When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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When is it too late?

March 15, 2021
By Dr. Hal Brady

“And the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10). Sadder words have never been spoken or written. There’s a certain finality about them.

Jesus tells how 10 young women were invited to a marriage feast. Five were wise and five were foolish. The wise women showed their wisdom by planning for the possible delay of the bridegroom. They took extra oil for their lamps so they would be ready when he came.

The foolish women neglected to do so, and while they waited, all fell asleep. Suddenly at midnight, a cry went out that the bridegroom was coming. Immediately, the wise women got up and trimmed their lamps. On the other hand, the foolish women recognized that they were out of oil and asked to borrow some. “No!” said the wise, “there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealer and buy some for yourselves.”

The gist of the story is that while they were gone the bridegroom came. And when they returned it was too late. The door was shut. As I previously mentioned, sadder words have never been spoken or written.

There are several things I want to share with you from this parable.

First, we see the unexpectedness of life! Life is fickle. We never know exactly what’s going to happen next. To be sure, we can never acquire enough education or self-confidence to protect ourselves from the crises and/or surprises of life.

A father waits anxiously in the maternity waiting room of a hospital. When the nurse finally appears, he asks her frantically, “Tell me, is it a boy?”

“Well,” she answers, “the one in the middle is!”

Life does not always move in predictable patterns. We are continually surprised by the unexpectedness of life.

Second, we see the necessity of being prepared! This parable absolutely hinges on the necessity of being prepared. The only real difference between the bridesmaids was the measure of their preparedness. All 10 of these young women had oil in their lamps, but only five of them (the wise ones) had an extra supply that would see them through the long night.

Truth is, it’s simply not possible to get ready for certain things at the last minute. Unless we prepare in advance, the consequences will be inappropriate.

I think knowledge is one of those things that cannot be acquired in the last minute. It must have been stirred up long ago. That is why the time of youth must be the time of learning. It is said that the golden age of memory is from seven to 11. But be that as it may, it is easier to learn when we are young.

And this fact is just another reason why the COVID-19 pandemic and our schools are such a serious concern. Virtual learning is appropriate as merited, but it is not the same as in-class learning. We see the necessity of being prepared.

Third, we see that some things cannot be borrowed! As you recall, the five foolish bridesmaids sought to borrow some oil from the five wise bridesmaids. Being refused, they rushed out into the night to find a seller of oil. But when they returned, the door was shut. Some things just cannot be borrowed.

For instance, we cannot borrow someone else’s character. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” He’s talking about character.

We can’t borrow someone else’s faith! A common charge is laid against our generation that we are living on the spiritual capital of our fathers and mothers. What is meant is this: we want the world to be a place where human life is respected, where virtue is honored, where justice is real, where women and children are safe, and where the law of God is sacred. But we cannot have a world like that without people of faith and a strong religious community. Some things just cannot be borrowed.

Fourth, we must be ready to seize the opportunity when it comes! It is said of Mary of Orange that when she was dying her chaplain came to speak with her about the things of eternity.

Mary answered, “My fried, I have not left this matter to this hour.”

Mary of Orange was speaking the language of the five wise bridesmaids. Matters of eternity are just too important to be left to the last minute. Seize the opportunity!

Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).

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