In the summer of my ninth year, my neighbors and my family went together to the campgrounds at Zig Zag to have a picnic, complete with a campfire and s’mores. I’d never had s’mores and was eager to indulge my sweet tooth. However, this wasn’t going to be easy: I was absolutely terrified of fire.
To roast my marshmallows at a safe distance, I sought out the longest stick I could find. On my first attempt, I bravely held my chosen spear—adorned with two big, fluffy white marshmallows—about two feet above the taunting flames.
“No, bring it closer,” I was told. Trustingly, I lowered the giant, bobbing skewer into “the roasting zone”, not knowing that the attached sweet morsels were highly flammable.
Yep! Within seconds those puppies were a-blazin’!
Panic too over, I began screaming and frantically waving my stick all around, trying to extinguish the flames that had engulfed my dessert. With one wild swing, I launched the blazing sugar-comets off into the far blue yonder! (Surely, to this day I tell you, somewhere in the Mt. Hood National Forest there strolls a one-eyed moose with a very strange tale…)
Once the laughter subsided, Mom persuaded me to try again. “But sit closer to the fire and get a shorter stick!” she commanded. At this time, I could see that my brother and the neighbor kids were all enjoying their first s’mores and—woe is me—I had none.
With wavering faith, I re-approached the monstrous fire with yet another pair of innocent, tender marshmallows on a seemingly toothpick-sized twig. Terrified, I held the trembling stick at arms length and forced my doomed dessert back into the all consuming fire.
It too quickly ignited, but my Mom, who had been keeping a close eye on my efforts, swiftly took hold of my skewer and blew out the flames.
So I ate my very first blackened s’more and it was good.
I was ready to call it quits—this playing with fire. But I wanted more s’mores! To my dismay I found no one willing to roast my marshmallows for me. In order to enjoy more of the gooey dessert, I had to face my fears, trembling or not, and brave the raging fire.
* * * * * * *
In my life, a heartfelt prayer, is like a marshmallow: tender and pure; delicate and highly flammable.
And God, is an all consuming fire.
You see, much like my first s’more, my very first prayer was engulfed in flames.
It happened one cold winter night. 13 years old, home alone and still a foreigner to God’s ways—I desperately pleaded for the life of my dying father. Racked in anguish and despair, I begged, I pleaded, I bargained and cried: “Please, please don’t let my Daddy die!”
The quickest answer I never wanted came just five grueling hours later.
My Daddy was dead and my heart was in flames!
Because of this, in the early years of my Christian walk my prayer life had been either non-existent or shallow at best. Rarely would I ask God for anything “big”—anything with my heart attached to it. When I did pray for these things, I often found myself trembling before the Lord and presenting my supplications on a very long, wavering stick. I felt vulnerable and reluctant to hold my deepest, most tender prayers—my very heart—over God’s unpredictable fire; fearful that I would get burned again.
Of one praying, James cautions: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (v. 1:6-7).
For years, those words cut deep. And for years, I longed for God to take away the fears and the doubts that I knew found root in that first prayer. But God’s timing was not my own. Before granting this desire, He wanted me to first face my fears by drawing close and sit beside His refining fires.
He whispered to my heart: Come and be warmed by the power of My love. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Don’t runaway in fear like you often do. Sit here, remain in My love.
And so I sat at His feet, watching, waiting, learning to trust...
In time, the challenge came: “Ask! What shall I give you?”
This was the question set before me by the Lord who delights in giving His children gifts (see 1Kings 3:5-14). Knowing that my prayer life needed fuel, the Lord kept challenging me to ask Him, to seek after Him for understanding and to trust Him with my deepest heartfelt desires.
I sensed Him saying: “Tremble if you must, but you need not feel vulnerable—I will prove to you that I am Faithful and True! Come to Me and believe that I AM!”
“Dear child, Ask! What shall I give you?”
As He revealed more and more about His character and His ways I became strengthened in His presence and able to approach the fires of His throne to ask the one question that had plagued me for the past twenty years:
“Lord, where were you that night my Daddy died?”
It was a loaded question. If God was there—didn’t He hear me crying? How could a loving parent not respond to a child’s cry? Didn’t He care? Was He just sitting on His thumbs—doing nothing?
The answer that came was more soothing to my heart than cool aloe vera on a blistering sunburn!
I was there and I did care.
You prayed, right?
Who taught you to pray?
Then why did you do it?
I don’t know.
I drew you to Myself that night…
Jesus taught: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him...” (John 6:44)
Don’t you see? I called you to myself. I taught you to pray!
I heard your cries and held your hand. That night I set you off on a journey to find my Son for the salvation of your soul. I know it was a long journey on road full of sorrow and pain, but it made you stronger and lead you to Jesus— and now you are Mine. You are my child.
Yes, you lost your Daddy, but you gained your Heavenly Father. Not for one moment, did I leave you an orphan—and I never will.
The realization was a momentous turning point in my life. Since then, God has proceeded to prove Himself to be far more compassionate, more faithful, more trustworthy, more powerful, and more responsive to prayer than I’d ever given Him credit for.
Prayer has now become the barometer of my walk in Christ. If I’m not talking to God, if I’m not asking Him for His wisdom, His perspective, His direction, His provision or even His grace and mercy, then something is dreadfully wrong with the relationship.
As for my prayer life, it’s far from perfect, but much improved! Now, if I catch myself struggling in prayer, I’ll heed to the advise of the psalmist who wrote: “But I’ll remember the works of the Lord” (Ps 77:11). Because doing so reminds me that He is indeed, Faithful and True.
I’ve found that it pays well to see God as He truly is, for His Truth does set us free. And in the Light of the Truth, fears and doubts don’t stand a chance, they just melt away—by the warmth of His all consuming Fire.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb 11:8)
Beautiful article. I enjoyed reading it very much. You had to give up your earthly daddy, but you gained a much better daddy. I know your pain at 13 years of age; my son's dad died when he was 13 and I watched him go through the loss. Thank you so much for sharing this story and I loved your comparison of it to our life here on earth as we fellowship with our heavenly Father. GOD BLESS YOU.