As I roll out of bed to my knees beside my bed in the morning, (not easy anymore in my 90th year—well, easy enough to get down, but more difficult to get back up again!) my close friends know that I make it a habit to pray:
“Lord, bring into my life today anyone and everyone whom You want in my life, or whose life You want me to touch and bless for You. Bring all and only what is in Your purpose for me today, and keep away all other things and people that might distract me from doing Your will ‘on earth as it is in Heaven.’”
God always answers prayer. So I conclude that everything and everyone I encounter each day is filtered through God’s ordained plan just as callers are screened by a producer on call-in talk shows. I count on God to be my “Day Planner.” I don't view anything, therefore, as an interruption or disappointment but as God’s appointment for me. That includes anyone who touches my life in person, by snail mail, phone call, e-mail, thought, reminder to pray, knock on my door, through my web site, blog, and any other means that the Holy Spirit may choose to use. I normally have busy days and a tight writing schedule, but I recognize that whatever happens to change that is actually an answer to my prayer.
I want to answer Jesus' call to be “a fisher of men” and draw people toward the Kingdom of God. But the bottom line is that I dare to ask the Holy Spirit to reverse the normal modes of fishing and cause fish to jump into my boat! Then I wait on tiptoes of anticipation for God’s serendipity surprises.
Impossible? Ridiculous? A foolish prayer? Not really. Some fisher-persons sit in the shade on a river bank dozing while they dangle their fish pole over the water with some likely bait on the hook. Some wade out into the water in rubber hip boots and try their hand at fly fishing, casting their line where they think the fish might be lurking and hungry. In some places they attempt to spear fish one by one as they see them swimming in shallow waters. Still others cast a wide net and attempt to drag in unsuspecting schools of fish. In the process they sometimes pull in unwanted, inedible debris that may be floating around. All the above methods of fishing are good and some fish are caught. All ways of fishing have spiritual analogies.
Occasionally I've come across a story in the media that at certain places, in certain seasons, and under certain conditions fish actually do jump into a fishing boat—a reverse phenomenon! I’ve viewed it on a sportsmen’s TV show. I boldly pray for that to happen on a daily basis. I ask God to bring to me those whom He will choose to dialog with me on spiritual matters, challenge me to grow in the Lord, correct or encourage me in my spiritual journey, or give me an opportunity to help others mature in Christ, and counsel and pray for them in their struggles. I pray that God will sort them out so that only those with whom He wants me to spend time and prayer will "jump into my boat." I make it a practice to “catch and release”—I pray for God's wisdom to nurture them during our encounters before I release them back into the water of their own circumstances.
It doesn’t matter to me how few or how many people-fish respond. I’m not going to count their number like Saint Peter did after Jesus caused the miraculous catch of fish after His resurrection.
Often God launches these precious encounters through unexpected e-mail messages in my inbox. Someone might have read one of my books or heard a CD or a friend suggested they write me. Or someone has found my blog and begun reading my posts, or discovered me through Facebook. Or someone is ill and reaches out to me in their discouragement. Or a long ago friend has just found me again. Or a person wants to come visit me or invites me to lunch. Or has a problem to unburden and needs counsel, or asks me to pray for them, or wants to share a joy, or simply needs a cyber hug. Often we do a cyber happy-dance together.
In former years I traveled throughout the world in person to “fish” and minister in conventional ways of witness and teaching. In my advanced years it is thrilling to live in an age of electronic wonders where space and time are almost irrelevant in communication. My books are not only read in print but through electronic means. What an unique opportunity and privilege to touch through cyberspace people across the world, many I've never met, who are on their own varied spiritual journeys! I welcome them to jump into my boat whatever their reason and for however long a season!