Lately, I have been studying the power of prayer and how God responds to and answers the prayers we pray. There have been instances in my life where I will pray for something to come about in my life and within a matter of minutes, sometimes days, the prayer is answered, either in the positive or negative. But it is answered.
However, when you look at the circumstances, one would say, “It’s just a coincidence. Those events were going to happen anyway. Your prayers did nothing.” I’ll admit that there have been times when I have been tempted to say the same thing.
Recently, my mind and my heart have been changed concerning that.
There is a doctrine among some believers that is know as the “efficacy of prayer”. In a nutshell, this doctrine states that, while God does have a master plan that will be realized in the end, He has left Himself some “wiggle room”, so to speak, that allows Him to answer the prayers of those who pray to Him without violating His own nature and without making any major changes to His overall plan.
I read recently an essay by C.S. Lewis called “The Efficacy of Prayer”. In the beginning, he discusses a day where he intended to get his hair cut for a trip to London, but decided against it once he learned he was not travelling to London. But all throughout the day, he kept getting this nagging feeling to go the barber and get his hair cut. Upon entering the barber’s shop, the barber told him, “Oh, I was praying that you might come in today.” Apparently the barber had need of C.S. Lewis that day for some trouble and if Lewis had not come in that day, but rather a day or two later, he would have been useless to his friend.
Now, was Lewis’ coming to the shop and answer to the barber’s prayer? Or was it just coincidence that Lewis decided, in the end, to get his hair cut that day?
Another example is brought from Brandon Hatmaker’s book, The Barefoot Church, in which he relates the story of praying for God to provide him evidence that He was working in Brandon’s Church, Austin New Church. As he finished the prayer, a clearly disheveled couple and their two kids walked into the church. Brandon came to know their story, that they were a family that one of the Restore Communities in his church were aiding them (both parents were HIV positive and the father was dying of AIDS) and the family wanted to attend the church.
Coincidence that they happened to come to church the same day Brandon prayed his desperate prayer for revelation of God’s Hand in his ministry? Maybe. I mean, the family was already coming to the church before Brandon ever prayed that prayer.
But when I read that story, it brought a verse to mind:
“‘…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.'” – Matthew 6:8; KJV
In this verse, Jesus is telling us that God already knows what we need before we even begin praying. I believe that is what happened here with Brandon.
God knew that Brandon would need some kind of encouragement from outside Austin New Church. He led the Restore Community to care for this family, who then asked if they were a church and then asked if they could come to their church. They just happened to come to Brandon’s church, ANC, the day he desperately needed a sign of encouragement from God.
I could give countless examples that I know of, but then this post would take forever. One last one that I will share is from my own personal life:
A few years back, I was struggling with accepting the bitterness of the death of Christ, that bitter sweet tragedy of the King of Kings dying on the cross for me. I had been travelling with a performing group and the church we were attending that Sunday was taking communion, so I prayed that, in taking part of the cup, I would taste the bitterness of the death of Jesus. Of course, when we took communion, the drink was bittersweet, just what I had requested of God.
When I shared this with my companions, they said that the church probably does that intentionally and that it was miraculous answer to prayer. Again, I believe otherwise.
While it may be the church’s tradition to do that, I believe that years ago, God knew that I would be in that church needing to taste the bitter sweetness of Christ’s sacrifice, and so orchestrated events so that I could taste that bitterness right when I needed it the most.
I would like you, my readers, to share your thoughts on this. Have you encountered similar events in your life?