I wearily walked back into the restaurant, my thoughts dark and my heart heavy. Suddenly, our server appeared with a note—a note with the exact words I needed at that very moment.
It wasn’t a coincidence.
It wasn’t just a random act of kindness.
It was God speaking directly to me.
“A woman asked me to give this to you,” said our server as he placed a piece of paper on the table. Scanning the words scribbled on the back of the receipt, tears pricked my eyes. “My daughter was three before we could all eat out together. It gets better! Hang in there.” With my screaming baby still in tow—after my third trip out of the restaurant—I had just sat down again, wearing the contents of her sister’s empty tea glass. And my lunch order was cold.
Half an hour earlier, unable to settle my baby, I decided to take her for a drive while the rest of the family (and other customers) ate in peace. While I drove, I prayed, which seems natural for most believers, especially when discouraged. But, not for me, for I have always found the “dynamics” of prayer a bit difficult.
Yes, I realize that prayer is important; the Bible addresses this subject a lot.
Yes, I understand that praying is an act of obedience, trust and faith.
Yes, I know that Jesus, Himself, gave us a guideline on how to pray.
Yet, I still find myself struggling to “talk to God” for a variety of reasons. Recently, my four-year-old asked, “Momma, when I talk to God, why doesn’t He talk to me?” I gave her my best church answer: God does talk to us through the Bible, through preachers, teachers and other Christian people and through the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts. I wholeheartedly believe that God does speak to us this way, yet deep down, it is not enough. To be honest, sometimes I doubt that the Lord really listens to me, or even cares, since I don’t audibly hear him.
Driving around that day, I accused God of being a dictator—why do you command me to pray if YOU have total control of the outcome? I questioned His working for my good, that whatever happened to me wasn’t just coincidence or chance.Like Job, I dared to demand proof that the Lord saw me and heard me in my predicament. Maybe speaking to me from a burning bush like He did with Moses or calling my name in the night like He did with Samuel would convince me that God really knows me and listens to my prayers. Was I actually trying to test God by challenging Him to “show Himself”?
Later that night, my time in prayer was radically different from earlier that day. I recalled God’s response to Job in Job 38:4: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Like Job, I was totally without understanding and deserved to be humbled and called to repent for doubting God’s provision, power and providence. Matthew Henry’s commentary sums up the passage this way: “Our darkening the counsels of God’s wisdom with our folly, is a great provocation to God. Humble faith and sincere obedience see farthest and best into the will of the Lord.”
No, my faith in the Lord shouldn’t depend on His answering my prayers, but it often does. God is God, the very author and giver of faith, not the other way around. Furthermore, He doesn’t owe me anything, not even faith, on any level. It is He, not I, who increases my faith when I obey and trust Him before He answers my prayers or when He doesn’t seem to answer them at all.
God had sent me a timely reminder that He does answer my prayers, but often I am too distracted, too disillusioned, or too disinterested to still myself to recognize His voice and see His works. Convicted of my sin and overwhelmed by the Lord’s gracious response to my outright audacity to actually make demands of the Almighty, I replayed the events of the day, still in shock. Surely, my “folly” had provoked the Lord; yet, He had clearly sent me a message, reaffirming His love, despite my questioning His goodness. This shouldn’t have surprised me, though; not when I reflect on all He’s done for me, especially at Calvary. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God is not a celestial bully who uses prayer as a means to oppress and control us. Rather, prayer is one of those “good and perfect gifts from above” (James 1:17), from a perfect Father to His imperfect children. It’s the Lord’s gracious invitation for us to have a more intimate relationship with Him, which occurs when we open our hearts to receive Him as Savior, accept that He desires a personal relationship with us despite all of our fallenness and thank Him for His many, many blessings and answered prayers.
Do you struggle to discern truth from lies? Check out Laura’s new book: Beyond the Noise: Silencing the Deceiver in a Loud World of Lies