The July sun felt hot to Randy Taylor as he stepped onto the pitching mound. He shook the tension from his shoulders and paused as a slight breeze blew in from left field, gently ruffling the pennants surrounding the ball diamond.
Randy carefully toed the pitching rubber and, rocking smoothly through his windup, fired his last warm-up to the plate.
“Play ball!” the umpire bellowed.
“OK, Randy, be a pitcher!” “You’ve got ’em!” “Strike ’em out!” Randy heard his Bluejay teammates call out as they whipped the ball around the infield.
They sure want to win, Randy thought, and he knew why. Today was the Fourth of July, and the city park was as alive as a disturbed anthill. He heard music and laughter coming from the concession booths that had been temporarily installed just south of the ball diamond for the weekend activities. The whump of air guns and the clanging bells at the shooting gallery added to the noise, while the smell of popcorn, candied apples, and other foods filled the air. The stands had a boisterous overflow crowd, and it was for them that the Bluejays wanted to win.
It was still too early in the year for his team’s standing to be affected much by the outcome of a single game, but Randy knew how important it was to perform well in front of such a large crowd. Well, I’ll do my part, he thought confidently as he walked toward Billy Halls, the Bluejay catcher, who was jogging out to meet him halfway.
“Boy, Randy,” Billy sighed as he dropped the baseball into Randy’s open glove. “I wish you’d taken the coach’s advice to practice more often. Who’d have thought that our two starting pitchers would get sick on the same day.”
Randy laughed and said, “Relax, Billy. I’m not third string for nothing. I’ll put ’em across—you just catch ’em.”
Billy slapped Randy on the back, muttered, “Good luck,” and trotted back to his position behind the plate.
Besides, thought Randy, I’ve got my secret weapon. It’ll never let me down.
Randy felt loose and confident as he took his place on the mound. He remembered the family home evening lesson his brother Doug had given the week before on prayer and on the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for those who live righteously. Doug had made several important points. One of them—“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22)—had become Randy’s secret weapon!
What a super blessing! Randy reflected. Every time he thought about the importance of that scripture, his love for Heavenly Father seemed to increase.
With confidence and determination, Randy gripped the ball and stepped onto the rubber.
In one smooth motion Randy pivoted and fired a strike to the plate.
“Atta boy, Randy!” his teammates yelled. “He’s no batter. He’s a looker!”
Randy felt good and stretched through his windup. The next pitch barely missed the corner of the plate.
The count was one and one. Randy shook off Billy’s sign for a curve and nodded when the fastball sign was flashed. Randy riveted his eyes on Billy’s glove, reared back, and delivered. The ball swooped in fast but began to dip. Billy was forced to dive to keep the ball from scooting through to the backstop.
Two balls and one strike.
Two pitches later the Giant batter was safely on first base. Randy had walked him!
Billy hurried out and urged Randy to calm down. “You’ve got seven guys behind you. Let the Giants hit and see what the Bluejays can do.”
Randy nodded and gulped. Heavenly Father, he silently prayed, I’m asking, and I believe. Please help me out of this. Help me throw strikes.
Randy faced the next batter and eyed the target offered by Billy. Four straight balls later Giant players were on first and second bases.
Randy couldn’t believe it. He’d walked two Giants in a row!
Regardless of how hard he tried and how hard he prayed, the ball just would not go where he wanted it to go.
It became hard for Randy to see the catcher’s glove clearly because of his tears of frustration. Does Heavenly Father really love me? he wondered. Aren’t those words in Matthew true?
The coach walked out to the mound two batters later. Four Giants had walked, and the score was Giants 1, Bluejays 0. It should really read Giants 1, Randy the Slob 0, Randy thought miserably as he trudged to the bench.
He sat in the corner of the dugout, wanting to be alone. But soon he felt the presence of somebody sitting beside him. Randy looked up to see his brother Doug smiling.
“Have a piece of gum, Randy,” Doug offered.
“I’ve just embarrassed the whole Taylor family!” Randy blurted out. “I’ll never be able to show my face again. And it’s all because of your lesson on prayer the other night!”
“What do you mean, ‘my lesson’?” Doug asked, surprised. “What’s my lesson got to do with your game?”
“The scripture said, ‘And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’ Well, I asked, and I believed, but I didn’t receive!”
Doug nodded. “So that’s it.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” muttered Randy, tears filling his eyes again. “Heavenly Father must not love me.”
“That’s not true, Randy,” Doug said. “Heavenly Father does love you. But you were so excited by that scripture that you didn’t hear the rest of the lesson. Other scriptures tell us that we will be helped by our Father in Heaven after we’ve worked and prepared. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Matt. 7:7). The words seek and knock mean doing something, right?”
“Well, I seem to recall times when you should have been practicing pitching,” Doug reminded Randy. “That’s what you didn’t do. We need to work as though everything depends on us, and pray as though everything depends on Heavenly Father.”
“I guess you’re right,” Randy admitted. “I remember that other part now.”
“Give Heavenly Father another chance to help you, Randy, only this time help Him out. Don’t ask Him to do all the work, and maybe you’ll become a good pitcher yet.”
Randy smiled determinedly. “Thanks, Doug,” he said. “I’ll be a great pitcher someday, just you watch!” But this time, he added to himself, there’ll be no secret weapon—only good, hard work and a lot of prayer.