Sometimes I receive unexpected Facebook messages from people I haven’t talked to in a long time or from those I don’t know well. Some ask me about what it takes to be a writer or if I’d be willing to read something they’ve written. Others message me with prayer requests or life updates. But every now and then, I get a message of encouragement or unexpected good news. Someone thought of me, appreciated me, and simply wanted to tell me! Sometimes they want to know if I’ll use my gifts to minister in their church or ministry. It’s good news right out of the blue—totally unexpected.
Evangelist George Mueller was on a ship when a thick fog settled over the ocean. It was Wednesday, and Mueller told the captain he had to be to his destination by Saturday. “Impossible,” he said. Mueller then bowed in prayer. When he stood up, the captain asked if he too could pray. “No,” Mueller said. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second, I believe He has. And there is no need whatever for you to pray about it. . . . Get up, captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” Indeed, it had vanished.
As shots rang out, assistant high school football coach Frank Hall had to choose whether to run toward or away from the sound. This self-proclaimed “regular guy”—afraid of confrontations, heights, roller coasters, and scary movies, and who practically jumps through the ceiling when his kids startle him—chose to charge the gunman, his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!” The 17-year-old gunman, who had already killed three students and wounded three more in the school, was startled by Hall’s blitz. He shot at Hall, missed, and then ran outside, where police apprehended him on a nearby road.
Who do you turn to in moments of deep distress? Some seek the counsel and comfort of family—a spouse, parents, siblings; and some call on close friends. We appreciate the words of advice, but mostly the comforting presence of those who know us. It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to go it alone.
Jesus knew His Father couldn’t grant His request, yet He prayed it anyway. He had to die on the cross to save us, yet He still pled with His Father to take away “this cup of suffering” (Luke 22:42). Why did Jesus pray when He knew the answer was No? He prayed because of the sheer terror that lay before Him (Luke 22:44). Jesus prayed because prayer isn’t primarily about getting what we want. It’s about our relationship with our heavenly Father.
My husband’s job offer was a welcome answer to prayer, allowing him to spend more time with our family. It required a big move though—the third in 7 years. His work had previously taken us to the Middle East and South Africa, and now, with the prospect of returning to England, we felt cautiously excited. In the midst of all the logistics, important decisions, piles of paperwork that had to be completed, and the packing of all our belongings into shipping boxes, we also had an overwhelming sense of God’s “perfect peace.”
I’m a late convert to the Lord’s Prayer. Unlike others, I didn’t grow up reciting it regularly at church or school. Only recently have I discovered its power as a daily prayer. And when I get to the line “Give us today the food we need” (Matthew 6:11), three things strike me:
What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10-by- 15-foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.
Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.
O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.
In just a few short hours, my husband and I learned that— although our lives were soon to be united in marriage— we wouldn’t walk identical paths. We had been dating for over a year when each of our fathers entered the hospital on the same day, though in two different facilities. One man breathed raggedly in his final stages of cancer; the other lay bleeding internally on the operating table after an open-heart procedure—two lives hovering between heaven and earth. The next day, one remained; the other did not.
Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.
My first roommate in college didn’t seem to want to be friends. He listened to music with his headphones on and stared at his computer all day, and nearly all night. He didn’t want to joke around or share a meal. We rarely spoke for the first few weeks. He simply didn’t want to interact.
A newly elected senator vows to be a new kind of politician, but by the time he runs again he’s in the pocket of special interest groups. An actress goes to Hollywood to star in wholesome movies, but soon she compromises. Both started out trying to reach the world, but instead they lost their way.
Not long ago I was certain that God was moving my husband and me in a specific direction. Two different sources, without consulting one another, encouraged us to pursue the same opportunity. So we did. Doors flew open as we kept moving forward. We were encouraged and excited, for what we never thought would happen was coming together right before our very eyes. As we bathed the whole process in prayer, God seemed to be honoring our requests. Until the eleventh hour, that is. That’s when the final door was slammed shut in our faces. We were shocked, and felt cheated and tricked by God. There was absolutely no way to make our dream a reality.