“Anything large enough for a wish to light upon, is large enough to hang a prayer upon.” –George MacDonald
One of the more frustrating aspects of prayer is keeping it up when God doesn’t seem to be listening. Of course, people want to see the thing come to pass that they’re praying for. But so often, it is as though the heavens are brass. Sometimes we would just like to hear anything, even a thundering “NO!” But faith is holding onto confidence when all the senses tell us there’s nothing there.
Sometimes, however, it goes the other way. Have you ever experienced a sudden outpouring in response to prayer? I experienced it like that once, just as though God was up there stopping all the traffic of heaven just for me. I felt specially heard and loved, and I’ve wondered since if it wasn’t a lesson on how carefully God listens to our prayers.
During my time at Teen Challenge, I once had two praying roommates, Mike and Justin, who both agreed with me that the best way to wrap up a day was to pray and talk about what God was doing in our lives. It was our custom to close the day with prayer. One evening, Mike and I were praying fervently for Justin, who’d had surgery on his leg, leaving a ghastly six-inch wound that wouldn’t heal. Part of the problem was that the incision had been made on the underside of his knee. His movements were disrupting the healing process. We decided that night that we were going to set aside every frustrating experience we had ever had and pray for God to help him heal. I remember a familiar feeling of futility as we prayed, but we offered it up and thanked God for entertaining our requests.
The next evening, we were going into prayer again, mentioning things that came readily to mind. I took a turn and again asked God to heal Justin’s leg. All of a sudden, Justin interrupted in a loud voice, “It’s healing, fast!” Apparently, he had forgotten to mention it, or maybe he was just now discovering it. All I know is that when I looked up from my prayer to see what Justin was talking about, he had his pant leg pulled up and was showing us the wound. Just the night before there had been a six-inch scab on his leg. Now the scab was only about two inches long.
We had heard and read about healing miracles, but none of us had ever witnessed one, and here it was—proof that God still bestows miracles in answer to prayer. There was no natural explanation for what had happened. In addition to all the other obstacles, Justin had had both his femoral artery and his saffenous vein removed from his leg because of infection. Given his terrible circulation, it would have taken at least a month or two for this much healing to have occurred naturally.
We were floored. Immediately, I wanted to pray for some more people. The first person who came to mind was Greg. He was a Teen Challenge staff member who was a bit of a sourpuss. He never seemed to be in a good mood. When he spoke, it was usually to address some wrongdoing by a student. He seemed to have persistent feelings of anger and bitterness, though he usually kept it under the surface. I thought that if anyone among the staff could use inner healing, it was Greg! So I prayed for God to ease his pain and close up whatever wounds he carried from the past.
The next day I was working the phones in the office, and lo and behold, Greg himself strolled in, singing praises to Jesus. His countenance was perfectly peaceful. He was clearly experiencing tremendous joy. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a guy who never smiled; I had just prayed for him the previous night, and here he was, singing hymns while he worked. There was no way this was a coincidence. God must have grabbed him.
I have had similar experiences involving prayer, but none as dramatic as these two. When I remember Justin and Greg, I suspect that God did those things for them in part just to demonstrate to me at that time that He listens to my prayers. That may sound egocentric, but the fact is that I’ve prayed for scores of people who didn’t receive healing, and all of them were just as deserving as Justin or Greg. Regardless, I came away from the experience asking God to help me remember the lesson in it.
I think God wants us to lay it all out and abandon our expectations in confidence that He will do not necessarily what we have asked, but what is best. Mine is to acquiesce like a lad who is denied a second ice-cream cone at the fair. If the boy is peaceful and trusting, no matter the denial, he won’t hesitate to ask when the next occasion arises.
God has always held my hand though life, it has been interesting to see how much attention I gave it throughout time. Life was bad for me. It sucked before I was an adult. It was worse than most but not as bad as others. Even before I knew who God was, I always felt him near me. It is my walk and journey and my choice to notice or not. I always notice in my best and worst times, I have never felt alone. Sometimes we forget that sometimes God’s answer is no, or sometimes it is that there is more than one path to take, but it seems many only pay attention to yes. Great post, hon. I always love one that makes me stop and think.
Thanks for reading, Rebecca, and I’m glad I made you think. I always, always, always want to do that whether I’m writing stories, essays, humorous pieces or whatever else. I was moved by your statement that you never felt alone in spite of turbulence in your life. I’m still working on that one. I spent most of my life feeling alone, but God is breaking through. I think His love is vast and wonderful. Glad you commented. Blessings.
Doug: I can’t tell you how much I love it that you are “hanging in there,” analyzing your situation, taking necessary steps to put the basics of life back together & including godly companions & clinging to your Father to sketch out the next step(s) of the journey. What great company you keep! Abraham, for starters. It’s not the fun way to travel through life, but sometimes required of us — & it’s all about love & wisdom from the One who knows the end from the beginning.
Your stubborn perseverance causes me to highly nesteem you.
Thank you for such strong words, Auntie Sarah. I do seem to be surrounded by godly people over the last few years. I’m finding that it’s habit forming! Thank God for His advanced chess skills. I didn’t exactly plan it this way, but I’m sure you know the Scripture: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
This is such a relevant post for all Christians. No question, some have a measure of faith that is far greater than others and it seems as though they hear the voice of God in even the faintest whisper. Maybe an optimistic personality, maybe a spiritual gift, I can only guess. I like being around folk like that, they seem to live in expectation and anticipation leaving nothing to chance and taking nothing for granted. I believe God is pleased by such as these. Now some of us are but “smoking flax” and may have a greater sense of our failings, failings that may extinguish this whisper. I wonder which takes a greater faith to continue on and persevere? Which ever we are our hope lies in a God of change; a God who moves us, and keeps us. Our simple plea is, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
I love it when you express your ideas here, Fred. You always make me take a step back and look at things in a different way. Yes, I enjoy being around people like that too. They have faith that seems to withstand everything the world throws at them. I often feel a little intimidated, a little rueful over my own comparatively frail faith. But maybe you’re right; maybe it is a gift. Whatever the case, when I see that kind of confidence in God, I ask the Lord to help me to have greater faith. I also thank God for placing me in circumstances like these to teach me. Thank heaven God has patience. He needs it with many of us!