To Pray or Not to Pray: Chapter 2
Chapter 1 was just high lights from fifty-four years ago. Looking back I can see God’s footprints in my life even when I was running from that reality. I now recognize God’s interventions in close encounters with death and in finding the right help when I needed it at a critical turning point. Whatever God is, once we open our eyes to that which is beyond our understanding, we recognize a power that is active within us unfinished people in an unfinished world. And that power is in the tiniest and seemingly insignificant and in the awesome and seemingly impossible.
I realize now what hubris it was to think that because I (or for that matter, anyone else) could not understand God, God couldn’t exist. We explore the universe, we grow ever more understanding of our bodies, we create awesome machines that mimic analytical thought, but what we don’t know or understand is exponentially greater than what we do. Guys, we don’t have a clue. And once we accept that, our hearts and minds can open up to an inner journey far beyond our personal human limits. And we don’t have to understand it to experience it and let it be used for good.
Prayer is one of our greatest mysteries. And all through human history and in our Christian Scriptures prayer has been our way to reach beyond our seemingly natural limits.
After I opened my heart and mind to the person of Jesus as the tangible expression of the unconditional love and infinite power of God, I began to experience answered prayer beyond anything I had ever expected. About a dozen of us from different denominational backgrounds began to meet to pray, read Scripture, and share our new spiritual journey. We were all experiencing new understandings and a closer relationship to a very present Jesus, but I was experiencing some things that others who had never questioned their religious upbringing were not. The fact is that rejecting pretty much everything religious I had been taught or even heard of, actually freed me to expect to experience the whole shebang we read about in Acts. I went from believing nothing to believing everything.
It started in small, but unexpected ways. One morning, I had already set up everything for an after school birthday party for my eight year old son, so I could go to my weekly bridge luncheon with friends. I dropped my children off at school and was coming back past my house on the way to the luncheon, when I simply felt a strong urge to stop and go into my house even though it would run me late. I started to ignore it, but thought maybe somebody was calling me about something serious (only land lines back then). So, I stopped and went in my back door where I discovered the kitchen door to the basement garage was open. As I hesitated, our six month old German Shepherd puppy and two other neighborhood dogs came running through the kitchen from the living and dining room where wrapped presents were on the floor, platters of cookies and bags of candy were on the low coffee table and a loosely covered cake was on the dining room table. The only thing disturbed so far were the balloons bouncing around the rooms from the racing dogs. As I coaxed the leaping happy dogs out of the house and secured it, I was literally in tears of gratitude. To my total amazement, I realized that God cared about the small stuff!
For months after my new spiritual journey began, I was overflowing with joy and wanted somehow to share that joy with others. One day I was raking leaves in my front yard and asked God for a chance to share the “good news” and I thought of a couple I knew who were having marital problems because of alcohol abuse. As I stopped raking to go visit them, a neighbor two doors from me called to me from her porch inviting me up for coffee. I apologized, asking for a raincheck since I was about to go visit the couple. The neighbor was a beautiful woman with two delightful young children and a banker husband who seemed very kind. She pretty much had everything. I went to visit the unhappy couple and they were not the slightest interested in the “good news.” The next day was Sunday and I was standing in my driveway waiting for some friends to take me to their Sunday school class to share my story. The same neighbor called down, again inviting me to come over. I apologized saying I was going to talk to a Sunday school class. She walked over to me asking what I was going to talk about. I told her that I was going to share about asking Jesus to be my Savior and Lord and what joy and new understandings that had brought me. As my friends pulled into my drive, she took hold of my arm saying, “Please, please come tomorrow and tell me about it.” I guess because experiencing rebirth wasn’t new to the Baptist Sunday school class, they were not very interested in my story, wanting only to ask why Catholics worshipped Mary. Since, I never had, I couldn’t help them with that. The next day when I shared my story with my affluent neighbor, with tears of joy she asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord.
Sometimes when we have everything the world offers, we realize that it isn’t enough.
After this experience, I decided to invite my other neighbor over for lunch and to share with her. She belonged to a very large Church of Christ and my witness made her nervous. She was polite, but fled as soon as she could. The next Sunday afternoon, she came to see me wide eyed. She said, “Eileen, we had a visiting preacher this morning and he said all the same things you did!”
God really does seem to be in the timing.
But God doesn’t just rescue or use us. God is constantly teaching us. At Christmas my father-in-law always gave us a side of beef. Some friends with seven children were starting a business and money was in very short supply. So, my husband and I decided to share some of the beef with them. Now, I knew all the Scriptures about sharing and loving others as you loved yourself, but as I loaded a basket with hamburger, pot roasts, and some round steaks, every time my hand hovered over the sirloin, ribeye, and T bone steaks, I drew it back. I dearly love those steaks. I rationalized that the cheaper cuts would stretch further with seven children. So, I didn’t share any of the more expensive steaks.
The next weekend, we took our children to a state park that my husband had designed, since we could stay free in one of the cabins while he did a final inspection. I had left the garage door up a little over a foot so the cat could come and go. All seemed well when we returned until I went to freezer in the garage to get meat for dinner. The bottom two shelves where all the expensive steaks had been were completely empty. Nothing else was missing.
I got the message.
I asked God’s forgiveness, but also admitted that I would really, really like to know how He did it.
A day later a friend who lived a couple of blocks downstream on the creek that ran through both of our yards called and told me excitedly about all the mysterious expensive steaks her dogs were happily devouring in her back yard. So, now I knew where the steaks went, but not how in the world they got there. But as I walked into our back yard to look around the creek, our next door neighbor came over and mentioned that she had seen the three-year-old from across the street crawling in and out of our garage over the weekend. Evidently frozen steaks make great boats to float in a creek and only the expensive ones were in her reach. I was so relieved she hadn’t managed to climb into the freezer, I didn’t even begrudge the dogs the steaks. And a couple of years later I gave the nuns at the Catholic school where I taught several nice steaks along with hamburger. When they tried to give me the expensive steaks back and just keep the hamburger, I assured them with great conviction that I really, really needed to give them the steaks too.
Sometimes, I do get the message.
Next Chapter: Much more complex, immediate, and mind boggling answers to prayers.