Yesterday I met a man who prayed for my salvation over thirty-five years ago, when we were both students at the same college.
Until yesterday I had not known that he had been praying for me, and he had not realized that his prayer had been answered.
Back in the 1970s, I was a spiritually hungry but very confused young man. I was studying theology at Queen’s Theological College in Kingston, Ontario, which only served to increase my state of confusion. Most of the faculty and students did not really know what they believed. However, they were quick to mock anyone who claimed to be born again, or who articulated a simple faith in the Lordship of Jesus and the Bible as the Word of God, or who said they had been “saved”. Sadly, I joined in the general chorus of mockery. How foolish and arrogant we were in our presumed wisdom.
I do remember, though, that there were a few students at QTC who were different from the rest. Ken was one of the ones who stood out. He had a confident faith which he expressed with respect but without apology. I wouldn’t have said so at the time, but looking back I realize that Ken scared me. It wasn’t that he himself was a scary guy. He was intelligent, polite, and well-spoken. It was his confident, well-grounded faith that scared me, because it challenged the core assumptions of my life. In particular, Ken challenged my prideful assumption that I did not need anyone to save me. I thought I knew so much and had so many answers, but in reality I had no answers at all, and knew nothing about the things that really mattered. I wanted spiritual truth, but I wanted it on my own terms. I was not yet ready to surrender my will to anyone. Still, I remember being hungry for the peace and assurance that I saw in people like Ken, even though at the time I would not have had the words to say so.
I was part of the graduating class of 1977 at QTC, although I hung around for a couple more years and did further studies while my wife finished her degree. Ken likewise graduated, and having been refused for ordination in the United Church because he was unwilling to compromise his convictions on baptism, he was ordained as a Free Methodist pastor. We had not been close while at college, and I never expected to see him again.
Fast forward ten years to 1987. By this point I was married with two children, and trying to be a pastor, all the while still trying to convince myself that I had answers. The truth was that I had no answers at all. Any fragments of truth or wisdom that I did understand were of no real value to me or anyone else, because I lacked the One who holds all things together. But God had prepared salvation for me. Through the loving ministry of the Anglican pastor in our village, a faithful and intelligent man of God, I finally surrendered my pride and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life.
Fast forward another twenty-five years to 2012. Through a mutual friend I discovered that a fellow by the name of Ken Roth was pastoring a Free Methodist church in Stittsville. I remembered his name from college and decided to contact him.
It must have been the Holy Spirit that prompted me to get in touch with Ken, because when we finally got together for coffee and a chat at the One Way Ministries office, both of us were encouraged, humbled and amazed at the goodness of God.
Ken told me that back in his days at Queen’s he used to go into the chapel almost every day to pray for the other students and faculty at the college. As one of the only students at QTC who honoured the integrity and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he must have been incredibly lonely. Life at Queen’s must have been a huge battle for him. Yet he didn’t give in to the temptation to become bitter or arrogant. He remained gentle, humble and truthful in his dealings with his fellow students and faculty, and (as I learned yesterday) he remained faithful to the hidden ministry of intercession.
As one who has been waking up to the realization that intercessory prayer is one of God’s major callings on this season of my life, I found this tremendously moving and motivating. I was humbled and amazed to realize how faithful Ken had been in praying for all of us so many years ago, and even more so, how faithful God had been. I had the amazing privilege of telling Ken that at least in my life, the prayers he had prayed more than thirty-five years previously had found an answer.
I believe he was encouraged. I know I was.