This article is an excerpt from my book, Prayer A to Z.
There is really only one prayer that a non-Christian can pray with the assurance that God will hear him. It is the prayer for mercy—from a humble heart that sincerely has decided to go God’s way. Any other prayers that are uttered by a non-Christian are an abomination to God and are not heard. Why? Well, it is not because God is not good. He is good (Read Matthew 5:43-45). It is because He can not grant any other request of the unsaved, because they naturally do not do what is right or seek after God (Romans 3:10-11). Isaiah 64:6 tells us that the unsaved are unclean and all their righteousness are like filthy rags to God. Therefore, God will not listen to their prayers because all their requests are made with selfish, ungodly motives.
One thing that was sadly lacking in my life was someone to come along side me and counsel me in the area of sexual temptation and dating and marriage. I think young people really need that guidance, especially in those high school years, when their bodies and thoughts are swiftly moving in that area. All through high school I wasn’t at all seriously thinking of marriage or even dating. In fact, I purposely set my mind toward God and bringing people to Christ any way possible, especially through Hi-C club, the Christian group I was involved in.
Then again, when my guard was down, which was too often, I couldn’t keep my eyes and my mind off of girls. And I didn’t exactly know how to handle it. I didn’t feel ready or bold enough to ask girls on dates, but still I had eyes and an imagination. Sometimes, at a weak moment, I longed to see as much as I could. I remember going to the beach just to see as much skin as I could. And I was a Christian! What was I doing? Well, in those days, much of the time I was just very rebellious.
And then along came Joy. A girl named Joy. The first time I remember seeing her was while I was in band practice playing my trombone. She would be looking at me through the glass classroom door and smiling and waving at me. And it was a little embarrassing, because I really didn’t know her, and some of the kids noticed that she was trying to get my attention.
I really wasn’t attracted to her and she wasn’t that attractive. But she seemed to really like me. So, I invited her to our Hi-C group. I figured that as long as I had her attention, maybe I could get her saved. She started to come to our group, but I kind of knew that she was just interested in me.
One evening after group I walked her home; and when we got to her house, she really laid one on me—she kissed me. My first reaction was repulsion; her breath stunk of stale tobacco. But then, without warning, the feeling hit me. I felt something deep down in my soul. Instantly, I was in seventh heaven, and I wanted more. We kissed again, and I felt even better. But when I went in for a third time, she said she had to go. That was okay; I knew I would be back and I was still flying high. I ran all the way home. I was in love. For the first time in my life I was really in love.
I can’t remember exactly what I did next. All I remember is that I wanted more kisses from her. So, I tried to see her more. Even though I was always busy after school with sports and Hi-C clubs, I always had her in the back of my mind—especially her kisses. I longed for her, but it seemed that things were reversed. I was wanting her more than she was wanting me. I was going full steam ahead and she was putting on the breaks. I remember sitting in her house one time. Her mom was home, busy with house work, and me and Joy were sitting—in separate places. I was sitting on her couch watching TV—I think. And she was sitting in another chair reading a book. She was like my sister, always reading. I would be just sitting and she would be sitting and reading. All I could think of was when I was going to get another kiss. I have no idea what she was thinking. It was a strange relationship.
One day she opened up to me about her life. It wasn’t good. She had been—and maybe still was—on drugs; and she also had sexual relationships. I started to think that maybe pursuing her wasn’t the best idea. Yet I wasn’t ready to give up on her. I felt that I really loved her, and so, I doubled down on praying for her. Sometimes I prayed for a long time with tears, begging God to save her. I remember those prayer times. In fact, even now, fifty years later, every time I think of her, I pray for her salvation. Yet I have no idea where she is or if she is even alive.
Toward the end of my senior year, I got the itch to work. It didn’t take me long to find my first job at Minneapolis Floral, just a couple blocks from the school. It was a fairly easy job. I mainly just swept the floors, especially around the people who were trimming and arranging flowers to be sent out to weddings and funeral and such. I think I had that job for only a couple of months.
The next job I had was in a foundry, which was located in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. It was a lot harder, but it paid more. I think I made $2.50 an hour. I stood all day long in front of a grinding wheel, grinding and smoothing off little medal parts. What those parts were used for I had no idea and I didn’t care. Oh, my back and shoulders would just ache after a few hours of work. But it was work. Soon I got use to it. I think I only had the job for about a month. They were sorry to see me go, but I had to leave to serve my country.
A few months before I went to work, it must have been just at the end of my senior year, I remember walking down the sidewalk with a friend of mine, a wrestling buddy, on my way home from school one day. We were talking about what we were going to do next. He suggested going into the service, maybe the Marines. That was the first time I had thought about the service, but that thought kind of intrigued me. I wasn’t thinking at all about war; I was thinking more about really getting into shape and “becoming all I could be.” Something like that. Well it didn’t take me long to decides on the Marines.
Looking back on it, I think it was how God provided a way for me to escape from the temptations I had for Joy, and what would have been a very wrong path.
After 7th grade, where I lived in Montevideo, we moved again, back to Minneapolis. I think I remember that my dad wasn’t doing too well and spent some time in a mental hospital. Meanwhile, my mom was working full time as a secretary and us kids were fending for ourselves.
I don’t remember how it all happened, but I got involved with a Christian group called Hi-C Club. It was a Jr. High branch of the Campus Crusade for Christ group in Minneapolis. I remember our first meeting in the home of one of the girls in the group. We all, about a dozen of us, sat in the living room waiting for the leader to arrive. He was about ten minutes late and came huffing and puffing to the door, saying that he had run all the way. Strange guy. He ran everywhere. Anyway, he gave his testimony about how he came to Christ, and he got us all excited about the group and about being Christians. Looking back on it, that group was just what I needed at that time. It was my first introduction to Christianity since I received Christ a year ago at camp.
We not only did bible studies; we did a lot of fun activities and games. And when one of the leaders challenged us to do beach evangelism, I jumped right in. We memorized a booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws, and then we headed for the beach on Lake Calhoun. It was so scary at first, but after a few encounters, me and my buddy Gary really got into it. Of course, the thing that excited us was the few converts we got. People were actually praying to receive Christ!
The junior high school, Jefferson Jr. High, was about ten or twelve blocks away. Instead of taking the bus, for some reason my mom wanted us to walk to school. It took a long time, over half an hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to lug my trombone with me all the time, but I had to bring it home because I had to practice.
Playing the trombone was probably the thing I liked best about 8th and 9th grade. I was in the band and the instructor gave all of us free lessons. He was hard on us—on me, but I learned how to play, and I loved playing in the band. The band wasn’t that good, but we sure had fun. One of the things the band instructor would always tell me was that I was playing too loud! But I couldn’t help it. That’s the only way I knew how to play.
At the time, I was going to a Presbyterian church just two blocks away. It was a little different than what I was use to—like free churches, Baptist churches, and even charismatic churches. So, you can imagine that this Presbyterian church was different, more formal or liturgical. But I didn’t mind.
My Sunday School teacher was also the church basketball coach, and I was on the team. I didn’t make too many points, but I was fairly good at defense. And anyway, it didn’t seem to matter that much to the coach. In fact, he had more than just basketball on his mind. He was out to befriend us. I later found out that he was a pervert, or a pedophile. But at the time I really didn’t know what to think of him. A couple of times he had me and another guy (a fellow basketball player) over to his house for the night. For some reason he chose me to share his bed. I had no idea what he was up to until he did it to me. And then I still wasn’t sure what happened. Living on the farm, away from everything, I had really been sheltered, and no one told me anything about sex. I kind of knew that what happened to me was wrong, yet at the same time I wondered if it was normal—if it was just something every boy would go through.
One fall, I think it was in October, the coach took me and this same player for a week long camping trip in Lake of the woods. It would have been so much fun and a great adventure if it hadn’t been spoiled by what he did to me during the night—as before. Again, I asked myself, was this normal? (years later I found out that my brother Mark had been abused by this same guy. He too was in his Sunday School class. And I heard that when my dad found out he was furious. Evidently, he had been doing this to boys for years and getting away with it.)
Well, wouldn’t you know it, a few months later, in the summer time, some kids from our Christian group had a swimming party. I can’t remember all the details of what happened, but, as I remember, the guy I got a ride with couldn’t give me a ride home and said I could ride with these old guys that he knew. Anyway, on the way back they stopped at their place, and they offered me a drink. I didn’t know what it was, but it sure hit me hard. After a while the whole room was spinning around and they were laughing. I couldn’t see straight and I couldn’t walk. And they led me, and sort of dragged me, to a bedroom and forced me down onto a bed. One of them had his way with me and I could hear that the other guy was in the room too. In a way I was kind of thankful to be drugged, because it kept me from knowing exactly what when on—though I remember some of it.
Thank God, it only lasted a couple hours and then they took me home. The next day I went for a long run in an attempt to clean out my system, and I’m sure I was praying along the way. I think I had come to realize that what had happened to me, both with my Sunday School teacher and with these old guys, wasn’t at all right or normal. The devil was after me. He wanted to destroy my life. That’s the last time I was abused by anyone; but it was just the beginning of what Satan had planned for me. Though I was a child of God and eager to serve Him, I could sense that Satan was constantly after me to destroy me in one way or another.
As I sped down the hill on my new black Schwinn bicycle, a new assurance gave me an overwhelming joy. I was saved and I had a place reserved for me in heaven. This new assurance had come to me a few months prior, at a church camp, when my camp counselor explained to me from the bible how I could be saved. And then I knelt down beside him in his cabin, and prayed that Jesus would come into my life and take control of my life. Instantly, after my prayer, I received a new peace, that after I die, I would go straight to heaven. From that point on my life was changed, not because of anything external or because of changed circumstances, but because I had a changed heart due to a new life inside of me. I had Jesus in me and He had given me a new peace, a new assurance, and a new attitude about life. I felt new and clean inside. In reality, at age twelve, I really did have a new life!
We had recently moved from our Montevideo farm to a house in the city of Montevideo. I don’t remember anything about the move, or about the house we moved into, but I do have a few memories—besides my salvation experience at camp.
One of my clear memories was when I was on the wresting team in 7th grade. I always thought I was a good wrestler, since I always beat my brother. But I found out different. Either I was really bad, or the guys I wrestled were really good—probably a little of both. Anyway, I had a rude awakening.
Another clear memory was of the city swimming pool, which was only a few blocks from our house. It only cost 10 cents, and for that one dime you could swim there all day if you wanted. And some days I did just that. It was so much fun. There were two slides and also two diving boards—a lower one and a high one. The high dive was scary, but I did try it a couple times. It was in that pool that I learned how to swim. Mom insisted that we take swimming lessons, and we all did.
One other good memory of that place in Montevideo, was playing baseball with all the neighbor kids in a nearby park. I remember how easy it was to get a game together. We just walked, or ran, down the streets and yelled out something like, “Who wants to play baseball?” We seemed to always get enough kids to play. We played for hours at a time. And now that I think of it, we also played football. That was a little rougher, but I loved it. Those were the days!
I don’t remember much in regard to church during my younger years. Our family moved a lot, so nothing was too stable. The highlight during those years was when I was saved at a Free Church camp. That must mean that we were attending a Free Church. I remember every detail about the day I was saved, but nothing about church.
A couple years later, when I was about 15, I slightly remember the Presbyterian church. What I like most about that church was being on the church basketball team. I think it was also during that time that I got involved with a para-church group called Campus Crusade for Christ—their Junior High ministry. That wasn’t exactly church, but to me it was much better than church. It was a fun club with a lot of fun activities. And we also did Bible studies and invited inspiring speakers to our meetings. This group also lasted through high school, and I became very involved. It was where my spiritual life first began to grow. One challenging part of the group was being trained to witness; and we would go out to Lake Calhoun beach and witness to people. We shared a booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws. Me and a friend always went together. We actually were able to see some people pray to receive Christ right there on the beach. What a thrill!
During those high school years, I remember going to church every Sunday, but I really wasn’t too involved. My involvement was in the Campus Crusade for Christ group. Some people are against para-church groups. But I thank God for them. If it wasn’t for that group I don’t know where I would be. It has really served a good purpose in my life in growing me up spiritually—putting me on the right track.
After high school I enlisted in the Marine Corps and went to Vietnam. It was tough but God sustained me. At the end of my time in the service, when I was at Camp Lajune, N.C., I ran into another para-church group, The Navigators. For the next 4 years, even after I was discharged, I was in ministry with them on the Marine base. I lived in Jacksonville N.C. and commuted to the Marine base to do bible studies and evangelism with them.
After that period of 4 years I moved home to Minnesota. That was when, for the first time, I began to be more regularly involved in the local church. I was in the choir and also involved in the single ministry. From then on until now I have always been more regular in church.
I think it’s so important to have regular fellowship with other believers, and also to use whatever gifts you have to minister in the church. I also think it’s important to come every Sunday to the church service to hear the preaching of the word and to worship in song. I look forward to coming to church every Sunday.
The place where I go now for worship is actually a city community center. We are a new church and don’t have our own building. But there is plenty of room at the center and they don’t mind at all that we are there. My main ministry is to help set up for worship before the service, and then tear it down after the service. There is a team of about ten of us that do it—and we love working together for the glory of God.
The sermon today at my church had to do with witnessing to our neighbors—or anyone we would have a chance to talk to. It was good for me, because, over the years I have become sort of lax in this area. I don’t know why. I was thinking that maybe it is because I just haven’t taken the time with people to get in a lot of deep, personal conversations. Or maybe I have become too Christianized, or too proud—if you know what I mean. Anyway, I what to give you a few questions (taken directly from the sermon notes) that every Christian can ask his friends in order to stimulate a spiritual conversation.
Do you believe people can change?
What brings you a sense of meaning of purpose?
Do you think our world is getting better or worse?
Is there a movie or book series that has meant a lot to you?
If you won the lottery, what would you do with your free time?
What is the biggest challenge facing humans?
Have you ever had a mentor who meant a lot to you?
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Two Questions for Anyone Who May Have Some Doubts About His or her Salvation
Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you can say you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?
Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say?
These are good questions, aren’t they? To help you answer them I want to encourage you to look at a couple bible verses. For the first question look at 1 John 5:11-12. As for the second question, that may be a little harder. To help you answer that question you can look at Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and Ephesians 2:8-9.