A young pastor moved to a new church. Soon after arriving, he received a phone call from one of his new members. She introduced herself and told the pastor that her father was bedridden and couldn’t attend church. She asked if the pastor would be willing to visit him, pray with him and give him Holy Communion. The pastor said that he would be delighted.
The next day, the pastor went to the member’s home. The young woman greeted him at the door. After a some small talk, she told the pastor that her father’s room was the second door on the right and that he could go see him if he liked.
The pastor walked to the room and knocked on the door. “Come in,” a voice told him. The pastor opened the door and there he saw and elderly man lying on a bed. Next to the bed was a simple chair facing the bed.
The man said an exuberant, “Hello!” The young pastor replied with a smile, “Hello! I see you’re expecting me.”
“No, who are you?” the elderly man replied.
“Well, I’m your new pastor. I saw the chair there next to the bed and I just assumed that you were expecting me.”
“Oh, the chair,” the elderly man responded. “Pastor, can you please close the door?”
The pastor curiously closed the door.
“Please sit down, pastor,” the man continued. “For years I didn’t really understand what prayer was. I mean I would go to church and we would pray. The pastor would always tell us to pray. I would say ‘grace’ at mealtimes. But I really didn’t understand what prayer was until a buddy of mine told me, ‘You know what you need to do, John? Put a chair in front of you and imagine Jesus sitting there. Remember he is there even though we can’t see him. Then just talk to Jesus like you’re talking to me right now. That’s what prayer really is.’”
“I tried it, pastor,” the elderly man continued, “and I liked it so much that I do it for at least an hour every day.”
“But,” he added, “I have to be careful, because if my daughter catches me talking to an empty chair, she is going to send me to the old folks home.”
The pastor smiled and encouraged him to continue praying in that way.
About two weeks later, the pastor received another phone call. It was the daughter. She was in tears. Her father had just passed away. She explained to the pastor how she had gone to the store that morning and when she came back, she found him dead.
“But something strange happened, pastor,” the young woman added. “It seems that in the moments right before he died, my father got up from his bed, sat on the floor and laid his head on the chair next to his bed.”