“We do not fix our gaze on what is seen but on what is unseen. What is seen is transitory; what is unseen lasts forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
The new pastor was visiting his homebound parishioners one day. Arriving at one elderly man’s house, he was escorted into the bedroom by the man’s daughter. Seeing an empty chair beside the bed, the priest good-naturedly asked, “Were you expecting me?”
The elderly man looked up and asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m the new priest,” he replied. “And when I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”
“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”
Puzzled, the priest shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the priests talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I just never tried.” The old man took a deep breath before continuing. “Then, one day a few years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘You know –prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus.’
“He went on to tell me, ‘Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you and, in faith, see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’
“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or think I’d had one!”
The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged his parishioner to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointing him before he left. Two nights later, the daughter called to tell the pastor that her father had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?” he asked.
“I think so,” she answered. “When I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you think that means?”
The priest wiped a tear from his eye and answered, “That means he, indeed, went in peace.”
Watering the Seeds
When has your prayer life felt the strongest to you?
In what ways can you strengthen your prayer practices today?