My wife Maribeth forgot to pray for the surgery of a friend several days ago. When she admitted what happened, she still didn’t how the surgery went or what the doctor’s prognosis might be. But she felt chagrin because she hadn’t prayed beforehand.

She raised an eyebrow when I suggested that it might not be too late to pray. I explained that we tend to confine ourselves to proleptic prayers—anticipating things that will happen in the future. But if God is eternal, why shouldn’t we pray about things that have happened in the past? Why not pray retroactive prayers?

Jesus did this at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Sisters Mary and Martha complained that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had arrived sooner, but Jesus knew it wasn’t too late to pray for his friend. Not all retroactive prayers have such striking results, but they will have results. For this reason, we pray with an awareness that God’s timeline is much longer than ours.

Old Testament professor Jerald Janzen once asked a seminary class, “What has been Abram’s impact on the world?” His own answer was, “We don’t know. The returns are not all in yet.”

That’s true of every person and event. Consequences of our past continue to unfold, subject to God’s influence, so it is never not too late to pray about anything. It’s not too late to pray for the outcome of a surgery. It’s not too late to pray for the outcome of an election. It’s not too late to pray for the outcome of a firing or a divorce. Although we are painfully aware of the limits of our times, we deal with a timeless God.


My wife Judy died a year ago this month–December 13, to be exact. Ever the detail person, she planned her funeral service and designed her grave marker well in advance. When the marker was set in place, she asked to see it. Despite the icy winter wind that whipped around her wheelchair that day, she flashed her smile of approval.

Ancient Jews had a custom of setting up a large stone or a pile of stones to memorialize important sites in their history–not just burial sites, but battle sites, worship sites, and the point where they crossed River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. These stones served as witnesses to what happened there, not only for themselves but for their future descendants.

So Judy had hers. I walk past it several times a month and remember the chilly day Judy sat there, anticipating her own crossing into the Promised Land. Someday I’ll join her and my date will be etched in the stone. (See? I’ll get the last word after all!)

Eventually, our descendants will forget where the stone is. Wind and rain will erase what we’ve written on it. Granite will dissolve into the earth to join our ashes beneath. Then who will remember us?

The One who made the stone. The One who also made us and the earth from which He formed us. The One who needs no landmark to prompt remembrance of us, for we always will be with Him.


postage_increase_4The U.S. Postal Service says that the price of a first-class “Forever Stamp” (you know, the kind you can use anytime in the future to mail a letter, even if postal rates go up) will increase again to 46 cents on January 27. We’re advised to buy now before the higher price takes effect.

That’s an entertaining bit of trivia for us who use e-mail instead of postal mail, but it makes me wonder: Who did they consult about this? God only knows how long they’ll have to honor that price. Did they bother to ask whether the Postal Service will be around that long?

Frankly, I believe we invoke the promise of forever rather carelessly these days.

Publisher’s Clearing House promises to give the winner of this year’s sweepstakes “$5,000 per week forever.” They mean that they’ll pay $5,000/wk. to the winner and, upon the winner’s death, $5,000/wk. to anyone the winner designates for the remainder of that person’s life. In their book, a weekly payout for two partial lifetimes is a “forever” promise.

Pardon me, but it isn’t. Not by half.

Only the God of eternity makes “forever” promises that mean anything. He promises us joy forever (Ps. 16:11), divine protection forever (Ps 121:1), and the fullness of life forever (John 3:16).  No purchase required.

Today confirmed Carl Jung’s observation: “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.”

Laid up at home, recuperating from a knee injection yesterday, I had plenty of time to think. So what did I think about? Everything I should have been doing at the office; a couple of software programs that I intend to try; several books I’m in process of reading; preparation for a class that I’m teaching this Sunday; etc., etc. My mind whirred with the possibilities.

In fact, I went for a walk after dinner to limber up that knee and, on the way back, my mind was so preoccupied with Saturday’s chore list that I walked a block beyond my street. So my day of rest became a day of planning tasks, anticipating them, and criticizing myself that I didn’t get some of them accomplished!

Someone once asked the Catholic monk Thomas Merton what he thought was the most dangerous moral snare of our generation. “Efficiency,” he said. 

While God has given us eternity, our Accuser drives us to squeeze as much as possible out of every minute. So we over-schedule, over-plan, and over-analyze our lives until we lose sight of eternity. We are bedeviled with the fleeting nature of now.