Prayer. That important place where heaven and earth meet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. How I pray, when I pray, why I pray. And, importantly – that million dollar question – why, some prayers are answered and some are not. Or, we think not. As Christians, praying in the name of Jesus, we know that all our prayers are heard and, yes – all are answered. Yet, it’s a mysterious thing in many ways – when and how God chooses to answer those prayers.
I’ve been reading the Louie Zamperini story, “Unbroken“- and, if you have not yet seen the film or read the book, I heartily recommend that you do so, as it has been tremendously inspiring to me.
In a life raft in the far reaches of the Pacific without any reason for optimism or hope – Louie offers up this simple prayer –
“God, if you will spare my life, I will use it to serve you”.
A promise he later made good on, when God did indeed, spare his life. What he wasn’t spared though were probably some of the most horrific and trying circumstances any human could endure. But, spared he was.
In reading the book, I was appalled and shocked at how many planes and crew were lost over the Pacific in the early days of the second world war. With technology still in its infancy, pilots often took to the air flying by the seats of their pants in planes held together with little more than baling wire hoping for the best. Louie Zamperini was in a plane like that – a B-24 named the Green Hornet – a plane, he referred to as a musher. Sent out with a group of men on a rescue mission, the Green Hornet ended up having to ditch into the sea becoming a rescue mission themselves.
In circumstances like that – who, wouldn’t have been praying? As they say, “there are no atheists in fox holes” – or, life rafts for that matter, I would guess.
So, if many prayers were offered up – yet, so few seemingly answered – why, we ask ourselves was Louie’s prayer answered while others may not have been – at least in the overt way that Louie’s was.
Meeting God half-way
Prayer (ours) and God’s response is of course up to and according to his sovereign will. But, I like to think of prayer as a partnership – one, in which God does the doing, while, we do the trusting. And, I use trusting in the active sense. In other words, our faith that God does hear and will answer demonstrated by our action. The same way the Bible says that faith without works is dead for any living faith will spur action.
Action is the breath that lives within faith.
Even “be still and know that I am God” requires the action of being still. You see what I mean? And, I believe that God finds delight in granting and answering those types of requests although he may not answer them in the way that we think or expect.
I have an anecdote of answered prayer that still amazes me. It’s quite simple really – yet, nonetheless, one that I look back on as quite extraordinary.
This took place a few years ago while I was living in Hawaii. In Hawaii and other tropical climates houses are not tightly sealed the way they are in colder climates and if you are not very careful and even if you are – rodents (large ones often come calling looking for a place to stay in and out of the rain.
One evening I had just came in from church. It was winter; cold and rainy out, I had just got something to eat, when I saw a very large and fast-moving object streak across the far side of the room. I was terrified for I knew immediately what it was – it was not just as mouse, oh no, but a very large rat! And, rats in that part of the world can be as big as house cats! I was mortified and as a single woman living alone, I knew this was a problem I was going to have to deal with myself which made it even worse. Just the thought of it made me sick at my stomach. Having no one else to help me, I called on the one that I knew could – Jesus!
I had no idea how my prayer could or would be answered. I mostly ask for the strength to deal with the situation and confessed how much I loathed having to deal with this vile and hapless creature.
I had a trap, but was not sure where best to place it, so I placed it at the bottom of the steps where I had prayed. I then placed a large trash bag beneath to catch any blood spatter that might occur and for ease in picking it up. That was the part I dreaded most – picking up the carcass – having to see the large, bloody carcass of a rat, I had just killed.
I know that rats are smart and can be wary of traps so I was not sure how long this process might take. So, the next morning not knowing if I was successful or not I went to the top of my stairs and with trepidation peered down.. At the bottom of the stairs, I could see the plastic bag – but, there was no trap – no trap! “Oh, my gosh”, I thought, “the rat must have been so big that it carried away the trap!”
Inching down the stairs (as if the rat was going to suddenly appear shaking his instrument of death at me) I could see as I got closer that the rat was still there. Strangely, all I could see was about an inch of it’s tail sticking out from the edge of the bag. Apparently when the trap snapped, it flipped in some way that brought the edge of the bag towards the center and over the rat covering the rat and the trap completely with the exception of that inch of tail which allowed me to gather up the whole thing without my ever having to see the dead and bloodied rat or the trap, so I could carry it to the trash. Praise God!
I try to remember this story when I pray. I could have just sat, prayed and asked God to chase away the rat.. But, I didn’t. I did what I needed to do in setting the trap but, God understood that my greatest fear was not in catching the rat but, handling the rat itself …… and, praise his gracious and holy name he took care of that for me superbly!
Prayer and our experience with it, we must remember is very individual and works in tandem with God’s over all calling on our lives. It’s not a formula by any means and I don’t mean to imply otherwise in any way. Was God that concerned for me and my rat or was he teaching me a greater lesson about trusting – demonstrating in a unique way that he does hear and answer prayer.
Strangely enough, while living in this same house two women – one to my immediate right and one to my immediate left both strong Christians and both in their forties developed colon cancer, one of which God has since graduated to heaven, the other still receiving treatment today. And, I know oodles and oodles of people who were and are praying for them, including me.
How does this measure up against my experience with the rat or Louie’s desperate prayer aboard the raft? I can’t say for sure, but I do know this –
prayer is a special privilege, the place where heaven and earth meet and we are blessed beyond all other living creatures to have this special relationship with God in which he chooses to partner with us.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6
Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus! Cindy