As a matter of fact, as I think back over the evidences of the Lord’s guidance in my own life, I feel ashamed that my faith is not a more radiant, contagious thing.”
Would you be able to say that if your father had died when you were four? If your stepfather had been a jealous alcoholic who made life so miserable you tried running away to sea at fourteen?
Peter Marshall, the man who wrote that line, was born a few miles from Glasgow in Scotland. As a boy, he was inspired not only by heroic tales of the sea, but by the life of the missionary David Livingstone. Shortly after his stepfather kicked him out of his home, he offered himself for mission work in China.
Without financial support, he could not fulfill his educational requirements. But he had made a definite commitment to work full-time in the Lord’s service. He began taking night classes. It was hard. Sometimes he failed courses, having to work nine hours a day.
God led. A cousin urged him to go to the United States, assuring him he could expect greater opportunities there than in his native land. The cousin would pay Peter’s way. Peter prayed. For three weeks he pestered God about it. Then one day he knew God meant him to go.
In America, things proved tougher than he expected. He had to dig ditches. He had no friends. He had no church. Then God sent him an offer from Alabama. “Within the space of a few short weeks, I had joined the First Presbyterian Church, had been recommended by the Session as a candidate for the gospel ministry, had spoken at a prayer meeting, had been elected president of the young people’s league, had become interested in the Boy Scouts of that church, and had been asked to become the teacher of the Men’s Bible Class.”
God supplied the money for his education. He sent Peter to specific pastorates. The last of them was at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington.
His sermons so thrilled the Capital that hundreds of people had to be turned away from the church each Sunday. There was life in his words, because, as he expressed it, Jesus had tapped him on the shoulder and his life turned around.
On this day, January 4, 1947 the Senate appointed Peter Marshall to be their chaplain. Senators used to come early just to hear him pray. And this is how he prayed: “O Lord our God, even at this moment as we come blundering into Thy presence in prayer, we are haunted by memories of duties unperformed, promptings disobeyed, and beckonings ignored. Opportunities to be kind knocked on the door of our hearts and went weeping away…”
Marshall was chaplain only a couple years. He died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of just forty-five years.