Friday, January 1

When You've Never Seen Prayer Answered Like This

This fall, when my husband’s co-worker approached him, it turned out that he didn’t want to talk shop. Instead he asked, low-voiced and private, if my husband would pray for his family. The month would come up short for them, their two incomes wouldn’t be enough. With hardy assurances and thanks, these two men parted from this brief disclosure one knowing well the worry and the scarcity and the other knowing not the role he would play.

My husband wasn’t so much invited to pray as he was invited to recline and watch the show of God. Though he did pray; he did wonder how the Almighty would hear and if his own hands needed to offer the help. Yet, it was more than my husband could provide and it seemed there wasn’t anything he was to do; no risky response, no severe solution. So, he did what he could -- he listened and watched.

At the same time, he had his own private wish, to see for himself the lavishness of God. How long and wide and high and deep could the provision, protection and grace possibly be? For months the question had echoed against the walls that guarded his doubts and God wasn’t appearing particularly arresting or excessive or lush. This is the place where the story met him.  

My husband was also working on crafting a sermon about prayer, about how telling stories of prayer encourages us to pray more. Settled in at the coffee shop where he studies, he took to the restroom and inside that small dark, room he found the response of heaven.  A quiet wrapper of cash, hardly hidden in the hand towels, with a barely legible note: “Do what you want… it’s your choice.”

That day someone we’ve never met, and may never, was listening intently to God. What was it that moved them to so randomly give? An abundance? A sacrifice? A letting go?  Were they giving thanks as they withdrew the fifties and hundreds? Were they mourning a loss as they tucked them into the envelope? Were they tearful as they scrawled the cramped words on the gift? We don’t get to know. We just got to watch. God was there in that restroom; working, renewing, and releasing one need to fill another.

I joined my husband that day, a rare afternoon when our work brought us together instead of apart. I spotted and lifted the envelope to make out the scrawled writing while he told me of his discovery. Immediately, he told me of his co-worker’s request and we knew at once that the money would pass through our hands to his. It was just the amount they were missing.

My husband went to work the next day, pulled his friend aside and said, “Look at how God has provided for you.” Through the joyful tears there were assurances. No, it wasn’t ours. Yes, it was truly found. Yes, it was meant for him. The lavishness of God displayed in the lavatory.  The loving answer for both of them.

Paul tells us in Acts 17 that God isn’t served by our hands. Our contributions are slight compared to his wondrous goodness and grace. He gives us life. He gives is breath and, Acts says, he gives us all things. We are comforted in our unrest knowing he’s placed us in our homes, in our cities, in our coffee shops in order to find his abundance exactly as we grope for it. Keep groping, my friends. He will be found. He is not far from us at all.