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(we'll keep this short & sweet)
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Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him! Where now is the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.
– James Gilmour of Mongolia
I stood nervously in the barely-moving line, clutching a manila file folder tightly in my hand. My heart was beating fast. Eric and I had driven an hour to make a personal appeal at a government office on behalf of the little girl we were trying to adopt from Korea. There was one major step left in the paperwork process, and we had been told that this step could drag on for weeks and weeks, or even months.
I knew that every week of delay was another week without having our daughter home where she belonged. My heart ached at the thought of being separated from our little girl for additional weeks or even months simply because of slow-moving paperwork. I’d asked our adoption agency worker if there was any way to expedite it. She only shrugged. “You can hand-deliver it to the government office and ask them to speed things up,” she said, “but I really don’t think it will do any good.”
But Eric and I decided to try anyway. Instead of mailing in the paper, we drove to the government office where we planned to hand-deliver it, along with a personal letter of appeal asking them to expedite the process for us. But now, as we waited outside the huge, ominous building for our turn to approach the glass partition, I began to question whether it had been a good decision to go to all this effort.
I had imagined walking into a professional office and sitting down with a friendly employee and pleading for his or her help. (I had even brought a cute photo of our soon-to-be daughter to add a heart-warming touch!) Instead, I realized we were going to have to stand outside in the crisp winter air, talking through an intercom to a rushed, stern-looking woman who was sitting behind a glass wall. How could we possibly garner her sympathy when we couldn’t even look her in the eye? And, to add to the awkwardness, she was obviously anxious to be done with us and move on to the next person in line. It was clear that the staff had been taught to treat everyone like a number and that “human connection” was not part of the protocol here. The whole situation felt hopeless.
Silently, I began to pray. “Lord, it seems like a long shot for us to receive any kind of special favor in a place like this. But I know that You care more about this little girl than even we do. I ask for a miracle right now. Make a way for this paper to be expedited, against all odds.”
When our turn finally came to stand in front of the thick glass window, I pushed the intercom button, took a deep breath, and plunged into my story. (Eric and I had decided that I should be the one to make the appeal from a mother’s perspective!) As the unsmiling woman squinted impatiently at me through a small circular opening in the window, I held up my letter of appeal and said, “We are adopting a special-needs baby in Korea who needs to get home as soon as possible. Is there any way that you can expedite this paper so she doesn’t have to wait for weeks or months to come home?”
Before I had even finished my second sentence, the woman was shaking her head. “We don’t expedite.” Her voice was flat and final. My heart sank. But just then, the woman’s supervisor — who just happened to be an expecting mother — overheard the conversation. She came over to the window and asked to see my letter of appeal. I quickly slid it through the document slot, holding my breath as she read it. As she skimmed it, she reached for a nearby phone. “Let me make a call,” she said. She spoke a few words into the receiver and then looked up cheerfully. “Okay, it’s all set. You’ll have this paperwork back within a week.”
I couldn’t hold back an ecstatic smile as we walked to our car. We had just witnessed God perform a miracle on our behalf. What had been impossible only moments earlier had been made possible by His power and grace. He had made a way where there seemed to be no way. I was awed by His faithfulness. Throughout the adoption process, in small ways and big, we had seen God answer specific prayers time and time again. And now we had just witnessed yet another demonstration of His willingness to hear and answer prayer.
Eric and I hadn’t always taken these kinds of needs to God in prayer and faith. For the first ten years of our marriage and ministry, our prayers were broad and general. We avoided bringing specific needs and requests to God, because it felt too presumptuous and even unspiritual to do so. Shouldn’t we just let God do what He wanted, without bothering Him with a big list of bold “asks”? And what if we brought needs to God and He didn’t answer our prayers? Wouldn’t that cause us to become disillusioned in our faith?
But several months before we started the adoption process for our daughter in Korea, God began to stir our hearts toward bolder, more specific praying. As we studied His pattern for true prayer, we began to realize that boldly and persistently bringing our specific needs to Him was far more biblical than keeping our prayers wimpy and vague. We began to embrace the principle of 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” Simply put, God was eager and waiting to show Himself faithful on our behalf. We only needed to give Him the opportunity to do so.
This seems like such a basic concept, yet in our modern Christian world it can be one of the most difficult spiritual truths to apply. Doubt toward God has become trendy and hip in the modern church. We are often taught that we should accept doubt as a normal part of the Christian life, and that it’s foolish and unrealistic to expect big things from God. In many churches, it’s more acceptable to sing songs like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” than old classics like “Victory in Jesus” or “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” People who talk about God showing Himself strong in their lives are often seen as the rare exceptions. Some churches even host “Doubt Nights” where people get together for the sole purpose of venting their doubts toward the Bible’s promises and their disillusionment toward God. It reminds me of the words of Christ in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Because doubt is so widely accepted — and even embraced — in many Christian circles, it can feel like an uphill battle to trust God and stand boldly on His promises when it comes to our own daily needs. We don’t often expect to see miracles. Many of us even feel sheepish and unspiritual at the thought of praying boldly for a miracle. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that He longs for us to give Him the opportunity to show Himself strong on our behalf. In spite of all the “doubt noise” that swirls around us, we must ask ourselves the question: Are we willing to be among the few in this generation who will give Him that opportunity?
If you have situations in your life — big or small — that are in need of God’s miraculous touch, I’d like to share some key reminders that can help you experience His power on a daily basis.
One of my favorite stories from Gladys Aylward’s life took place during her daring journey across the mountain ranges to lead over one hundred Chinese children to safety during a war. After weeks of near starvation, crossing treacherous terrain with small children on her back, and trying to keep hidden from enemy gunfire, Gladys was exhausted and emotionally depleted. So when the tired group came to a swelling river and found they had no way to cross it, she fell to her knees in despair. She was at her wit's end. They couldn’t go forward, and they couldn’t go back. Enemy gunfire was sure to hit the area at any moment. And she and the children couldn’t last much longer without food.
One of the little girls had an idea. “What about when God parted the Red Sea for Moses and the children of Israel?” she asked Gladys, “Why can’t God do the same for us?”
“Well, I am not Moses,” Gladys said wearily.
“Yes, but God — He is still God,” the young girl replied confidently. Those words filled Gladys with faith to ask for a miracle. She was able to take her eyes off her own weakness and the impossibility of their circumstances and simply remember who God was — the God of miracles, the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
She and the children prayed together that God would part the waters and allow them to cross the river. And God heard their prayer. Within a few minutes, a Chinese boat filled with friendly soldiers unexpectedly appeared and took Gladys and the children to safety.
When we face seemingly impossible obstacles in our lives, the key to seeing God’s power is taking our eyes off our circumstances and our own weak faith, and fixing our gaze squarely upon Him — upon His unchanging power, might, and faithfulness.
And the Bible makes it clear that we can pray boldly and expect to see God’s faithfulness for each and every need, just as our spiritual heroes did. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (Jms. 5:16-18).
Goulburn reminds us, “The greatest old or new testament saints were on a level that is quite within our reach. The same spiritual power that enabled them to become our spiritual heroes, is also available to us.”
The Bible is filled with reminders to never forget all the ways God has shown Himself mighty on our behalf, such as in Psalm 103:2: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
I have found that one of the most effective ways to remember God’s faithfulness is to keep a record of His work in my life. I journal His answers to my prayers — big or small — and then when I am in need of a boost of fresh faith, I look back at the many ways He has shown Himself powerful on my behalf. I’ve known others who have built “piles of stones” to commemorate something God did in their lives, just as God commanded the Israelites to when they entered the Promised Land. (e.g. Write the date on a stone whenever you see answered prayer, and keep adding to the collection of stones with every significant demonstration of God’s faithfulness in your life.)
When you are tempted to question God’s power or willingness to meet your needs, take a moment to remember who He is. When you bring your requests before God, you are bringing them before the very same God who parted the Red Sea, multiplied the fishes and loaves, raised the dead, and calmed the raging winds and waves. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And He is ready and waiting to show Himself strong on your behalf.*
Before Eric and I were married, Eric needed money to buy an engagement ring. He felt the time had come to propose to me, but he was living on a missionary’s budget with no spare cash for a ring. Eric began to pray daily for God to meet this need. One morning, he woke up early with a strange expectancy in his heart. He felt in his heart that God was about to show Himself faithful in a mighty way, and he was joyfully eager to see how the miracle would unfold. Later that morning, through a strange series of events, he put his hand in his coat pocket and discovered a thick wad of money, along with a note that said “He is Jehovah Jireh” (which means “God will provide”) and a picture of a ring.
Many of us are hesitant to live with that kind of expectancy — eagerly watching and waiting for God to show Himself faithful and answer our prayers. Yet this is the kind of childlike faith that God honors. “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5).
In Otto Koning’s message entitled “God Enjoys the Impossible,” he poses the question: When has God done the last miracle for you? Every time I hear those words, I am convicted. So often, I don’t eagerly expect God to work on my behalf — though I have seen His faithfulness in my life time and time again. Yet there are times when I don’t even think to take my needs to Him. I’m all too quick to rush to an earthly solution or fall into discouragement and despair — forgetting that I have a faithful Father who is eager to meet my needs when I place my hope and expectation in Him.
Practical Tidbit: One of the best ways to live with expectation toward God is to meditate daily on His promises. I have a list of five or ten key promises from Scripture that I have memorized and regularly dwell on. I often apply a specific promise to a specific need in my life, and each time I pray for that need, I state the promise that I am standing on from His Word. This is an incredible faith-booster, and I find that it helps redirect my heart into a state of joyful expectancy — watching and waiting to see how He will answer my prayers.
Amy Carmichael quoted the poignant words, “A single sin, a sin that we do not intend to renounce, is enough to render real prayer [ineffective].” Sometimes the biggest hindrance to seeing God’s power at work in our daily lives is disobedience. Psalm 66:18 reminds us, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear,” and James 4:17 tells us, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (NIV).
If it seems like your prayers are going no further than the ceiling, I encourage you to let God search your heart and reveal any areas of willful sin or disobedience that you may be allowing into your life. If your prayer life is being hindered, there may be ungodly patterns, habits, or attitudes that God wants you to confess and renounce, so that you can walk in unhindered intimacy with Him.
Practical Tidbit: For more about walking through this process of soul-searching and how this impacts our prayer life, I encourage you to listen to the message “The Spirit of the Humble” available for free download at BraveheartedChristian.com.
God doesn’t always answer our prayers immediately. It’s easy to assume that delayed answers are God’s way of showing that He is disinterested in our needs or unwilling to meet them. But think for a moment about the story of the Canaanite woman who cried out to Him on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter. At first, Jesus walks along as if He hasn’t even heard her. He seems to be completely ignoring her. But she continues to bring her request before Him. Then the disciples ask Him to send her away because she is causing a disruption by continually crying out to Jesus. Jesus listens to the woman’s request and then replies, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ... It is not right for Me to take the children’s meat and cast it to the little dogs.” I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty clear no from Jesus. He doesn’t seem interested or willing to meet the woman’s need. But she continues to ask and appeal to Him on behalf of her child. “Yes, Lord,” she replies, “but even the little dogs take from the crumbs of the children’s table.”
Instead of becoming angry with her persistence, Jesus praises her. “Woman, great is your faith!” And He grants her the desire of her heart. (See Matthew 15:22-27.)
God sometimes delays answering our prayers because He wants to test and grow our faith stronger. The problem is that we all too often give up at the first sign of delay, assuming that we need to look somewhere else for help. But all throughout Scripture, we see that God always shows Himself strong toward those who continue to ask, seek, and knock with relentless passion and pursuit.
When you bring a request to God but aren’t seeing immediate answers, don’t automatically assume that He is disinterested or unwilling to be your very present help in time of need! Follow the example of the Canaanite woman who would not give up, but continued to cry out for His help even when He seemed to not hear or respond. And soon you will hear Him say, “Woman, great is your faith! May it be to you as you desire.”
Also, be sure you are praying with a surrendered heart. If God chooses to answer your prayer in a different way than you expected or wanted, be willing for Him to have His way. He will always choose what is best for us. If He doesn’t answer in the exact method we hoped or envisioned, He will answer in the way that is most right. And in the end, we will find that His ways truly are perfect, even if they don’t make perfect sense to us in the moment. (See Psalm 18:30.)
When has God done the last miracle for you? If you take a close look at your life, you’ll discover that He has been faithful — far beyond all that you could have asked or hoped for.
Are there areas of your life that need a miracle? Remember the God you serve. His eyes are searching throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him. Are you ready to give Him the opportunity He’s looking for?
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