"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (Jn 14:14)
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (that you need) will be given to you as well." (Matt 6:33)
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matt 7:7)
Last weekend our family experienced a jaw-droppingly amazing answer to prayer which illustrates beautifully some of the important concepts we have to understand if we want effective prayer lives.
Let me say right at the start that I give all the glory to God. It's not my intention to boast about my ability to pray - I'm still wearing "L" plates when it comes to prayer. My intention is to boast about our awesome God who loves to give good gifts to His children (Matt 7:11).
For some time our growing (in size, not number!) family has been complaining every time we try to squeeze all 5 of us into our Ford Escort. I love that car. It's nippy. You put your foot down and it goes, unlike its predecessor which almost seemed to be saying, "do we have to?" whenever it pulled away. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Escort except that it has become too small. The general consensus in the family was that we needed something bigger. But there was simply no way we could afford to replace it.
So about 6 months ago I started praying for a new car. I could have just asked for a bigger car, but having recently been challenged about being specific in prayer and asking the Lord for what you really want I decided to ask for a red (yes, red) people carrier. Why red? Simply because every car I've ever owned has been one shade of blue or another and all of us wanted a change. Childish? Maybe, but aren't we supposed to come to God as our heavenly Father? And He's quite capable of saying "no" if we're asking for the wrong thing.
I didn't mention the request for the new car every day in my prayer time. I didn't plead for it with any great fervor. I simply asked, every so often, "please can we have a red people carrier" and occasionally I would remind the Lord how much we needed it - most frequently when all three children (two of whom are adult size) were squeezed in the back of the Escort.
At the end of last week, completely out of the blue, a family member, who knew nothing of my prayers (and isn't even a Christian), phoned and asked me to look at a silver Nissan that was for sale at their local dealership. I explained that, yes we did need a bigger car, but there's no way we can afford to buy one at the moment. He said he'd like us to take a look at it anyway. But by the time we got there the vehicle had been sold.
Well, it hadn't actually been a people carrier and it certainly wasn't red so I wasn't greatly disappointed. But our benefactor declared that if he could find the right car at the right price he would buy it for us. So I sat back and waited while he made calls, looked in the newspaper and surfed the net hunting down second-hand 7 seater vehicles. Every single one he found was too old or the mileage was too high or the price was unreasonable or it had a dubious history. He looked at dozens of adverts for people carriers but the first one he found that he thought was worth looking at was a 5 year-old RED Renault Espace!
I was excited. But we were on holiday in Taunton and the car was 140 miles away, in Walsall, just 20 minutes drive from our home! Steve (hubby) phoned the seller to find out if it was still available. It was, but the owner was going on holiday the next day himself. We made a decision. This was too good an opportunity to miss. Steve, our generous relative and I jumped in the car and were inspecting the potential purchase within 3 hours of first making contact with the seller.
To cut a very long story slightly shorter, we drove back to Taunton the following day in a red people carrier which had cost us not a single penny.
I've learned so many things about prayer through this experience. Here are just some of them.
Yes, do be specific in prayer. Not only does our heavenly Father love to give good gifts to His children, the little details help give you confidence that you've found the right answer.
Prayer is not complicated. You don't have to find the right form of words, take up a particular posture, or even have oodles of faith. Simply ask for what you want and wait and see what God will do.
Persistence in prayer doesn't require you to nag God. We should keep asking, but we don't have to take the , "can I have a new car please, can I have a new car please, can I have a new car please" approach that children sometimes do.
Seek first the kingdom of God. When you are praying diligently for God's kingdom to be extended you get more answers to personal requests.
Seek His righteousness. Obey God in even the small things. A few weeks ago I felt God was challenging me to drive within the speed limit, something I struggle with as I like to get everywhere as quickly as possible. But I've made a real effort to get my driving speed down and whilst I sometimes forget and the speed creeps up, I'm getting better at it. I didn't make the connection at the time between my prayer request and that decision to be obedient and it certainly wasn't a case of trying to twist God's arm by being extra good! But I now wonder if we would have the new car now if I hadn't responded to the prompting of the Spirit to be more righteous in my driving.
Don't go running on ahead, be patient. We actually looked at the possibility of hiring a people carrier for the holiday and borrowing the money to pay for it! Instead we had our very own people carrier for most of the holiday, and beyond, and it was free.
God doesn't leave you in any doubt when the right answer comes along. He adds little details that show you His hand in the situation. The colour of the Espace was listed in the advert as Mars Red. That would be a completely insignificant detail to most people. But my husband's big hobby is amateur radio and he belongs to Midland Amateur Radio Society (MARS). He goes to MARS weekly! It was almost as though the Lord was saying, "just in case you're in any doubt, here's another little clue," signed God. Actually, according to the Renault dealer in Taunton, the car is not Mars Red or any other shade of red - it's just plain red!
God's not going to allow anyone else to get their hands on your blessing. If it's meant for you he will keep it for you. This car had been up for sale for at least 5 weeks - listed on Autotrader on the web, three "for sale" posters in the car. The seller had not had a single enquiry about it until Steve phoned him.
The Lord can use anyone, even unbelievers, to bless his people. The seller was not a Christian, the benefactor is not a Christian but the Lord brought the two of them together to pour out a blessing on His children.
God's resources are not limited by our circumstances. The day before the original phone call from our generous relative a verse in Jeremiah had leaped off the page during my quiet time - they will find blessings even in the barren land (Jer 31:2). I didn't know what the Lord was specifically saying, but I knew it was something to do with blessing us where we couldn't provide for ourselves. That's exactly what happened.
Prayer College Assignment
The kind of dramatic answer to prayer I've described here doesn't happen to us every day, or even every year. But it does illustrate how, when we partner with God in prayer, miracles can happen in the lives of ordinary believers. Whatever it is you're asking the Lord for, take encouragement from this personal story and persist in prayer.