Surprised by Answered Prayer3
This week, as I was updating the church web page, I created and then saved a file that I had titled "Prayer Requests." This morning, needing to find that file again (and having of course forgotten where I had saved it), I searched for the document on the church computer. The search pulled up several documents with the word "prayer" in the file name, and I quickly clicked on the one labeled "prayer needs," thinking it was my document. It wasn't. It was something better.
Six years ago, someone at our church typed up a list of prayer requests for the congregation, in order to help us better pray for one another. There were the usual prayer requests for physical needs and surgeries, prayers for loved ones in need. And there were also a number of names of people I've never met - people whose names I've heard but who have since moved to other cities, other states, other churches. I took a moment to skim their needs and began to wonder what had happened in their lives during the past six years.
But what really took me by surprise and encouraged me was seeing the requests for a few names that I did recognize, people still a part of our fellowship here at TCPC. What I saw, in reading their requests, moved me to greater diligence in prayer:
- One person requested a new job. He starts this summer.
- One person requested that her business would improve. She has lately been very busy at work, and just last month she celebrated a significant achievement in her career.
- One person requested prayer for reconciliation in a family relationship that had been broken. A few weeks ago, he described to me how, “out of the blue,” those relationships are beginning to mend.
Three requests. Six years ago.
I imagine that the timing and fashion of the answers to their prayers were not what any of them expected when they first shared those needs. And yet God, in his wisdom, has answered each prayer. Part of what astonishes me is that all three answers came within a few weeks of each other... six years later.
For this reason, the Scriptures urge us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are urged to be like the persistent widow who never relents in pleading for justice (Luke 18:1-8). We are called to consider that even the world rewards persistence (Luke 11:5-13) - how much more, then, will our loving heavenly Father be ready to hear and answer? In his wisdom, he may say "no" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). "No" is one thing; "Not yet" is something else entirely. In our persistence, we discover the difference.