Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:9-13)
Suddenly our Zaporozhets wildly swung off to the side of the road. Father Raphael, now rigid from the cold, could do nothing to stop the skidding of the car along the ice into a rutted snowdrift, and so we flew into a ditch, raising a cloud of snow.
The car did not turn over but had sunk deeply on all sides into the snow. It was only with great difficulty that we could open the doors and crawl outside. The Zaporozhets was two meters off the road, and covered in snow up to its windows. We could immediately see that there was no way that we would be able to drag the car back by ourselves.
Our situation was becoming more desperate by the minute. We were standing at three o’clock in the morning on an absolutely desolate and deserted country road wearing nothing but our cassocks in a frost of thirty-five degrees below zero Celsius. There was no place to walk to. The nearest village was fifteen kilometres away. If we were lucky, the first cars were likely to pass no sooner than six o’clock in the morning.
As I realized all this, I became truly scared. ‘Father!’ I exclaimed, shivering throughout from fear as well as from the bitter cold. ‘How could it be? We will die like this! Maybe we should pray somehow? But what should we ask for? Lord, help us drag our car from the snow? Somehow it doesn’t sound right!’
Father Raphael suddenly looked at me so severely that for a second I forgot about the cold. ‘Shame on you, Georgiy Alexandrovich!’ he said indignantly … ‘How can you possibly doubt that the Lord will not aid us in such a moment? Pray for help at once!’
All this was said with such infuriated and demanding passion that he even stamped his foot, and I obediently crossed myself and began to murmur awkwardly, ‘Lord, help us! Do something, or we will freeze to death and perish here!’ Father Raphael also crossed himself and then immersed himself in prayer.
And suddenly … At first from a distance, and then, ever and ever more clearly, we heard the divine singing of some kind of motor. From utter surprise and astonishment I was quite petrified. I would like to repeat and emphasize that neither on our way … nor on our return home had we seen so much as even one automobile. Father Raphael and I exchanged glances, and I realized that he was no less astonished than I was.
The sound of the motor grew and grew, and finally from around the corner a Moskovich sedan came puttering up. We waved our arms like madmen and the car stopped.
In hearing our prayer, the Lord had sent four Angels to save us in the incarnation of four drunken officers returning home from some party. With great effort the six of us together managed to drag out our Zaporozhets from the snow and back onto the road. Father Raphael poured out some gasoline for the officers from his jerrycan. It turned out that they had been almost completely out of gas. With all our hearts we thanked these soldiers, and they thanked us, and then we drove as carefully as we could back home to Borovik.
We were so struck by what had happened that we were silent for most of the way home. Finally, Father Raphael said: ‘Now you can see, Georgiy Alexandrovich, how quickly the Lord hears the prayers of simple laypeople!’
By this he meant that the Lord had saved us because of my prayers. As always, Father Raphael was modest and never lost an opportunity to be humble. Or maybe by now he felt all too profoundly that humility is the only reliable fulcrum of real spiritual life.
After this little trip, I caught a really nasty cold and spent three days lying on top of Father Nikita’s big Russian-style brick stove. But Father Raphael didn’t even sneeze—not even once!