Runaway Knocks

Young teen guys can do some of the dumbest, most mischievous stuff. Certainly not all guys, but enough. I hate to admit it, but I must—I was one of them. Seems like in our middle-class Chicago suburb in the early 70’s pulling pranks in the neighborhood was just the thing to drum up a little excitement. We didn’t really do anything too bad, as I recall.

I do remember having a sleepover at a buddy’s house the summer after 7th grade, and we thought it’d be fun to go out after curfew. The thrill of that wore off quickly, so one of us had the bright idea of stealing valve caps off the tires of some curbside-parked cars. I can see the eyes rolling. At least we didn’t let the air out of the tires!

Later that summer, my buddy had some “cherry bombs” (remember those?) and thought it’d be fun to sneak up on a neighbor’s porch, light a “bomb,” drop it in the mailbox, and get out of there fast. And run we did, but not so fast that we couldn’t hear the explosion!

On a different occasion, another great idea struck. “Let’s ring doorbells and run!” said my friend. At 1:00 a.m. I hope it was a Friday night so the poor souls didn’t have to get up for work the next day—but I can’t say for sure that it was. It was summertime, after all.

I wonder what 7th grade boys do these days, with the invention of Ring surveillance and security cameras? Maybe it’d be better for a grandpa not to know.

Did you know youthful orneriness wasn’t invented in the late 20th century? In reading Charles Spurgeon’s Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, I was struck by a quotation from the 17th century Puritan Thomas Manton. Spurgeon titled his devotional entry “Runaway Knocks,” then added the quotation:

Watch in prayer to see what cometh. Foolish boys [ouch!], that knock at a door in wantonness, will not stay till somebody cometh to open to them; but a man that hath business will knock, and knock again, till he gets his answer (emphasis added to highlight my own folly!).

Spurgeon insightfullly applied the quote:

To pray and not to look for an answer argues either a mere formality in prayer, and that makes the prayer to be dead; or else unbelief as to the truth of God, and that makes the prayer to be corrupt. He who presents a check at the banker’s looks to have money for it; if not, he is not a business man, but a mere trifler. So in our pleadings of the divine promise we expect a fulfillment, of otherwise we do but play with God. How many runaway knocks we give at mercy’s gate! Let us put away such childish things, and treat prayer as a reality: then shall we be answered of a truth. “I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”

He who writes these lines bears witness that he has never knocked in vain at the Lord’s door, and he begs the reader to make trial of that which he has found so effectual. “Knock, and it shall be opened, unto you.”

As I recall—and I hope my memory is being honest with me—those foolish antics ended after two or three episodes. We never did another prank of “runaway knocks” to bother our neighbors, much to their relief, I’m sure. That childish folly was left behind.

I wish I could say I was as successful at putting away the folly of giving runaway knocks at mercy’s gate!


  1. Thanks, Bryan. The quotes from Manton and Spurgeon help me as I am teaching a Sunday School class on prayer this coming Sunday. One of he passages we will study is James 1:6-7 where James speaks of “not wavering”. The thoughts of Mantron and Spurgeon fit well.

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