My husband and I are licensed amateur radio operators. This weekend, we participated in an exercise/contest known as “Field Day.” Every year for Field Day, tens of thousands of radio operators across North America spend twenty-four hours trying to make as many radio “contacts” as they can, in conditions that mimic being “in the field” or off-grid. Many groups, clubs, and even individuals will set up in camp sites, open fields, county fairgrounds, barns, sheds, and other locations. Some will use their radios on generators, batteries, solar power, or the lowest power settings available. Some will have campfires and cookouts; others will order in pizza, but all of them will be seeking to make radio contact with people from all over the continent.
To make an official “contact,” certain key elements have to be exchanged. Every licensed amateur operator has a “call sign”– a unique identification code. There is also a “report”, telling how many radio stations are being used by the group, and what kind of conditions and power supplies are being utilized. Finally, there is a section code, telling where the station is located. Most codes are similar to the two-letter state codes used for mailing letters, GA for Georgia, CT for Connecticut, BC for British Columbia. All three elements must be sent, received, and understood by both operators to qualify for a “contact”. In other words, if I am listening, and I hear an operator in Texas give his call sign, his report code and his section code, it doesn’t count unless I know he has heard my information, and he knows I have his. Only if both parties have exchanged and verified all information can the contact be “logged” and counted.
Communicating via radio is an amazing experience, even in this age of cell phones, and Skpye, and social media utilizing satellites. Knowing that your voice is being carried by the thin air and transmitted to someone across miles using simple machines that use less power than a desk fan or a microwave oven is mind-blowing. But on Field Day, it is even more miraculous to listen as thousands of voices are carried simultaneously. The radio hums and crackles with the static of ten thousand tongues all trying to get their message out–“Here I am!” “Can you hear me?” “Did you get my message?” “Where are you?” “Who are you?” Letters and numbers and codes all mingle and form a messy barrage of sound. Voices, beeps, pops, whistles, and more assault your ears, before you can tune into just one understandable voice. There is a thrill in hearing that lone voice calling out their message..they could be anyone from any number of places. You get ready to respond, and then you hear it—static of a hundred other stations trying to get through. All those radio waves carrying the hopes and messages of a hundred or a thousand others just like you, wanting to make contact; wanting to be heard and understood.
Sometimes, miraculously, you get through on your first try– you send your call sign, and the other operator repeats it back, telling you it’s ok to send the rest of your message and receive his/hers. The two of you exchange the three elements, sign off, and you can tune to another frequency and try to make another contact. Most of the time, though, you spend several minutes calling out your ID, hoping to be acknowledged, only to listen as others get to make their contact, waiting your turn. Even more frustrating, as you wait, sometimes the atmospheric conditions change and the voices all fade out into a low buzz of static– the contact opportunity is lost. Conditions may change in another minute– or an hour– or not at all. I may hear from someone in Alaska, or Vermont, but I won’t be able to count them as a contact this year.
Field Day is exciting; sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating. There is a thrill to making a contact and finding out that you’re talking to someone from Alberta, Canada, or South Florida, or Rhode Island, or the San Joaquin Valley in California. It’s exciting to make a contact, and realize it’s someone you know from a neighboring county! We have a logbook program on our computer that “shades in” the various sections as you key in a contact, so our map becomes colorful as the contest period continues, and we tense up to see if we can fill in most of the sections– can we “get” Hawaii? Nova Scotia? Wyoming? South New Jersey? Will the weather and atmospheric conditions cooperate? Sometimes a series of thunderstorms or solar flares can break through or distort the radio waves and make it impossible to stay tuned in long enough to send and receive even a short message. Sometimes, you can make clear contacts with certain regions and not with others, even ones close by– one year, we got zero contacts with a neighboring state, while getting several other regions hundreds of miles away!
While Field Day is exciting, and it serves as a great way to test and practice with radio equipment in case of a nationwide or region-wide emergency, it is still just an event–a single 24-hour period of making contacts with complete strangers (in most cases) for a couple of minutes.
Prayer is a thousand times more amazing than Field Day for a number of reasons. Think about it:
- God is ALWAYS listening–twenty-four hours, seven days a week, every moment, every year of our lives.
- God is ALWAYS tuned in to our cries– there is no distortion, no static. He hears millions of cries simultaneously and with perfect clarity.
- We don’t need a “call sign” or identity code. God knows each voice intimately..He doesn’t have to ask us to speak louder or more distinctly. He doesn’t hear an “accent” or lisp, or rasp in our voice. He doesn’t have to ask us to repeat our request three or four times because He didn’t understand us the first time.
- We don’t need a section code– God knows where we are better than any GPS system every invented. We can’t hide from Him, and He isn’t surprised to find out where we are, or where we came from. He already knows where we are and where we’re going!
- Our messages can be as personal and as lengthy as we want. God doesn’t need to “hurry up” to get to the next person’s request, and He wants to hear all our thoughts and needs.
- Prayer is not an event or a contest– it’s not a practice run–it is an actual conversation with our Loving Father!
- You don’t need a license, or a radio, an antenna, or a microphone to contact God!
- We can pray for others anywhere, anytime, for any reason, and God already knows the details– where they are, what their needs are, and what is best in the long run. Just as He already knows us intimately, He knows the needs of everyone we’ve ever met– and everyone we haven’t met yet! Some groups will have made upwards of 500 contacts over the course of Field Day– God can make millions in the same moment, and not miss a single one!
- God doesn’t want to make contact with us to fill a quota for a contest; He doesn’t want to hear from us because it’s thrilling to hear from someone new. He wants to have a relationship with us– filled with love and trust and hope and joy. He doesn’t just want a Field Day with us– He wants Eternity!