Nearly every religion has prayer, but only followers of Jesus Christ have a living, hearing God to whom we can pray. Nearly every religious person in the world would say they pray, but only children of the one true God receive answers to their prayers, and I am one of them.
Isaiah 46:6-7 and 9 describes the heartbreaking futility of those who pray to false gods, their words dissipating in the wind, unheard:
“They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it And set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble….Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.”
We have just begun a study on prayer at church, and after listening to the introductory sermon last week, I was moved to share with you at least five specific answers to prayer that I have seen in my lifetime. These are unequivocal, direct answers from the God whom I know without a doubt hears my prayers, and I wanted to shout them from the rooftops, but decided that I would have to settle for shouting them from Blogger instead!
1. The iconic instance of God answering prayer for me happened when I was about five or six years old. We were all arrayed in our Sunday best, had trooped out to our van, buckled up, and were ready for church! Papa put the key in the ignition, and nothing happened. He tried again. Nada. And again and again, but the van simply choked and offered no signs of life. Disappointed silence reigned in that van, and then Papa sighed, “All right, everyone get out. We’re going to have to do church at home today, I guess.” From my seat in the back I piped up, “Papa, why don’t we pray?” To hear Papa tell the story, he was inwardly rolling his eyes at this suggestion, thinking, Of course we can pray, but the car is completely dead! There’s no way it is going to start! But pray we did, and as Papa’s hand moved towards the ignition once more, I waited in anticipation to see what would happen. The van started, and a smile two sizes too big for my face spread across it. God had answered my prayer, and He had performed a faith-building miracle, the lesson of which stays with me to this day!
2. It was only a short time later that Mikaela, Melanie, and I decided we didn’t want to be just the Three Muskateers anymore—we needed another sibling! We started a prayer campaign, and every single night over the course of what seemed like an interminably long time, we prayed faithfully for a “new baby.” I still remember the night we all gathered for family prayer, ready with our request once again, and my parents announced a special surprise: we were going to have a new sibling! Her middle name is “Faith” because of even more miracles that God performed in keeping her healthy and safe despite some issues and a surgery that she had to undergo. After our baby sister was born, our faith grew, and we sisters pow-wowed once again. We decided that we needed to be very specific this time. Why not pray for a baby brother, specifically? And then when our baby brother came, he needed a playmate, right? And that, of course, is the story of Susanna, Micah, and Jonah!
3. Right after I got my braces off, I was a diligent wearer of my retainers, the exorbitant expense of which had been duly impressed on my mind. One evening, I was watching a movie with the family, and we were eating a snack. So I carefully took my retainer out, set it on the shelf behind me, and enjoyed the snack. Later that evening, I went back to retrieve my retainer, but it had disappeared! Needless to say, I was quite distraught; I interrogated everyone in the house and hunted high and low like a mad person, but to no avail. Thankfully, I had a spare set to hold me over. The next evening, picture the same scene: I’m watching a movie, remove my retainer, make certain that I carefully set it right in the middle of the shelf behind me, and, lo and behold—it disappeared again. Now, you must understand that I am an obsessive overachiever, and this was simply not acceptable. I was picturing my parents having to pay $400 to buy me new retainers, and I was extremely upset. I searched and searched to no avail, I cried and fretted, and then I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before, and the next afternoon, 18 month old Jonah toddled over and grabbed my skirt. He was trying to tell me something, and he was lisping about my teeth. At first I nodded sweetly and went about my business, but he insisted, and all of a sudden it dawned on me. “Yes, Jonah—do you know where my ‘teeth’ are?” His dimpled hand pulled me to our mudroom, where there is an old, unused heater set into the wall, and he pointed and complacently stared at the heater. His tiny hand had reached through the grate…and dropped both sets of my retainers in! I never would have found them, and what are the chances that an 18 month old would remember and be able to communicate where he had stowed the “teeth”? With God in control, I never should have worried!
4. From the moment my fourteen year old self heard about the youth symphony in our community, I really, really, really wanted to play in it. The only obstacle was the several hundred dollars worth of tuition required. I had no idea where I was going to get that kind of money. I had occasional babysitting jobs, but that only amounted to a gross income of a whopping $70 a year. Prayer was the only way to go, so Mikaela and I combined forces and prayed. One day, an aquaintance called asking if we could babysit her children that summer. This meant regular, all-day babysitting jobs throughout the summer for which we would get paid $30 a day. (Somehow, that doesn't seem like so much anymore!) Every day I would go home utterly exhausted from trying to keep the children entertained, the house cleaned, and the squabbles and emergencies to a minimum, but the $30 check in my pocket made it all worth it! At the end of the summer, Mikaela and I emptied our shiny gold box in which we kept our riches and counted it up. We had enough for the Youth Philharmonic, and symphony playing has been in my blood ever since!
5. In this post Mikaela shared that we got to go to the Creation Museum. But what she didn’t share was the fact that that opportunity in itself was a miracle! From the moment we knew we were going to Indianapolis for a class, we were mapping out just how long it would take to get to the Creation Museum from there. We tried every option: Can we rent a car? Can we take a train? Can we take a bus? Can we take a U-haul? (Seriously.) Can we fly into the Ohio airport, get a taxi, stow our luggage at the front desk of the museum, get another taxi, catch a bus to Indianapolis, and get picked up to go to the campus? We tried finangling every way we could, but nothing was seeming to work! I was praying about it the whole way, and finally the Lord just gave my parents, Mikaela, and I peace about stepping out in faith and purchasing the tickets to the Ohio airport, 2 hours from where our class was, but only minutes from the museum. That whole scenario for getting to the Creation Museum was confused and tangled, and to be honest, we had no idea just how it would work. There were so many tricky variables involving timing of the museum’s opening and the bus’s departure time that we really had to yield the situation to the Lord. Around the same time that we stepped out in faith and bought the tickets, though, the Lord reminded us of a friend we hadn’t seen in a while who lived somewhere near the museum. We decided that we might as well e-mail her and see if she was interested in meeting us at the museum. Back came the most miraculous e-mail: I had said nothing about our confusing scenario for making it to the museum, yet this friend immediately wrote that she and her mom wanted to pick us up at the airport, take us to the museum, and then drop us off at our bus stop when we were done. Mikaela and I were walking on cloud nine for the rest of the day! God had truly had a plan all along, although we had no inkling of it, and His plan was so, so much better than ours ever could have been!
Psalm 65:5 says,
“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas.”
Those words could easily have been written by me, so true they are of God's power in my life! And here are some verses from the chapter I praised the Lord with when I found my retainers:
“Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness….My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever. (Psalm 145:6, 21)”
I could go on and on eternally declaring the greatness of the God who hears in my life, but now it's your turn! Since it is a Biblical command to praise God’s awesome acts, I want to hear your testimonies! Post your own list of specific answers to prayer that you have seen, and leave a comment below to share this encouragement with all of us! I can't wait to praise the Lord along with you!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.