Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Praying and Seeing Answers

For a while now I have been using prayer cards in a system I borrowed from Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life. That is a book I'd recommend to anyone by the way. I have a card for every member of my family, a number of cards for missionaries, cards for friends, cards for extended family, a card for the elders, and so on. I don't pray for every card every day, but some I do, and all the others are in a short rotation. On each card, I usually have a scripture or two that I pray for that person or persons, and any time there is a special need, I write it down with the date. And when the prayer is answered, I write that down, and how, and the date.

This may seem small, but the more I keep track of how God is answering prayer, the more I want to pray, and the more I want to be specific. My cards record specific answers that give me hope and courage to pray. They also record times when God's answer came but it wasn't what I wanted. Even so, I don't feel as if my prayers were not heard--they were, but God gave a better answer according to his perfect understanding.

I think that many of us may have a pretty weak prayer life because we cannot point to specific ways that God has answered prayers, even if the answer is "No," or "not now." And I think many of us expect that God ought to give us an answer (preferably the one we want) rather quickly, after all, we feel as if we would be wasting our time if we keep asking.

Recently I was looking at my "Special Needs" card, which is full to overflowing and needs replacing (I save the old ones so that I'll remember what I prayed about). I saw the place where I wrote down Mike Kane's name, as he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. And then I have the date he came to the elders for healing prayer. Then I have the date when he was getting his transplant (the answer we thought was going to extend his life). And finally, I have the date he left this life and was "fully healed" in God's presence. Some might look at that and say, "but God didn't answer our prayers." Oh, but he did. I will never forget Mike's response after we had prayed over him and he talked about the Lord's presence in that moment, and the strong encouragement he received from the Lord. I want to always remember those months of waiting and seeing Mike's confidence in God and his comfort that God was working. I'm so grateful to remember that he had no real pain in the illness, and even when the transplant went badly and he was taken home to be with Christ, we could know that this was God's answer and was great for Mike, even though Alisa, the family, and the rest of us had lost him here. We learned so much.

And that same night we prayed for Brian Nester, and God has seen fit to keep him with us. And then there's the name of the wonderful young bride who weathered a year of treatment for leukemia--I have dates written down for her, too. 

The elders have joined together to pray for all our members (yet another reason to join the church), and we've divided the congregation into a list where one third of you are prayed for by one third of us each month, and then we shift. We've had reports of how God has used that prayer time, and I can tell you that as I have prayed for some of you, God has either given me a chance to talk to you and hear how God is working, or I've prayed and then found out God has done something in your life--and it's not that he needs my prayers, but he chooses to work in and through them, and I get to hear about it and see it! 

The elders also have been meeting on Monday mornings for special prayer for wisdom to lead this church, and I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been to do so, even though it's at 5 am! God continues to guide us, and to protect us from our own foolishness! I try to bring my notebook to keep track of how we pray, and how God may answer. 

Could I encourage you to consider doing more to keep track of your prayers, and their answers? As you do, and you review them, you will be reminded that God is still hearing and answering prayer, and that may be just the nudge you need to pray even more.