Nearly forty years ago, shortly after Keith and I became engaged, he took me to the premier restaurant in Tampa, Bern’s. Bern’s is the kind of restaurant where your waiter is often dressed better than you are, and you hope your actions do not give you away as someone who is totally out of his element. We splurged away a good chunk of Keith’s weekly salary on a chateaubriand for two--$40, counting beverages, dessert, tax, and tip. In that day, gas had just risen to 65 cents a gallon, and $35 worth of groceries fed a family of four for a week.
Our waiter, Tony, was an older gentleman with an accent, gray hair, and Old World manners as charming as the fairy tale Prince. At Bern’s, diners are seated in various rooms, some larger than others. Ours was small, mostly tables for two, and the three other couples there that night were well-spaced for privacy. Tony was assigned to us and only one other couple.
After taking our order, he always brought each course precisely on time as we finished the one before it. When it came time for the steak, he asked if Keith would like to carve it. We had been holding hands across the table and let go at that question. Immediately, Tony protested. “No, no, no,” he said, putting our hands back together. “Tony will carve.”
After dinner we had coffee and once, when I put down the half empty china cup at my right elbow and looked up to talk with Keith, I turned back a moment later to a full one. I had never heard Tony even approach the table, much less refill the cup. When I expressed amazement, Keith told me, “He’s been standing in that back corner keeping an eye on his two tables the whole time.” Needless to say, Tony got an excellent tip, and we still remember him fondly to this day.
I was studying Acts 2:42 the other day and made a discovery that reminded me of Tony. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, and fellowship, breaking of bread and in prayers, Acts 2:42. Since prayer was the actual subject of my study, I concentrated on that particular item. What did it mean, I wondered, to “continue in prayer?”
“Continue” is the same Greek word translated “wait on” in Mark 3:9, and he spoke to his disciples that a little boat should wait on him because of the crowd, lest they should throng him. The multitude was pressing in on Jesus, and he wanted a boat handy should he need it, as he did at another time, teaching from the water while the crowd stood on the shore.
What really brought Tony to mind, though, was the use of this word in Acts 10:7, And when the angel… had departed, [Cornelius] called two of his household servants and a devout soldier of those who waited on him continuously. Like Tony, those men stood to the side just in case they were needed. And they must have been needed fairly often, or they would not have been so alert and close by. That is how prayer is supposed to be.
Is that how we treat this gift? Is it something we keep handy and use at the drop of a hat, should some problem come our way? God meant prayer to be there for us continuously. Not that we pray continuously, but that at any moment we may use that gift; that we talk to him through the day, recognize our dependence upon him in all things and the incredible benefits of speaking to him. Like Tony he will be there waiting for anything we need, sometimes even before we express that need.
For our 30th anniversary in 2004, our children gave us a gift certificate to Bern’s, the first time we had ever been back. It was another memorable experience, but of course, Tony is no longer there. But unlike Tony, God is still there and always will be.
Keep prayer handy, and use it often. Don’t wait for some bedtime ritual if the need should arise in the middle of the day. God wants to help us, and he will, if we but ask.
Out of my distress I called upon Jehovah; Jehovah answered me and set me in a large place. Jehovah is on my side; I will not fear; What can man do unto me? Psa 118: 5,6.