The hot water bottle (18-02-20)
A Bible Reading: Matthew 7. 7 - 11
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
While I was reading some back copies of Christianity magazine, I came across the following true story, concerning the simple faith of a child. I thought it was well worth sharing.
Helen Roseveare was a medical missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire). A mother had died in labour, leaving the medical team to care for a tiny premature baby and a distraught two-year-old daughter. Even though they were on the equator, there was no incubator and nights could be chilly with treacherous drafts. The baby was carefully laid in a box packed with cotton wool, but it would not be enough. Rubber perishes quickly in tropical climates and the only hot water bottle had burst when filled. It would be a battle to keep the baby alive.
A group of orphaned children gathered with Helen each day for prayer. She told them about the tiny baby and her little sister. During the prayer time, Ruth, who was 10 years old, prayed with the blunt simplicity of a child: “Please, God, send us a hot water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.” The adults gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, while the child continued: “And while you’re about it, would you please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know you really love her?”
Helen Roseveare had been in Africa for four years and had never received a parcel from home. However, that very afternoon a large box arrived on the veranda. Gathering the children together, Helen opened the box, full of anticipation and curiosity. On the top were brightly knitted jumpers of all sizes and knitted bandages for leprosy patients. Carefully digging deeper, Helen was amazed and overwhelmed to find one brand new hot water bottle. At this point, Ruth rushed forward in great excitement and started rummaging deeper in the box. “If God has sent the hot water bottle, he must have sent the dolly too!” she exclaimed without a shadow of doubt in her mind. Right at the bottom, she discovered a small beautifully dressed doll. Ruth’s eyes shone; she had never doubted for a moment that God would answer her prayer.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the crowd to ask God… for everyone who asks receives. Elsewhere he encouraged people to come like children with that direct, uncomplicated faith which can boldly ask. I wonder whether sometimes we are not sure whether God has answered prayer, because our prayers have been too vague. In Ruth’s case, her prayer request was in direct response to the particular urgent need. She asked for exactly what was required, and then threw in the extra ‘dolly’ request as a generous act of love and kindness. When the answer came, Helen and her staff, Ruth and the other orphaned children all knew just how much they too were loved by God not just the tiny baby and her sister.
When specific prayer is answered in this way, it is a tremendous testimony to God’s love and a encouragement to faith. Are there any specific needs that you can pray for today?
Thank you, Lord, for your overwhelming love and kindness, which knows how to give good gifts to your children. Teach us to pray with simplicity and boldness. Amen.