Leo Tolstoy tells the story of three hermits who lived on an island. Their prayer of intimacy and love was simple like they were simple: “We are three, you are three; have mercy on us. Amen.” Miracles sometimes happened when they prayed in this way.
The bishop, however, hearing about the hermits, decided that they needed guidance in proper prayer, and so he went to their small island. After instructing the monks, the bishop set sail for the mainland, pleased to have enlightened the souls of such simple men.
Suddenly, off the stern of the ship he saw a huge ball of light skimming across the ocean. It got closer and closer until he could see that it was the three hermits running on top of the water. Once on board the ship they said to the bishop, “We are so sorry, but we have forgotten some of your teaching. Would you please instruct us again?”
The bishop shook his head and replied meekly, “Forget everything I have taught you and continue to pray in your old way.”
~ Richard Foster, Prayer
I was going to say this is one of my favorite prayer stories.
But nix that.
It’s one of my favorite stories, period.
I’m convicted by the Bishop because I see where I’ve been far more like him than I care to admit in my own naturally controlling tendencies and desires to set others straight and “instruct them more accurately” in the way they ought to go and do and be – at least in the book “According to Me.” Most of us have one of those, I do believe. And it always has more pages to be filled. Especially if you’re a blogger. Or a pastor.
At least the bishop responded meekly when confronted with a hermit fireball dancing on the waters.
I have a feeling many of us would dismiss that as a sign of hell-fire or something. What else could it be? I mean, they’re just simple, religiously unsophisticated, crude hermits. And Evangelicals couldn’t help but call attention to the fact they are obviously Catholics.
But the Bishop saw, he listened, and hopefully learned something.
And the hermits listened too.
They were eager to learn from a bishop from an institutional mainland, even running across water to relearn what he had to offer.
They convict me too.
How I hate stories that I love.