Thursday, February 4, 2016
Most of the time, I don't even know
I awoke in the predawn darkness Monday when all the shadows were still even asleep. I looked at the clock and groaned not just because of the hour, but because I was simply awake, very awake. My heart was troubled by something I could not identify. I tried rolling over in an effort to fall back to sleep. Nothing doing.
I slipped out of bed, closed the bedroom door, and made a pot of coffee. What was causing this uneasiness? I had no idea. I owned up to obvious sin in my life, speaking when I should have not, not saying anything when I should have, perhaps having missed a turn on my path that I should have taken. LORD, have mercy on the "should have's" in my life. O God, do not let regret dominate my life but Your redeeming.
Nothing obvious was coming to the surface, but as I prayed, I felt the tension in my heart loosening, like a tight knot being worked out. I prayed for family and friends, each as they came to mind.
As I left for the clinic where I volunteer, I thought momentarily about checking traffic on Google maps. No, I thought, turning left is always the quickest way, avoiding the early morning school traffic. But within a couple miles, all traffic came to a standstill, the cars forming a ribbon of red braking lights. I lamented not going the other way. Getting to the first major intersection usually takes me about four minutes. This morning, it took me twenty-two. And I still had a long way to go.
I should have gone the other way. I should have left earlier. I should have checked traffic. But before I could descend too far into my "should have's," I asked the LORD to redeem this time. I turned off the radio. I continued to pray for those who rose to the surface of my thoughts. When I arrived at the clinic, I texted an encouragement to a friend who lives 500 miles away, "Praying for you this morning."
A few hours later, she texted back. "Thank you for your prayers, for following the Lord's leading in that...somehow I didn't connect it until right now."
In her text, she related that at 6 a.m. as she was passing through an intersection on her way to the train, both a semi truck and a car flew through a red light. "Had I not paused," she said in her text, "I would have been killed...I saw what was happening and waited!"
"You must have been praying then," she added.
I know that God is not restricted by time, nor by my mistakes, nor by my ignorance. I know that God's hand is not powered by my praying nor limited by the puniness of my prayers, but God uses prayer in deeper ways than we can know. I thought back to my uneasiness in the middle of the night. Was my heart just being urged to pray?
Most of the time, I don't even know for how specifically I need to pray. A good bit of the time, I don't even see the visible outcome of God's hand when I pray. All of the time, I have no idea God's deeper purposes. But I do know, based on James 5. 16, "The prayer of the righteous has great power in its effects." I don't have to know how prayer works, but just to know that God does. God's power in this world is not limited by my understanding of what He is up to.
God brought my friend to mind. I prayed for her, not even knowing what I was praying for. I thanked God for her, for our friendship, for His mighty hand in bringing her to Christ, for her testimony in her job, for how sweetly she loves everyone God places on her path.
I had no idea what was about to happen. Indeed, if I had not prayed nor texted her, I would have missed it all, not having known the shield God had ready and waiting, not realizing His power in the intricate details of an ordinary day, an ordinary winter's morning on the way to the train.
We are the ones who are missing out.
"If you lower the ambient noise of your life and listen expectantly for those whispers of God, your ears will hear them. And when you follow their lead, your world will be rocked."
-- author, pastor, and speaker Bill Hybels in his classic book Too Busy Not to Pray (1988).