The Frigid Prayer
by Keith Henry III
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“It looks like we are stuck here boys.” The announcement did not really come as a surprise to the four teenage boys sitting in the truck; they had all heard the sound of a battery that had been affected by the severe cold before. Unlike the rest of the weekend the temperature had dipped below zero overnight in preparation for one of the worst storms of the winter. Now the black storm clouds began to dump snowflakes like rain; the frigid, howling wind drove the snowflakes horizontally across the mountain top. All they needed for warmth and safety was 12 volts, but they were not going anywhere.
The annual Winter Youth Retreat held at Wesley Woods every year was sadly over. The weather had been incredible all weekend long; blue skies, sunshine, and just the right amount of crispness was in the air to remind the campers that it was winter. Cross country skiing, sledding, snowmen, snowball fights, and snow angels were combined with Bible study sessions, singing, and worship to make for another memorable Christian weekend, but news of the strength and the severity of the looming storm forced the leaders to opt to leave camp earlier than planned. The rest of their group had already left the mountain and were heading home just in front of the very powerful storm. Pastor Stubbs and the four boys had stayed behind to do one final walk through and to lock up the cabins. Now with the dead battery, it seemed they would be sitting out the frigid storm on top of the mountain.
It would be at least three hours before the initial group arrived home and another hour before they began to worry about the stranded men. “Well men let’s get back to the cabins before this storm gets any worse” the middle aged man of God instructed as he pulled the keys out of the ignition. Though the weather conditions were harsh now, the pastor knew that the worse was coming soon; there would be just enough time for the group to return to their cabin and settle in for what would be a very long day.
“Why don’t we try to pray over the truck?” The pastor picked up on the sarcasm right away; he knew that Buck was making light of the theme of the weekend’s retreat which was the “Power of Prayer.” His three friends added the harmony as they chimed in with their own mumbled sarcasm. Buck and his three friends, Darrel, Andy, and Paul came to camp to have fun, but at some point during the week the message about the power of prayer had sunk in on some level. The message was not an unfamiliar one to Buck, nor any of his friends as their families were prominent in the church and the boys were the leaders in the Youth group.
Despite their status none of the young men had ever experienced the power of prayer; the concept was only words the adults used on occasion. For Buck prayer was a subconscious, involuntary, canned response to a particular group of words said every week during church. Prayer closed the Youth group meetings or preceded the meal at Danny’s house. This weekend’s message had challenged Buck a little; though his comment was meant to poke fun at the pastor, a part of him wanted to test the theories they had discussed over the last two days.
“Let’s do it!” Pastor Stubbs reached down to pop the hood and motioned for the boys to join him around the engine. Andy slugged Buck hard in the arm for making the asinine remark. Danny and Paul punched Buck in the arm with their eyes; mumbling profanities under their breath as they prepared to step out into the bone chilling wind. Buck deliberately avoided the angry glares of his friends. He glanced over at Pastor Stubbs who smiled, winked, and motioned with a tilt of his head for Buck to join him under the hood. His sarcastic attempt at a smile was immediately taken back as the fierce, bitter wind took his breath away as he stepped out of the truck.
“Come on gentlemen lay your hands on the motor. It is getting very cold out here.” Darrel, the oldest of the boys, looked over both his shoulders through heavy, sideways blowing snow into the silent forest to make sure nobody was watching what they were about to do. The other boys quickly and eagerly placed their hands on the engine in hopes of getting out of the bone chilling wind quicker; not one expecting any results from the “Frigid Prayer” as it would later come to be known.
“Holy Father You blessed us with an incredible weekend of fun, fellowship, and worship. We also learned about the power of prayer this weekend. Here we are Father in need of that power. We are stranded on top of this beautiful mountain of Your creation and in the middle of one of the worse storms of the year. Our truck will not start so we are here to pray over this motor. We lay our frozen hands on this motor and pray that if it be Your will Father that you make it start so that we can return home to our loved ones; in Your Son’s name, Amen.”
“Amen” The boys repeated the customary end to a pray and hurriedly placed their numb hands back in their pockets to warm them up. Pastor Stubbs returned to the truck and quickly sat behind the steering wheel of the dead, snow covered truck. Darrel and Paul, already knowing the outcome of the prayer, walked toward the back of the truck to start grabbing their packs and the supplies needed for the long wait. Andy shivered as he peered through the foggy, snow covered windshield at the silhouette of the pastor in anticipation; he wondered if he should join Darrel and Paul; then he glanced at Buck who stood under the hood with his hands still on the engine. At some point between the challenge made in jest and the “Amen” Buck had decided to give God a chance; he clinched the battery cables and continued to pray as he too waited for Pastor Stubbs to turn the key.
Confidently the pastor placed the key into the ignition and gave the confused Andy the thumbs up. “Please Father,” he thought quietly to himself as turned the key. “Vrooom,” Buck jumped back as the motor suddenly turned over. The motor did not think about starting; there was no hesitation as before; the frozen, six cylinder engine turned over on the first crank.
“I was just joking around!” exclaimed Buck as he dropped to his knees in utter astonishment as to what he had just witnessed. Darrel and Dan blurted out a couple “Holy this’ and Holy thats’” as they rushed to the front of the truck; and Andy knew who he should follow now. Buck caught a glimpse of Pastor Stubbs through the foggy windshield; his hands were lifted and his head bowed. God had answered their prayer.
The “Frigid Prayer” was talked about the whole way home; it was talked about for a couple of weeks and then, like most big moments, it was boxed up and stored away in the recesses of the mind. I pull the box down off the shelf and blow the dust off every now and then; usually when I begin to doubt the power of my prayers. I wonder if my friends Darrel, Andy, and Paul continue to think about the “Frigid Prayer.” I am curious if their prayer life is as strong as mine because of that winter morning some thirty five years ago. I don’t see the guys anymore; the years and the miles have separated us; but I will always remember the day we learned about the power of prayer through the event known as the “Frigid Prayer.”
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