By Bruce Green
Teaching Minister at 10th Street Church of Christ
Beatrice Harrison was an accomplished British cellist of the last century whose peak performing years were in the period between the two world wars. One summer evening in 1924, she was practicing in her garden when she stopped and restarted several times. The reason? There was a nightingale that began singing along with her — echoing parts of what she had just played. She paused to fully hear its response.
She returned the next evening, and the same thing happened. It happened the night after that as well. After a while, she decided that more people needed to hear this, and she reached out to a fledging organization known as the BBC. They weren’t completely sold on her proposal initially, but eventually she was able to persuade them to do a radio broadcast from her garden.
The engineers came out and conducted a test run, and everything went well. The broadcast was set up for the next evening. They interrupted their regular programming but for quite some time, it was only Beatrice playing. Perhaps the production crew made the nightingale anxious. Finally, with fifteen minutes left in the broadcast, it began to sing. The response to the broadcast was overwhelming! They repeated it the following month and every spring for the next dozen years. Harrison received some 50,000 letters during this time.
It’s a fine thing to think about humans and animals interacting in this way. It suggests an overarching harmony among God’s creation that is in keeping with the early chapters of Genesis when Adam named the animals and Noah later gathered them into his ark. These things happened before “the fear and dread” came upon wildlife (Genesis 9:2). Maybe when the curse is lifted from creation as Paul speaks about in Romans 8, man and animals will revert to what we read about there. If so, the scene that played out with Beatrice Harrison and the nightingale is a foretaste of what is to come.
It also made me think about Jesus praying to God in John 17. It’s a prayer of enormous depth and beauty. Jesus prays about His Father being glorified (v. 1), the work He’s completed in revealing God to the disciples (v. 4, 6-8), for His disciples being protected from the evil one, sanctified in the truth and sent into the world (v. 15-18), the unity of future believers (v. 20-21) and even our final destiny with Him in heaven (v. 24). What is there to say about such a prayer? Only this: when Jesus prayed, heaven must have sung in response.
Many of us, myself included, have a long way to go in our prayer lives — and we recognize it! But we’re pleased beyond words that we see in Jesus both what God desires us to be and we want to be. We’re so proud of Him and the heroic choices He made at every turn in His life. Philippians 2:5-11 says that’s why God made Him Lord. We gladly serve Him as our sovereign because He is what we rejoice in and want to be ourselves.
Bruce has written a book on the model pray called Praying in the Reign. It is available through 21st Century Christian.