Brennan Manning tells the following story of an old man who was dying of cancer.
The man's daughter had asked the local priest to come and pray with her father. When the preacher arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The preacher assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me," he said.he said.
"No, who are you?"
"I'm the new associate at your church," the priest replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."
"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?"
Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.
"I've never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At the church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head...
"I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, 'Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here's what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because He promised, 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to Him and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now.
"So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."
The preacher was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, annointed him with oil, and left.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the preacher that her daddy had died that afternoon. "Did he seem to die in peace?" he asked.
"Yes, when I left the house around two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store and hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, Father. In fact, beyond strange - kinda weird. Apparently, just before daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed."