When Prayer Turns Desperate (Part II)

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plane crash

(Continued from yesterday)

Moments after my brother-in-law’s single engine plane hit the ground, Ray fought for his life, suspended upside-down in a burning crop duster. By now, the flames had engulfed the cockpit and Ray’s hands and chest were in such agony that unfastening the hot metal buckle was proving impossible. 


Realizing that the fire was reaching his face, he rolled his head back, using the wall of the cockpit to push his helmet over his eyes. Knowing every second was precious, he cried out to his Only Hope. 


“Jesus, save me!”


As the prayer left his lips, he felt his thumbs urging once again at the two shoulder harnesses which were holding him in the plane. The nylon straps, which had melted onto his stomach, burned away from the buckle and Ray dropped to the cockpit’s ceiling. 


Urged by his Higher Power, Ray climbed out of the fiery aircraft and crawled away from the plane. Later, men surveying the crash site would ponder how he actually escaped. Nowhere in the frame of the wreckage was there an opening large enough for him to have actually crawled through. 


Rolling himself in the dirt of the nearby field, Ray put out the fire on his body. Burned badly and covered in the deadly parathion, Ray turned to watch the Cessna continue to burn. As he thanked God for his escape, Ray noticed a “radiant light glowing amidst the fire.” The Lord allowed his eyes to see evidence of the Help that he had prayed for. It (He!) hovered there until men arrived from a nearby field. 


Tumbling out of the pick-up, the farmers rushed to help. Ray knew the danger of the chemical pesticide that was eating through his raw burns and urged the three men to carry him to a nearby playa lake. There, they washed him in the muddy water before loading him into their truck. This decision would serve to save Ray’s life.


After a few days in the local hospital, Ray was transferred to a the regional burn center. Indeed, the parathion coating had proved just as dangerous to him as the deep 2nd and 3rd degree burns which covered 50% of his body. Despite dermabrasion and extensive skin grafting, Ray miraculously returned home after just 31 days.


Even though I was only a child at the time, I learned a lot about prayer through Ray’s accident. 

1. Trials always increase our prayer life. 

This spiritual principle remains one of my least favorites. I prefer my life to rock along smoothly and without heartache. Yet, I’ve noticed that without the trials, I simply don’t push to seek God (Romans 3:10-11). Our Father seeks out daily relationship with us and yet we fill our time elsewhere. Should we be surprised when the challenges turn our hearts back to Him? Ray still keeps the seat belt buckle from the wreckage in his nightstand as a testimony of answered prayer. To this day, 45 years after the crash, the buckle remains fastened together.  

2. True prayer doesn’t consist of words, but of essence.

Ray’s cry for help was from the heart, not from the head. How often I worry about the words I use in prayer rather than my motives. The best prayer is often one of groaning (Romans 8:26). 

3. When God is one’s only Hope, He shows up in power. 

From releasing a seatbelt to squeezing someone out of an opening far too small, God does the miraculous when our eyes are upon Him only. May we daily wait for Him only – with or without a trial. 


What prayer principle would you add? What has the Father taught you about prayer through the trials?