Voices From The Sky

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Jesus said, “Father glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.”

John 12:28-30

Communicating With The Man In The Sky

One time I was on a fire that destroyed eleven homes in Ashland, Oregon. One of our tactics on that fire was to use helicopters to drop water on the burning houses. When the helicopters began operating it was important to keep them from dropping water on one particular house where firefighters were working inside. That’s because a helicopter water drop can push fire in all directions, in spectacular fashion. Most of the time when it happens, if the house is well involved, fire explodes out of every window and door. But because it impacts the fire in such a volatile manner, a water drop from a helicopter can cause serious injury or even death to anyone fighting fire inside.

So with a couple of crews inside this house and with multiple helicopters flying over doing their water drops, I became concerned that they would drop on the house with my firefighters inside. So I called command on the radio.

“Command from Oak Knoll Division,” I said. “Direct the helicopters NOT to drop on the house directly across from 8106.”

Command responded, “Copy, send a helicopter to drop water directly on the house across from 8106.”

Of course that was exactly what I did not want them to do.

So I said, “Negative, negative,” I said, “DO NOT drop water on the house across from 8106. There are firefighters operating inside.”

No response.

“Command from Oak Knoll Division, DO NOT drop water on the house across from 8106.” I repeated my request.

*Still no response.

Just then a helicopter approaches the area and appears to be lining up for a drop on the house next door to the one we want it to avoid. Hoping that the pilot can see me I encourage him to drop on the house next door by pointing and nodding. (Yes, kind of ridiculous I know, but I didn’t have my radio on the helicopter pilot’s frequency at the time.) He’s low over the house next door and things are looking good, but then, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. He flies past the house next door and suddenly it becomes obvious he’s setting up to drop on the house with the firefighters inside. In desperation I’m jumping up and down, waving my arms frantically, trying to communicate to the helicopter pilot not to drop on top of the firefighters. In the midst of all this chaos, a friend of mine, Tyler McCarty, who works for Oregon Department of Forestry, walks up to me just as calm as can be and says,

“Kurt, would you like me to tell that helicopter not to drop on that house?”

“YES!!!” I shout, “yes I would!”

Tyler, who’s already on the helicopter pilot’s frequency, radios the request directly to the pilot. The helicopter flies off, and the firefighters operating inside are saved.

You see, the problem was, I rarely speak to helicopter pilots because my Fire Department is primarily a structural fire department. I don’t have a relationship with the pilots. There are over one hundred frequencies programmed into my radio and the last time I used the one for helicopters was at a training six months ago. My friend Tyler works for a wildland fire agency, he talks to helicopter pilots all the time. He knows them. And they know him. And his radio is on their frequency. Communication is easy.

How Jesus Prayed

Have you ever stopped to think about all the different ways Jesus prayed? He prayed all kinds of different ways. He prayed when he was baptized, he prayed before making a trip, he prayed before healing people, he prayed after healing people, he prayed before important decisions, he prayed to give thanks before eating and feeding 5,000 people, he prayed all night about who to choose as his twelve disciples.

Jesus prayed alone, and he prayed in public.

Jesus prayed on his face. He prayed lifting his eyes toward heaven. And he prayed on the cross. He prayed for his enemies when he said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they do.”

And not only that, but even though Jesus is now in Heaven, He still prays — when he makes intercession on our behalf. (Romans 8:34)

Did Jesus ever pray. The list of verses where we see Jesus praying is so long, it would be awkward to include it as a reference in the body of the text. So you’ll find it at the bottom under the “Notes” heading.

Your Prayers 

Your prayers and my prayers are a lot like the radio communication up to that helicopter. When we’re in constant communication with our Father in heaven, it’s so much easier to find God’s frequency, so to speak. And when we do, our relationship with Him is rich, and full, and intimate. That’s the way Jesus prayed, and that’s the way Jesus’ relationship was with our Father.

In our passage Christ prayed, “Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from the sky: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

But many in the crowd couldn’t understand the voice.

When our prayers are rare, when our scripture reading (our listening) is only occasional, when our church attendance is sporadic, our communication with Him suffers. It can be difficult to find His frequency.

So don’t hide from God. Talk with Him in prayer. Listen to Him by reading His word. Fellowship with Him by attending a church filled with people who love Him with everything they have.

Pray to Him often.

Pray like Jesus prayed. Pray on your face. Pray lifting your eyes to the heavens. Pray thanksgiving. Pray for His will to be done. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for yourself. Pray for people you love. Pray for your enemies.

Pray that your Father in heaven will help you to pray.

And pray your Father in heaven will help you understand Him.

Jesus said, “This voice has come for your sake . . .”

Pray and listen.


References and Resources:

Scripture references recording the prayers of Jesus: (Lk 3:21-22Mk 1:35-36Mk 7:34-35Lk 5:15Lk 6:12-13Mt 11:25-26Jn 6:11Mt 14:19Mk 6:41Lk 9:16, Mt 14:22, Mk 6:46Jn 6:15, Mk 7:31-37, Mt 15:36, Lk 9:18, Lk 9:28-29, Lk 10:21, Lk 11:1, Jn 11:41-42, Mt 19:13-15, Mk 10:13-16Lk 18:15-17, Jn 12:27-28, Mt 26:26, Mk 14:22-23Lk 22:19, Lk 22:31-32, Jn 17:1-26, Mt 26:36-46, Lk 22:39-46Mk 14:32-42, Lk 23:34, Mt 27:46, Mk 15:34Lk 23:46Lk 24:30, Lk 24:50-53) (Rom 8:34, Heb 7:25, Heb 9:24, 1 Jn 2:1) (Steve Shirley)

Damian Mann, Mail Tribune, Ashland Fire Likely Worst in 100 Years, August 26, 2010

Steve Shirley, How many times did Jesus pray in the Bible?, Jesus Alive

Genesis 3:7-13–They Realized They Were Naked, God Running

The Fire That Burned 11 Homes, God Running

Image of man praying via PEXELS – Creative Commons


  • * The Incident Commander at the fire on Oak Knoll was a good one. But incident commanders are often swamped with all types of communication including face to face, cell phone, and radio communication over multiple frequencies. Not receiving a response for awhile or misunderstanding a radio transmission is not at all uncommon for any fire department operating on a large scale incident.
  • I believe God’s hand was with the firefighters that day. Within a few minutes of the arrival of the first engine 11 homes were burning. Across the street another 30 homes were threatened. A man who lived across the street from the fire was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “I’m not a religious man, but I know a miracle when I see it.” I agree. That fire should have jumped the street and 30 or so more homes should have burned that day. (Damian Mann, Mail Tribune, Ashland Fire Likely Worst in 100 Years, August 26, 2010)
  • It’s kind of a weird coincidence, but shortly after that fire, my sister moved into the house next door to the first house in the row of 11 homes that burned on the Oak Knoll fire.

2 Comments on “Voices From The Sky

  1. Great analogy. God knew you would use this fire to glorify his kingdom and pass on knowledge of how to pray to Him.

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