You may recognize the above photo from another story I wrote. The story was about an answered prayer, which was all I saw in the photo when I found it several years ago. Much like life, the story has evolved since then….
For the longest time I have felt like my prayers resembled a broken record. Not all days but most days I seemed to pray for the same things, the same people, often with the same words and phrases, over and over. It began to bother me.
After taking an honest look at my prayer life I realized that “self-serving and generic” best described it most days, which was still better than the “anemic to non-existent” state of years gone by. I also realized something else after looking back on decades of living….
God had often answered my self-serving and generic prayers.
There is not a more glaring example than my prior baseball career. During my young life I simply prayed to be a professional baseball player. Then one day I was a Baltimore Oriole.
During the seven seasons that followed I never prayed for fortune and fame (remember that part). In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t really pray on a consistent basis at all back then unless I was in a pickle.
When I did pray my baseball related prayer was consistent. To stand on the mound in a major league stadium, wearing a major league uniform. I just wanted the experience of pitching in that big stadium with all those seats!
Through my years as an Oriole I prayed consistently, self-servingly and generically for that one thing.
About midway through my career, in the fall of 1993, I spent three months in Baltimore as an extra on the Cleveland Indians team (#17, last name O’Conner) in the movie Major League II. No lines but I’m scattered throughout the movie.
Fast forward 20+ years after filming the movie and I am now well into my forties. Cleaning out old boxes I came across the photo you see above. I must have sat and stared at it for ten minutes the day I found it. There I was….
Standing on the mound, in Oriole Stadium at Camden Yards, wearing a Cleveland Indians uniform…. and I’m pitching. No fortune, no fame, no fans, but for roughly five glorious minutes the kid from Rocky Creek, Mississippi was allowed to stand on that mound, in front of 45,971 empty seats, and turn it loose. God just smiled.
It took me over twenty years to see what I never saw before… that I had received precisely what I asked for.
I have since exited my 40s and entered my 50s. I am also in a different place spiritually than I was the day I “re-found” that photo a few years ago. Like the photo, I have been “re-found” and “re-purposed” myself since then.
I got in the boat as I like to say and started doing my part. I see things differently and I am aware of things that once evaded me. To say my eyes and ears have been opened to a new level is accurate and examining my prayer life is an example of that broader awareness.
My realization of the answered prayer within the photo several years ago led me to ask myself this question just recently….
If God was willing to work in the life of a man whose rarely offered prayers were self-serving and generic, then how much more willing would he have been to work in my life had my prayers been consistent, God centered and specific?
What could He have done all those years, all those decades, had I been less self serving? Probably more than I could ever have imagined or would want to know.
Thankfully, God never gave up on me. He never gives up on anyone.
Get in the boat. Do your part.
Shane / #16
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(Note: #4 in the photo is Brad Tyler. Orioles 6th pick in the 1990 draft. The most deserving guy I know that never got the call.)