I regularly comment on spam for the sake of the gullible who might fall for the various scams and hoaxes that are around. But I suspect that the most common form of spam that makes it into our inboxes rather than our spam filters comes from well-intentioned relatives and friends who say things like “This is a must read” or “I know this probably isn’t true but…” or even “I saw this and thought that you (in this case “you” refers to every single person they know who has an e-mail address) would be interested in this”.
What are we to make of the stories of miracles and marvels that once upon a time circulated by word of mouth, but now tend to circulate by e-mail? Often the individuals in the story are unnamed, but not always, and at times names of famous people are inserted into the story in the course of transmission. Often but not always the story is set in a far away place (at least far from those who circulate it) and is thus not easily verifiable. Research on the phenomenon of rumor and its accuracy or otherwise is important, because the early stories about Jesus and his first followers circulated in the same way before being written down. The ongoing presence of eyewitnesses in the earliest Christian community doesn’t mitigate the relevance of this mode of transmission, any more than it does today, since not only do stories continue to circulate even after eyewitnesses protest their inaccuracy or even that they are complete fabrications, but details such as “this happened to someone I know personally” regularly seem to get added to stories in the process of their retelling.
A story I received recently (which inspired this post) is reproduced verbatim below. Feel free to comment on it as well in the comments section. Of particular interest is the way Snopes (a great site for checking on urban legends) traces the development of the story and highlights the universals of the genre. Truth Or Fiction shows how some versions of the story have patent inconsistencies. What I’m most interested in is how this sort of example sheds light on what historians are facing in trying to make sense of early Christian sources. But the topic is relevant simply in terms of the spread of stories, gullibility and lack of critical thinking in our time as well.
The Holy Spirit
Here’s a message that will bring you chills. Have you ever felt the urge to pray for someone and then just put it on a list and said, “I’ll pray for them later?”
Or has anyone ever called you and said, “I need you to pray for me, I have this need?”
Read the following story that was sent to me and may it change the way that you may think about prayer and also the way you pray. You will be blessed by this!!
A missionary on furlough told the following true story while visiting his home church in Michigan : “While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, every two weeks I traveled by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This was a journey of two days and required camping overnight at the halfway point. On one of these journeys, I arrived in the city where I planned to collect money from a bank, purchase medicine, and supplies, and then begin my two-day journey back to the field hospital.
Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of whom had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time talked to him about the Lord. I then traveled two days, camping overnight, and arrived home without incident…
Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by the young man I had treated. He told me that he had known I carried money and medicines. He said, ‘Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you and take your money and drugs.
But just as we were about to move into your camp, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards. At this, I laughed and said that I was certainly all alone in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point, however,and said, ‘No, sir, I was not the only person to see the guards, my friends also saw them, and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.”
At this point in the sermon, one of the men in the congregation jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact day this happened. The missionary told the congregation the date, and the man who interrupted told him this story:
“On the night of your incident in Africa , it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I was about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would all of those men who met with me on that day stand up?”
The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary wasn’t concerned with who they were, he was too busy counting how many men he saw. There were 26!
This story is an incredible example of how the Spirit of the Lord moves in mysterious ways. If you ever hear such prodding, go along with it.
Nothing is ever hurt by prayer except the gates of hell. I encourage you to forward this to as many people as you know If we all take it to heart, we can turn this world toward God once again. As the above true story clearly illustrates, “with God all things are possible . More importantly, how God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful.
After you read this, please pass it on and give God thanks for the beautiful gift of your faith, for the powerful gift of prayer, and for the many miracles He works in your own daily life and then pass it on. Who says God does not work in mysterious ways.
I asked the Lord to bless you as I prayed for you today. To guide you and protect you as you go along your way. His love is always with you, His promises are true, and when we give Him our cares you know He will see us through. So when the road you’re traveling on seems difficult at best, just remember I’m here praying, and God will do the rest.
Pass this on to those whom you want God to bless.