The inveterate smokers

There were two villagers who were very, very good friends. One day they were returning from the market. They found a short cut to come home, so they were very happy. On the way, one of them said, “I have to smoke. Really, I need it badly.”

The other friend said, “I also want to smoke.”

The first one, from his pocket, brought out an Indian cigarette. We call them bidis. Then he said, “Oh, I do not have matches.”

The second friend said, “I have matches, but I have only two sticks, so we have to be very careful.”

The second friend struck one stick against the matchbox. Alas, there was no flame — nothing! It did not catch fire. He threw the stick onto the ground. Now there was only one left. He closed his eyes and started praying to God that this time the matchstick would work. For two minutes he prayed most intensely. With his eyes closed he prayed and prayed and prayed. The first friend was so happy that his friend was praying to God. He was positive that this time God would definitely allow the match to light. The first time his friend did not pray; that is why the matchstick did not work, but this time he had done the needful.

After praying, the second friend opened his eyes. He was cocksure that this time it would work. Alas, it did not work. For a few moments both of them were so sad. Then they started laughing.

The first one said, “I saw such sincerity in you! The second time, while you were praying, how is it that God did not listen to your prayer?”

The second friend said, “This is why I say not to pray to God. God never listens to my prayers. He simply ignores them.”

The first friend agreed, “It is true! God does not listen to my prayers either. For years and years I have been trying to give up smoking. I pray to God to help me, but God does not listen. Now today you wanted to smoke and He did not listen. Here is the proof that God does not listen to our prayers.”

The second friend said, “Let us stop praying to God. Let us become atheists.”

The first friend said, “Before giving up our prayer-life, let us go to the village priest. Perhaps the priest will have some advice.”

They went to the village priest to ask his advice before they gave up praying. When they saw the priest, the first friend said, “For years I have been praying to God to help me stop smoking, but God does not listen. I just go on smoking.”

The other one said, “I pray to God to enable me to smoke whenever I want to, but something always happens. Either I do not have the money-power or there is some other obstacle. Here is the proof: today I wanted to smoke, but God did not listen to my prayer.”

The priest said to the second friend, “You say that God does not listen to your prayers. I tell you, God does listen to you. I shall prove it to you. You can come to my place to smoke any time. We shall enjoy smoking together. And do not worry about paying. I have plenty of bidis here. Just come whenever you want to smoke with me. You see, God is listening to your prayer. I am telling you that in the future you will never have any problem with smoking.”

To the first friend the priest said, “In your case, it seems that God is not listening to you. But I will send a message to St. Peter to see what he can do about your problem. Come back and see me in a week or so.”

This friend was so happy that the priest would speak to St. Peter on his behalf. After one week had passed, he came back, hoping to receive good news. He said to the priest, “Please tell me what St. Peter said.”

The priest answered, “St. Peter says he is very busy. He has more important things to do than worry about your smoking.”

The first friend was so disappointed and disheartened. He said, “Then I will not be able to stop?”

The priest said, “You will be able to stop.”

The first friend said, “How will I be able to stop if St. Peter does not listen to my request?”

The priest said, “I will give you a piece of good advice. I gave your friend good advice and it is working very well. He can come and smoke with me any time. I am always available. In your case, I am telling you to start smoking as much as you can for as long as you can, as many times a day as possible.”

The man was dumbfounded. He said, “I want to give up smoking, not to increase it! By smoking so many times a day, how will I be able to give up smoking?”

The priest said, “Just smoke and smoke to your heart’s content. Then you will fall sick. If you fall sick, then how will you be able to smoke any more?”