It was an hour earlier than we normally walked. It was as cold as it was dark. As we neared the last two houses on the block at the end of the street, our conversation halted mid-word as our eyes strained to make sense of a sight that made no sense. Horror filled my heart as I could see it was true. There were flames of various heights, some a couple of feet in the air, right next to the side of the house that had captured our attention.
Fire is bad enough, but this fire was around the base of the home’s natural gas meter. I looked up at the house and could see that there was a light on in the bedroom located above and beside where the fire was. This indicated that someone was probably in the room closest to the fire. I had heard reports of what a gas explosion can do to a house and began running toward the house. At the same time, I was praying and asking the Lord whether I should try to extinguish the fire first or get the people out of the house.
I felt the Lord Jesus saying to get the family out first, so I ran up the stairs to the front door. As I ran, I told Teri I might need her to wake up a neighbor and use their phone if I couldn’t rouse anyone inside. I admit I was not very dignified as I frantically rang the doorbell repeatedly so that anyone in there would immediately come to the door. After, what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than thirty seconds, the husband and wife opened the door. I shouted at them “FIRE! FIRE! Get out of this house!” This couple, with grown children who are no longer at home that we were aware of, knew our family and quickly followed me out as I ran down the steps.
I ran across the driveway making a quick glance around the corner of the house to see what was going on. I could see a plastic five-gallon pail on fire right behind the gas meter. Whatever was on the ground beside it was also burning. All this was under and around the gas meter. I saw the wire handle of the bucket and grabbed it with my gloved hand. I jerked the bucket of fire away from the meter, throwing it onto the driveway. With the main source of fuel at a safe distance from the fire, I was able to stomp out most of the remaining flames around the meter. I encouraged the husband to quickly get some water on what remained. As he went into the house, I said good-bye and headed down the driveway. Teri and I were on our way again, after only about a two or three minute interruption to the walk.
For the fourteen years we have lived in our current home, our hearts have been burdened for our neighbors’ salvation. They are good, nice people. We have come to love each of them deeply as relationships with them have developed. Most of them don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, though. However, as I shared previously in a Corner, I had not wept for my dear friends and neighbors. Nor have I prayed earnestly for their souls to be spared from hell.
A few months ago the Lord Jesus put something new on my heart. This might sound quite amazing to you that it would be considered “new,” but it is true. Up until this time our family had not had an extended time of prayer as a family. “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20). We pray each day individually and with the children as we put them to bed, but we had never had a set time when we would begin with the goal of praying for a couple of hours or longer. At first, a season of prayer may seem like a bad idea if you have younger children, but our experience has been that the children loved it as much as Teri and me.
I think New Year’s Eve was our best prayer time yet. We prayed for two and a half hours and ushered in the New Year in a grand and glorious fashion. Previous New Year’s Eves we have played board games, but they did not compare with this last one. Our hearts were so blessed as we prayed while weeping, praying Scripture, and praying through song. We cried out as a family to our Lord Jesus regarding many areas, and the souls of our neighbors were high on the list. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
One of the things we prayed for was that God would help us to see the eminent danger of the hell-fire our neighbors are facing. We prayed for the ability of almost being able to picture hell and the suffering of those in it. We wanted our hearts to be even more broken for those who don’t believe on Jesus. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). We desired to feel an urgency in sharing Jesus Christ so that none in our neighborhood would be lost.
My purpose in this article is to encourage dads to consider leading your families in some extended prayer times. I’ll share how we did it. You could modify it to suit your family.
Everyone was asked to be quiet and treat the prayer time as a very solemn occasion. In the middle of our praying, if someone needed to use the bathroom or was thirsty, he could go take care of that and come back quietly. If younger ones wanted to quit, they could at any time and either go to bed or sleep right where they were.
Everyone was to get comfortable. They could sit, stand, lie on the floor, kneel, or whatever, as they felt like. They could change positions as often as they needed. There was no order to who prayed, but as each was led by the Spirit of the Lord, he could begin after another had finished. Everyone was welcome to pray as many times as the Spirit led. As one prayed he could read Scripture out loud or sing something in prayer if led. The emphasis was on a close family time of bringing our petitions before the Righteous, Holy, God of the Universe.
By having it be loose and casual, everyone was comfortable and at peace. I believe that keeping it quiet is important to convey the seriousness of what is being done. But aside from that, find a way to make it work. If two hours seems like a long time, then begin with an hour. I encourage you not to think of why it wouldn’t work, but seek ways to make it work. It will change the “heart” of your family.
Our family prayer times have been frankly, the best times of prayer I have ever experienced. Instead of coming home after a blessed prayer time with others and telling the family how great it was, they are able to experience it themselves first-hand. The children were able to share the joy of the Holy Spirit working in their hearts as we cried out to our Father in Heaven. Isn’t this what real discipleship is all about?
We discovered one prayer that has already been answered as we reflect back on that early morning fire at our neighbor’s house. We can now picture a family peacefully preparing for a new day with no fear of tomorrow—business as usual. Yet, unknown to them, there is a fire by their gas meter. If it was to explode, it could produce a huge fireball explosion, resulting in the family being burned alive. They are without a care, but they desperately need someone to warn them of what lies ahead if no action is taken. Don’t be surprised if God gives you opportunity to be a blessing to your neighbors.
I want to be very clear that I’m NOT saying God created that fire, but I am saying that I believe He used it for good. I’m confident He led us to be there at that exact time. First, so we could be a blessing to our neighbors in a tangible way and second so we would have the mental picture of the danger of hell-fire our neighbors are in. Action is what God has called us to. Will we rescue the perishing? “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).
Some may be wondering how the fire started. For the curious, I will explain. The family had a house guest who was only allowed to smoke outside. Before the house guest left for work, he was having a smoke outside the house and threw his cigarette into the plastic bucket. The contents of the bucket and then the bucket caught on fire. Then there were leaves and other combustible materials on the ground that caused the fire to spread.
If we cry out to the Lord Jesus to enable us to bless those around us, we can be sure He will give good opportunity. May each of us make our home a house of prayer.