As I review last year, I’m impressed by how often God responded to the “little” asks. Like providing improved weather for Portland family members to get here safely on Christmas Eve despite freezing rain the day before. Or sending a specially ordered gift to my doorstep, several days early no less, when Amazon notified a shipping delay!
Numerous times God provided rides for my mom for visits to Eugene (she lives near Coos Bay, a 4-1/2 hour round trip). One time we were again praying for a ride. Then Mom received a call from an out-of-town friend who was in the area and wanted to visit. Wouldn’t you know it, her friend planned to return home the exact day Mom needed transportation to Eugene!
Then there was our youngest son’s wedding last summer. Being a bit stressed, I kept about fifteen prayer requests continually before the Lord. Later when I reviewed my journal, I noticed that God said yes to all but three of those asks, and he even provided some unexpected blessings!
NOTHING IS TOO TRIVIAL
And finally, there was the time I lost my favorite yoga mat. No matter where I looked, at home or at the Swim and Tennis Club, and no matter where I inquired, the mat remained elusive. Was it stolen? Still, I kept bringing it up to the Lord now and then over the next few weeks, though a bit sheepishly.
Right now you might think I’m really shallow to care that much about a soft, cushiony orange piece of rubber. But I do! I’ve had it for many years! And it would be difficult to replace! One day after I had pretty much lost hope, an instructor at the club heard about my plight and decided to look in a remote back room. Found! God’s kindness really touched me.
NOT JUST COINCIDENCE
Now some cynics would call these answers just coincidences. My philosophy is that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17), and if we’ve prayed and received, the only appropriate response is to conclude that he provided and give thanks with all our hearts.
Haven’t you, like me, seen answers to prayer happen too many times to just chalk it up to happenstance? God has even surprised me on several occasions by answering immediately. Recently, I needed to talk to a store manager about my ongoing cell phone issues. On the drive there, I prayed earnestly that he or she would be available. The moment I stepped into the store a man came towards me offering help, and lo and behold, he was the manager!
GOD’S HEART TO ANSWER PRAYERS
God has opened my eyes more this year to the ways he faithfully answers requests, and it has increased my faith. I’ve come to believe that God is eager to answer our prayers at the very earliest opportunity, as soon as he can do so in accordance with his sovereign plan and what is in our best interests. So whenever I get discouraged about those long-standing unanswered prayers, I need to remind myself of how quickly and often God has responded in the past.
John Hazen in Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should, writes that “It is as if serious Christians who know the scriptures well spend far more time attempting to figure out why God won’t answer prayer rather than focusing on how excited he is to hear our requests and give us what we ask for.” He said that asking is a feature of moment-to-moment dependence. God wants to build our faith, and he likes our persistent repeated requests.
PRAYER LESSON FROM GHANA
He told about a former African student who visited him and matter-of-fact recounted astounding miracles he’d witnessed in Ghana. When Hazen asked him why we don’t see this level of supernatural activity here, the student was surprised and said, “I can’t believe you don’t know.”
“Tell me,” Hazen said.
“You have 911 . . . In Ghana we don’t have 911. We don’t have expert help minutes away. So you know what we do first? We pray. And so we pray a lot. A lot more than you do here because God is our first and often our only hope. And God often shows up in a powerful way. He doesn’t heal everyone we pray for, not everyone is saved from harm, not every need is met. But we pray. And because we pray often and we put our trust in God, we see amazing things happen on a fairly regular basis . . . I have no doubt that we see God’s hand move much more often than you do here in America simply because we pray more often.”
PRAY MORE ABOUT MORE THINGS
So maybe that’s it! Frequency! We don’t pray enough to see our faith increased by all the answers. Or maybe we do pray often, but because we don’t write down the times God says “yes,” we suffer from answered-prayer amnesia. Or maybe we only focus on “The thing that matters most to me in the world, Lord” which God seems to be doing nothing about. In our discouragement, we can be tempted to devalue his affirmative answers to lesser concerns. Sadly, then we may stop praying altogether, convinced that “prayer doesn’t work.”
Hazen says that prayer is “co-laboring with God to accomplish good things,” for fruit bearing. If God is so generous about my trivial requests, how much more so requests that relate to harvest. I don’t only mean the blanket prayer “save so-and-so,” though this is good. But on behalf of lost people, I’m inspired to look for ways to pray more frequently. And about many more different things!
GOAL FOR 2023
This year I started writing down some of the Lord’s answers to my prayers, and it bolstered my faith so much, I want to keep going. So my New Year’s resolution is to
(1) Pray more boldly and more frequently, and
(2) Diligently record God’s answers, giving thanks.
After God supernaturally led the Israelites across the Jordan, he had them create a twelve stone memorial of remembrance. Our prayer records can also be an important form of remembrance, honoring to the Lord, and they will surely increase our faith!
I hope some of you will join me in recording your answered prayers this year. Wouldn’t it be fun to compare notes in early 2024?