Fire!—Great billows of smoke rose skyward from the western edge of the village. At the height of the dry season, this wind-whipped fire could devastate the community, leaving the homes and meager possessions of our African friends in ashes.
As soon as she spotted the smoke, my wife Sherry ran down into the village, accompanied by our co-worker Julie. They confirmed the grim facts: the edge of the village was on fire, with a strong west wind pushing the hungry flames toward all the other houses.
Sherry and Julie began to pray, pleading with God to save the village. As they prayed, the wind shifted! It now came from the east, blowing the flames back on themselves. The fire burned itself out, and the village was spared.
The people all saw that Sherry and Julie were praying. Though they could not understand the English words in which the prayers were voiced, they saw the dramatic result.
Afterwards I was visiting with my friend Ibrahim, and we discussed what had happened. I explained to him that it was God who had stopped the fire when Sherry and Julie had prayed.
A few months later, rice-planting season arrived. In preparation for planting his fields, Ibrahim soaked batches of seed in 55-gallon drums at our house. He had already soaked and planted his first batch of seed and was tending his second one when Julie walked by. She felt strongly that God wanted her to pray over the seed, so she offered. He gladly agreed. As she prayed God’s blessing on his seed and the harvest it would bring, I translated her words for him. After this second batch finished soaking, he planted it. I thought that was the end of the story.
Eight months later, Ibrahim asked me to pray for the success of his new business venture: buying rice and clothing locally and transporting them about 100 miles to a gold-mining district to be sold for a good profit. I agreed. However, I was curious, so I asked why he wanted us to pray.
“I know God answers your prayers,” came his reply. “When the village was burning, Sherry and Julie prayed, and the fire stopped. The rice that you and Julie prayed for produced six times as much grain as the rice I planted first! God answers your prayers. Teach me to pray like you do.”
We explained to Ibrahim that prayer is not a way of manipulating God to get Him to do nice things for us. Rather, prayer grows out of our relationship with Him. We are His children and, as our Father, He wants to help us. We explained how Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and how the prayer He taught them is a model for us.
I opened my French Bible to Luke’s gospel and showed Ibrahim the Lord’s prayer, then offered the Bible to him. Although French is not his primary language, it was the only Bible I could give him. He accepted, and when he went to the gold mines, the Bible went with him.
He returned ten days later full of questions. I was excited at his eagerness to talk with me about the Bible. All his questions were related to French religious terminology, which he did not understand.
To overcome the terminology issue, Sherry and I began reading to Ibrahim from the recently drafted translation of Luke in his own language. He told us that he had been reading Genesis in the French Bible, and asked for a copy of our translation of Genesis. But the only copy that we could place in his hands before his next trip to the gold mines was in a language related to his own. It was still not his mother tongue, but it was much easier for him to read and understand than the French Bible we had given him.
Ibrahim returned very excited. As he had sat with his wares in the market, he had read Genesis to himself until someone came to buy from him. Often the shoppers would ask what he was reading. He would tell them it was the Bible, and they would ask him to read it to them, too. As the language of his copy of Genesis was the primary language spoken in that area, the onlookers listened eagerly.
Ibrahim patted his copy of Genesis and told me, “This is a very good book. People who really want to know God need to read this book.”
We are thankful to God that Ibrahim, who is not yet a follower of Jesus, is willing and eager to read God’s Word so that he can come to know the God Who answers prayer. We look forward to sharing with even more friends who come to us with the same request:
“Teach me to pray.”