It was not quite the weekend, but it might as well have been. I surveyed the beach below and saw the masses of people with dipnets peppering the beach as the waves rolled in. This was going to be the day of the great salmon fish surge and I was ready. My son and I unloaded the gear and weaved our way around tents, coolers, nets, and fish heads. We prepared our nets and headed for the water. We squeezed into the fray of people packed shoulder to shoulder and scooted our nets out to the open water. We waited and waited. We saw a few Kenai beauties hauled in as some people cheered and others seemed disgusted that they were not as fortunate. Then from somewhere amongst the crowd and the twisted mass of metal and nets I heard a loud voice bellow out a prayer, “Lord thank you for this day and these fish, grant us an abundance of them… .” He continued on as people stared on and waited.
I sure agreed with his prayer as we all wanted the fish to come in and we especially wanted fish in our nets. This gentleman’s prayer engaged me, and all who heard it, to reflect on the questions, “What is prayer?” and “Does prayer really work?”
As a young boy I was encouraged by my pastor to pray and was taught “Prayer is simply talking to God.” Prayer is an intimate conversation with the God who created humanity to know and be in relationship with Him. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “The Lord’s Prayer,” he gave a model about the important elements of prayer. The first priority is to praise and thank God for who He is, and then to make requests to Him, admitting we have needs that only God can fill. God wants us to ask for things we need. When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) or in this case “our daily fish” we are showing that we are depending on God one day at a time. The phrase “daily bread” was more than just food; it represents food, shelter, provision, family and security. God beckons us to pray for things that we need in life.
So does prayer really work? Jesus wants us to bring our requests before Him and to believe in faith that God will answer (Matthew 21:22). He responds to our prayers by answering “Yes, No, or Not Now.” Jesus gives us the big picture of order when asking things of God: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Mt 6:33). I am not sure if this gentleman was blessed with an abundance of fish that day, but I, and many others, sure got a bunch. I left the beach later that day thanking God for the blessing of fish and for the opportunity to be reminded of how much God wants me to connect with Him in prayer for the needs in my life, whether big or small because He loves me so.
Frank Alioto is the pastor of The River Covenant Church: “An Alaskan church for people who would rather go to the River.” We gather on Sundays, 10:30 a.m. at K-Beach Elementary in Soldotna. Call 252-2828 or visit www.therivercovenantchurch.org.