My friend Andy Nash tells the story of a man he met while he was having the oil changed in his car. Since they both had a family of girls they began swapping stories. In the course of the exchange the man revealed that he at one time also had a third daughter but that he now had only two.
Andy pressed gently to get details. His friend recalled that he and his wife and three daughters, being from New England, were on a first-ever major vacation at the Grand Canyon. One evening they sent their oldest daughter to the store in the car for some provisions – but she didn’t return. In deep distress they notified law enforcement, then launched an all-out search. Other vacationers joined; they found nothing.
The dad began a weeks-long trek, driving every road, walking every trail, exploring every canyon, asking everyone he met. Nothing. But he would not give up. Stories of what had happened to their precious daughter plagued their days and haunted their nights. So Dad kept searching. Nothing.
Over time reality forced a return to a degree of normalcy, but dad would not give up. He got a job as a long-haul truck driver and requested a route that crossed and crisscrossed the Canyon. For thirty years he drove and searched and watched and inquired and prayed and hoped. Thirty years. Nothing. But you can’t turn it off when someone you care deeply about is lost.
Like the folks in the black Mustang who drove up to Eddie’s Bar after work this evening. Are they lost? Don’t know for sure, but there’s a strong possibility. Are they on your prayer list? Like the fella whose picture is on the evening news. He robbed a home and badly beat up the elderly couple who live there. The reporter said he had found only about $40; the older couple are still in the hospital. Is the robber a lost man? Don’t know for sure, but there’s a strong possibility. Is he on your prayer list?
How about the junior high sports coach who sexually assaulted a bunch of young boys in the school locker room over a two-year period? Is he a lost man? Don’t know for sure, but there’s a strong possibility. And how’s his wife doing? Are they on your prayer list? And how about those five boys?
Because you and your church love Jesus, you also love the people in those real-life vignettes. And when you love someone you never give up, never let go, never stop searching because you can’t turn it off when someone you care deeply about is lost. That’s part of what it means to be a praying church.