Philip had written to his praying friends to pray for an elderly man who was close to the end of his life, yet felt no need for Christ to be his Savior.
Philip now picks up the story, “Since I wrote my last letter to you, the man for whom I asked for prayer has passed away. I also have good news to share with you. This man turned to Christ to be his Savior. The man's daughter was astonished that God can and does instantly turn a hard heart to Christ. The daughter thanks you for your prayers for her father. She gave me permission to share her father's story.”
The man was born into a family that belongs to a people group that serves its society as religious priests. He prided himself in his strict ritual purity. He ate ritually pure vegetarian food cooked in his ritually pure kitchen. He considered food prepared outside his home to be ritually defiled by cooks who lived ritually impure lives. He regularly studied the scriptures of his religious tradition as well as other books about his religion.
The man's daughter had turned to Christ after experiencing his power and deliverance from spiritual oppression. She had told her father about the good news of Christ and of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The father listened politely to his daughter but dismissed the uniqueness of her message. He considered names of any gods to be equivalent spiritual realities. He was proud of his religious tradition and saw no need for Christ.
“During our evening devotions with the daughter and her family,” Philip recalls, “I emphasized the truth that our purity can’t create a relationship with God. Our best behavior can't reach him. We need Christ’s sacrifice to cover our sin. We need Christ to be our Savior.”
As her father’s health deteriorated, the daughter spoke to him with increasing earnestness about his need for Christ. She read Psalm 23. She told him that he needed to repent and turn to Christ as his Savior. She told him about the one true God who is seated on the highest, holiest throne. She told her father that rituals were insufficient to reach God.
Priests came to visit the father, and the daughter admitted to them that they had studied more and knew more than she. “But there is one thing I do know,” she told the priests. “I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior—the only Savior of the world.”
The father grew physically weaker, apparently headed to a godless eternity. But his story wasn’t over.
“Friends like you were praying for his salvation. The father experienced a longing for his wife who had passed away a year ago. His wife had received Christ as her Savior shortly before she passed away. ‘Your wife is in heaven now,’ the daughter told her father. ‘You can go to heaven, too. You can see her again if you repent and receive Christ as your Savior.’
“Two days before he passed away, the father had an unusual sensation. He sensed that he was engulfed in flames and he was getting burned. He called out for people to put the fire out, but there was no fire or smoke anywhere near his room. ‘The flames that you are seeing are the flames of hell,’ the daughter told her father. ‘You don’t have to go to hell if you repent and trust in Christ to be your Savior,’ she said.”
The man approached his final day. Relatives, friends and priests came in and out of the father's home. Then, there was a period of quiet during which no visitors came. The daughter seized the opportunity and told her father that he needed to repent and turn to Christ. “I am going to pray a prayer and you need to pray the same words I pray,” she told him. Her father agreed and he repented and prayed for Christ to be his Savior.
After praying for Christ to save him, the father’s perspective changed. A relative came and wanted to read the father’s old religious scriptures to him. The father didn’t want those scriptures. Relatives came to plan the traditional religious rituals for the father’s death. He told them that he no longer wanted any of those rituals performed after his death.
At two o’clock in the afternoon, the father breathed his last breath. Relatives brought the priests to do his final rituals. The daughter told her relatives that her father had turned to Christ and repeated her father’s desire not to have the rituals performed. Instead, she told them the good news of Christ. When the relatives insisted on performing the rituals, the daughter replied, “Those rituals won’t make any difference for my father now. He is in heaven. But if you want to perform those rituals, you can go ahead.” The daughter left her relatives to their rituals.
“As she told me this story about the miraculous salvation of her father,” says Philip, “the daughter said to me, ‘I am amazed that God can instantly change a hard heart.’ I mentioned that I had asked my friends to pray for her father’s salvation. And now, the daughter thanks those of you who prayed for her father’s salvation.”