then, just before Eddy and I were ready to leave, seeing Reza sitting poolside by himself, so lost in thought, I decided to walk over and sit with him. He told me the whole story about what happened over the past month and how he hadn’t slept at all. “Life is so short John.” I told him again that I would pray, and again he wholeheartedly thanked me.
And then, spontaneously, he said, “John, I believe in you, and I believe in your God, and I believe in your Jesus, so please pray for me.”
I was dumbstruck.
And after a spontaneous confession of faith like that, I had no choice. So I said, "I’ll pray for you now."
And he said, "Yes."
Only I don't think he had any idea what it meant to actually pray.
Looking directly at him I said, "Jesus, I pray that you’ll heal Reza."
Looking at me he said, "Yes, yes!"
"Be his comfort and peace... no matter what the diagnosis tomorrow."
"Give him your rest, and surround him with your love."
And then neither of us spoke for about five seconds... and our prayer was over.
What was amazing about the moment was that while I knew that I was praying for him, he clearly thought we were just talking (I think)!
It was the strangest thing. Something I could never have made happen. Somehow, God found a way for me to pray explicitly for this man while he was “just” having a conversation with me.
It was just perfect. I could have closed my eyes and prayed for Reza in the more traditional way, but God found a way for it to happen that was just right, for that context, for the both of us (given both of our fears).
For the past month I have been earnestly praying for the ability to more consistently walk in sync with Jesus (not ahead, not behind). I want to know the power, peace, and freedom of that place.
Yesterday felt like I did just that (as did my prayer with my parents a few days earlier).
Many times I've read the New Testament and wondered why the life of a Christian then is so different from the life of a Christian now. Given what happened yesterday, I think the only difference is obedience.