H. G. Wells was no friend of the church, but sometimes he served us
well. Years ago in the New Yorker, he told a story about an Episcopalian
clergyman. (He could have told it about a preacher from any
denomination.) This Episcopalian bishop was the kind of man who always
said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found
that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of
voice, was, "Have you prayed about it?" If said in just the right way,
it seemed to settle things.
The bishop himself didn't pray much; he had life wrapped up in a neat
package. But one day life tumbled in on him, and he found himself
overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of
his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral,
went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his
hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he
Then he began to pray. He said, "O God--" and suddenly there was a
voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, "Well, what is it?"
Next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the
bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him
over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his
face. What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there
are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they
saw him face to face.
— Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today,
Tape No. 80.