Teenagers from the estate where I live have come round to my house for baked beans and the odd prayer for over five years. Like most teenage boys their attention span is very short. Most of my efforts at sharing the gospel have been pretty lacklustre and it can seem a waste of time. But then every so often something happens which shows me that God has his own way of getting through to them.
Earlier this year I was told by friends from my church, how dangerous Clapham Junction – the famous railway station in our parish – was getting, particularly for school children. The son of one of them had been badly beaten up and had his mobile phone stolen. Other children were equally worried about traveling through the station because of the ‘crew’ that hung round the precincts, like modern day highwaymen looking for pickings. I had a word with the boys I knew, and asked them about this. They confirmed that there was a gang of teens who descended in the afternoons when they knew children would be on their way home from school. As they were careful only to attack other school children, their activity had so far slipped below the radar of police concern. What could be done, I asked, to halt these attacks?
The key they told me, would be simply to have a few uniformed policemen strategically dotted round the station during the crucial change-over hours. Their mere presence would be likely to deter any planned criminality. Anxious to bring God into the situation, I suggested to the boys that we pray and ask God to protect all those that came through the station and make it a safe place for travellers. Although they didn’t join in themselves, they obligingly bowed their heads while I prayed.
The following day I had a word with my parish priest and asked him to talk to the community police officer about the possibility of a police presence at the station between three and five in the afternoons.
I had forgotten all about this, however, when a couple of weeks later, the two teenagers whom I had originally mentioned this problem to, visited the flat. It turned out that they had come to ask me to pray for them, as they had football trials that week with a club they were eager to join. I was delighted to see that they were turning to God at such a time and asking why their faith levels in the power of prayer had risen so dramatically. They explained excitedly to me how God had been working and that since our prayers on their prior visit, the police were now regularly positioned at Clapham station when school children were passing through. Then one of them added that as well as this a ‘Crew’ from another part of town had paid a ‘visit’ to the Junction and beat up the resident gang at the station so badly, that they had been forced to abandoned it and were now afraid to go back. Thus for the first time in a long while the station was free from any gang domination. The boys were impressed at the power of our prayers.
Immediately some of those bloody stories from the Old Testament came to mind, of the Israelites setting off for battle, praising the Lord and finding when they arrived at the battlefield that their enemies had all killed each other and there was no need to fight! I don’t quite understand how all this all fits in with the power of intercessory prayer, but it seems too much of a co-incidence to airbrush out God’s mysterious hand in it all. It has certainly helped at least two teenagers to believe in the power of God at work in real ways in their life… and me too!