Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Blessed Arrows, a Parable About Prayer

The Blessed Arrows
A Parable About Prayer
A wise and good king once ruled a blessed land long ago. Under his rule the land flourished, even the forces of nature seemed to glow in the light of the king's goodness. The summer sun was never too hot and winter snow never too cold; and it would even melt just when one was tired of it. It was a beautiful land with spring flowers all year around, the crops always full, the rains soft, and the birds full of song. The towns were clean and the people prosperous, everyone had work to do that was satisfying and profitable. The evenings were filled with dinners, laughter, song and true friendship.

The lands surrounding were dark and bitter. They were wild untamed countries with dark forest filled with vicious animals, rocky fields where nothing grew, the low lands were damp marshes and putrid bogs and the hills were windswept dry and barren. Every traveler was in danger of enslavement and death. Tribes of pagan barbaric warriors were in constant conflict attacking any who they deemed weak. These lands were lean and poor, a single coin or a crust of bread would spark a duel to the death. The good and innocent were daily the victims of violent bloodshed.

The people of the Blessed Land shook their heads in wonder; they often discussed measures to aid and comfort those who lived in the wild lands. They petitioned the Good King to do something. So a request was sent for brave young men to join the service of good and take up arms to battle the darkness beyond the borders. They would man towers to offer sanctuary, and comfort to the innocent; from these towers knights would ride forth to secure safety and liberty to those in the wild lands.

Eric was a good lad from a small farming village. The king's messenger came telling about the need for knights to serve in the wild lands, and Eric stood in the crowded village square listening to the call to do good and serve the unfortunate in need. Feeling in his heart that he must take a place with the noble and brave, so he took the oath of service and entered the knighthood. Months of training in combat and arms followed his enlistment; he learned to endure privation, long marches, and hand to hand combat until he became a master of sword, lance and archery.

Wearing chain mail, bearing lance and banner high the company of knight marched to the edge of their bright sunny land. Eric was prepared to do battle against any foe, but no one could warn him of the despair of the wild lands before him. He saw hunger and cold, felt bitter rain, biting cold wind and the sky was a grey gloom pressing on him even- making his heart heavy. The company marched over hard flinty roads, swampy fetid marsh and through forest so dark that darkness seemed to take the light from the torches and fires.

At last Eric saw the tower, rising high over the wild land, his post for two years of service. Its grey stone walls did nothing to cheer him.

Its grey stone walls did nothing to cheer him.
Some knights must be rangers who patrol the roads seeking enemies of virtue and subdue them, they would find the needy and give aid. Some knights must stay to man the tower so refuge would be preserved and aid given to those who fled there. Lots were drawn, and Eric drew a lot for tower duty.

He walked the tower battlements, daily watching the roads north, south, east, and west. He reported what he saw. When he saw some evil he would spread word to the knights in the hall below and they would ride out to rescue, aid or avenge. Eric would defend the tower from the battlements when barbarians and bandits attacked. He and others would fly arrows, spears, and sling shot. Many attacks were thrown back with deadly results leaving the land surrounding the tower strewn with the fallen hoard. The roads around the tower were not safe; Eric would see innocent travelers attacked by bandits. He would notch his arrow and let fly its shaft though often the distance was too great for success allowing the villains to rob or maim as he looked on helpless. His anger at the wickedness would sometimes drive him to roar in frustration or lead to tears of despair.

The tower's presence gave much hope to those humble good people struggling to live in the dark land, but the evil of the land was overwhelming. The Knights often came back from their patrol discouraged and often bloodied. They reported the land was still wild and barbarians still commanded much of the country.   One rainy night they huddled around the hearth eating rations and decided to send a courier to ask the king for more men to join the tower's company.

Ten days after the courier left he returned with a mule pulling a wagon full of long wooden boxes .

"The king has considered our request for more aid. He assures us that we are able, and he is confident that we will perform our duty effectively. He offers these new weapons superior to any the barbarians have."

The courier gave a wooden box to each Knight. Some contained swords, or lances, arrows, or cross bows. The knights were mystified at the gifts, they seemed ordinary but each had a letter from the king to the new owner detailing how the weapons were blessed.

Eric's letter read, "To my faithful servant Eric of the tower knighthood. I know you are faithful and brave. Accept this new bow and quiver of arrows. You may rationalize that a cross bow and iron darts will fly farther and swifter but be not discouraged. These arrows and bow are blessed by a holy monk, they will never miss a mark, no matter what the distance or situation. The arrows are unique, you need not aim but speak a word of command- be it wound, maim, slay, or to do any task needed. The power of these arrows are great, they may do good as well as harm. The quiver will always be full and the bow string will never break. No distance is too far for its reach, no armor can resist its power. Do not take this weapon for granted." It was signed with the kings own handwriting. All the other knights also received similar letters and agreed it was an honor and an encouragement that lifted their spirits.

The next dawn was grey as Eric took his station on the battlements to watch the lands around. A sight brought the hairs on his neck up. A wild great grey wolf was stalking an old woman and young child. He could barely see the creature, in fact were he not on top of the tower the wolf would remain hidden. Eric drew an arrow notched it to the bow string and let it fly. It flew in a beautiful arc but fell hundreds of yards short of its mark. The wolf hearing the thud lunged forward darting toward the unsuspecting victims.

"Why? Why did it fail to hit as promised?" He let fly another and again it fell short. The wolf was closing on the old woman. Eric fumbled in his tunic for the letter from the king. "Speak a word of command..." With anger and self-reproach Eric drew another arrow from his quiver. "Slay!" He commanded the arrow. The bow felt powerful in his hand and his muscles felt mighty as he drew the sting back. The arrow flew like a thunderbolt over a great distance- the wolf yelped a death gasp only feet behind the unsuspecting woman and child.

"Indeed this is a marvelous weapon!"

The following morning Eric watched from the tower top. He saw a band of bandits hiding in the woods to attack a farmer pushing a handcart of potatoes on the road. Eric notched his arrow. The distance again was far too great to hit. "Slay." He commanded. The arrow sprung from the bow and flew on its own. It turned behind a distant a tree to slay a hiding bandit. The others ran.

Three days later barbarians lay in ambush as the knights left on patrol. Unseen to any they attacked the knights overwhelming them by massive numbers. Though they were far beyond the rage of an ordinary bow shot Eric notched a blessed arrow. "Slay our foe," He commanded. The bow quivered in his hand and the arrow flew with a thunderclap and disappeared in the distant dust of battle he could not see where it struck. Another arrow appeared notched in his bowstring that same moment. "Slay our foe." he again commanded. The arrow flew and was instantly replaced by another. Many times arrows appeared in the bow notched and ready to fly, each one flying impossible distances, each one finding its mark. At last the dust and noise of battle ceased. The sun shown as if by command to reveal a distant battle ground with the patrol of knights surrounded by a field of fallen barbarians each with an arrow shaft in their armor. Many barbarians knelt holding empty hands to the tower begging for mercy from the dreadful arrows. More barbarians hid behind knights who turned to the tower and waved a salute to Eric. It became to be know as the battle of the raining arrows.

Soon the blessed weapons and the faithfulness of the knights brought a small measure of peace to the wild lands; thought the lands themselves were still harsh, uncultivated, swampy and dark. As time went on the knights needed to patrol less often and the weapons drawn in anger was rare. The blessed arrows languished in the quiver and the bright copper arrowheads tarnished green. Eric walked the tower battlements still vigilant but sad that the land remained wilderness, those who lived there were oppressed by hunger, sickness, and many woes.

The two years of service came to an end when the next company of knights wound their way up the rocky road one gloomy evening. Eric packed his saddle bag and rode out the next morning with his company. Their spirits brightened as they left the dull grey tower, for only a few days march separated them from their bright land. That night they camped on a cold hilltop covered with stunted twisted trees. The fires were stoked and the meat ready for the meal when a strange voice spoke from the trees, "Greetings friends." Knights jumped, with weapons drawn. "No need for that. I am only a poor monk." said the owner of the voice as he came out of the shadows, and indeed he was an old monk with no weapon. "May I sleep in the safety of the knights of the Tower? And may I travel with you to the bright land tomorrow?"

"You may, Monk." said the Captain. "But next time have a care we might have run you through before we knew you were just a harmless old monk."

The next day they traveled the road together. The knights were encouraged that here were more travelers these days than when they first rode into the lands. The road turned at the place called, "The Crossing Plank." It was a bridge that was little more than a few boards aid over boulders. A few discouraged farmers crowded blocking the road for the river flooded and destroyed the bridge leaving only a few scattered planks drifting in the shallows.

"This is not good, we will have to travel two days journey to find a ford down river." The Captain complained.

"But why?" said the monk. "We can have a new bridge and cross here."

"How can that be?" demanded the Captain who had little patience with delays.

"We can use the blessed arrows."

Everyone looked at Eric who was thoroughly confused.

"Did not the king's letter say the arrows were powerful and may do good, that you only need a word of command and let it fly?"

"Yes," said Eric.

"Use the arrows, let one fly at a plank if you want a wooden bridge or better yet, let one fly at the boulders if you want a stone bridge."

The Captain nodded at Eric who slowly drew an arrow. The tip was almost green.

"Wait, this will never do." The monk took the arrow and rubbed the arrow head on his robe until the tarnish was removed. "Now speak a word and let it fly."

Eric notched the arrow, "Stone bridge," he commanded and the arrow flew from the bow. It hit the boulder in the center of the river and bounced on top of another on the far side. The knights and farmers looked at Eric smiling as if a joke were played on him.

"Give a moment." said the monk.

All watched as water drew back revealing the rocky riverbed. Rocks began to roll around bouncing off of each other, in a roar they mounted up higher into a hill then collapsed into a three arched bridge that was as firm and solid as any engineer could want. The water flowed peacefully beneath. "Shall we cross?" said the monk as he walked toward the bridge.
"Shall we cross?" said the monk.
The knights discussed among themselves the marvel of the arrow and how it had caused a bridge to construct of its own accord. "What else could it accomplish?" they asked one another.

The following day they entered a land that was suffering from famine. Hungry people beset the knights for food or coin to buy bread. Beside the road were the stunted forms of trees and brambles.

"Eric, you can give them food a plenty." The monk said.

"How so?"

"Train your arrow upon the trees let your word of command be orchard."

The Knights and impoverished beggars watched as Eric let fly a shaft with the command, "Orchard." The arrow disappeared into the thicket. Leaves began to swirl up from the ground into a brown dusty cloud. Slowly they settled revealing pristine orchard of apple trees, pear trees, oranges, and all manner of fruit trees ready for harvest. A cheer arose from the starving peasants as they ran to pick peaches and gather walnuts.

The next day knights traveled through a marshy soggy valley full of putrid gasses and vermin. Hungry half naked children ran fearfully into shanty huts. Emaciated folk were digging in the mud for salamanders to eat and casting nets in the pools to try to catch any fish hardy enough to survive there.

"If only this land was not so foul and poor." The monk said to Eric. "You know you can help."

Knowingly Eric drew an arrow. "Very well, wise monk. What shall be the word of command?"

"Make this land a fertile wholesome place."

So saying Eric let louse an arrow into a far mud bog. A fog rose from the marshy ground and covered even the tallest wispy trees. Slowly the wisps of fog thinned and revealed a blossoming meadow with ponds teeming with of fish, and all manner of berry bushes, and acres of wheat ready to harvest swayed in a soft breeze. The hovels of the poor folk were transformed to neat farm houses and barns. The knights gasped at the change in the scene before them.

The next day, the last in the dark lands, the knights came to a hut beside the road. Inside someone was crying and another was moaning. The monk moved forward full of compassion for the unfortunate persons inside, though the knights watched from their horses fearful of contacting some plague. The monk could be seen through the door bending over a mat on the dirt floor comforting the woeful occupants within. Standing he turned to the door, "Eric." he cried out, "They are close to death you must act quickly."

All the knights watched as Erick notched the bowstring with an arrow. "What is the word of command, Wise Monk?"

"Health, wholeness, good favor, you choose. Please, act quickly! I am now infected with the fever." The monk sank to the ground unconscious inside the hut.

In a panic that the Good Monk may be taken by plague Erick commanded everything the monk said and threw in a few others such as wealth, youth, and strength for good measure. The arrow shook and flew out of his hand as he spoke. The hut was struck and slowly came apart, its rotting pieces falling inward as if it was being sucked into a hole. Fire flashed so brightly all those watching had to avert their eyes. When they looked up the hut was no more, but in its place rested a cozy cottage with shiny glass windows, a flowering garden behind a white fence and bread baking in a hearth. The door opened. A young man, a young woman and boy came out their eyes wide with wonder. A golden haired girl skipped out to dance in the sunlight.

"Who are you and where is the wise old monk?" asked Eric.

"We are Grandpa and Grandma McKreiger." said the man.

"But we won't be called Grand Pa and Grand Ma anymore!" piped up the young woman. "We were old and dying of the plague only a few moments ago. Did we die? Is this beautiful cottage heaven?"

"No, you have received a blessing from the king of the..." Eric stopped in mid-sentence for at the door was a youth in the monks robes.

"Good monk is that you?"

"Yes, Eric, it seems you have mastered the arrows very well! Ha! Ha!. You have granted us healing of the plague and not only health but youth, and by the look of the gold in my purse wealth too. But a monk must vow poverty, so Captain I entrust this to you to distribute to the poor as you encounter them."

They marched on and at dust stood at the mile marker that told the borders of the blessed lands. All rejoiced to see the sunny fields ahead.

Looking back into the gloom of the wild lands, the captain said, "How your arrows could have effected a change in this land these last two years!"

"If only I had known!" cried Eric. "I could have done so much good to this dark land. I will go back."

"No. Your time of service is done, and others must take your place." said the Captain.

"Then I will give the bow and arrows to another knight to use."

"No." said the monk. "It was I who blessed the arrows by the king's command, and they were only to serve your need during your time in the dark lands. Now that your time is up they will serve no more.

With streams of tears he rode slowly.
Eric gazed at the dark land. Much darkness and mist cover it, though there were a few bright dots of the last days where the arrows did good. "If only I understood! I could have done so much more good with the blessed arrows."

The knights were victorious in many battles and accomplished much, but in the back of Eric's mind was the thought that he could have done much more if he had used the blessed arrows. With streams of tears he rode slowly back to his beautiful homeland mourning the undone good. He thought of the burdens, and the needs filling the lives of those struggling in the dark land behind him. If only he had used the blessed arrows faithfully.


We are given a more powerful weapon than Eric's blessed arrows. Like Eric's blessed arrows our weapon of prayer is effective only for those days we live in this dark world. Let us take up prayer as warriors, for with prayer we may defeat evil and with prayer do much good.

One may argue that my parable is too fanciful and prayer is not like the blessed arrows. I reply with the challenge to fall on our knees and engage the gift given by that Good King of the Blessed Land and prove this parable wrong or right..


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(C)Adron Dozat