I did it again. I almost got God in trouble. This time it was over the way prayer works.
My husband and I recently chose to retire in the sunny Southwest, 1500 miles from our former home. Since we lived so far away, we purchased our new home, a mobile home fixer upper in a seniors’ community, sight unseen.. We did all the right things: had family check it out, paid to have it inspected, and did a virtual tour with the sales rep. Nevertheless, a few problems remained and, despite our efforts, were slow to get fixed.
Several issues hinged on one critical repair that we couldn’t seem to get resolved; the outside water shut-off was stuck. Without that, we couldn’t replace the hot water heater, fix a shower head, or attend to the broken water line in our refrigerator. If you can’t turn off the water to the house, you can’t fix the water problems on the inside.
Maybe we could fix house issues better once we moved, we thought. But, once we were in our new home, we still hit road blocks. Finally, Alan the park manager, arrived on our property two days after we’d arrived and spelled out the reasons for the hold-up.
The old pipes leading to the shut off valve were old and corroded, he explained. Furthermore, three other homes in the park had similar issues and there was a water main break on the street west of us. Worst case scenario: water to all 645 units in the park might have to be shut off while pipes and valves were fixed or replaced. Everyone could be without water for a minimum of 3 hours, possibly several days.
We had contracted with a plumber to replace the hot water heater two days later, so we felt the pressure of time. Besides, water, especially hot water, is a necessity, right? Let’s get this fixed, okay?
Alan said he would try a simple solution first. He would spray some kind of compound into the water line to hopefully loosen it up as a first step. He was not optimistic.
Sometimes my confidence in God’s power to do anything spills out of my mouth before my brain can kick in to stop my words. “Would you mind if I pray that it will work?” I blurted.
Alan paused. “Sure. You can do that. I’ll take whatever.”
I nodded with enthusiasm. “You got it.”
My husband stood behind me. “I will too.” At least I had his support.
Alan shrugged. “That might be helpful. I’d appreciate it.”
I’d already taken the plunge. Let’s dig it deeper. I grinned. “We have a powerful God.” After all, prayer works. Right?
But, this time, what if it doesn’t?
What had I just said?
As Alan disappeared around the corner of the house, I panicked. Did the poor man think I had to call on the Almighty because I doubted his ability to solve the issue?
Worse yet, what if the compound didn’t work? I had no clue about Alan’s level of faith or how his outlook on praying about silly things like stuck water valves. I had put God’s reputation for answered prayers on the line and I’d better figure out a slick answer to cover for any silence from above.
“Oh Lord,” I prayed. “Either You need to make that stuff work or you’ll have to give me the words to explain why You don’t always answer prayers the way we’d like them answered. Sure, it would be convenient for us to get that water line fixed. I’m tired of waiting and wading through house problems. I want to nest in my new home. But that’s not really what’s bothering me. I don’t want this guy to lose confidence in You.”
My concern was legitimate.
Many people come to that crossroads of faith, wondering why God didn’t answer their prayers. It’s a higher level of faith to understand that God answers in his time and in his way. It takes faith to trust that when something doesn’t go the way I want it to, God still cares about my well-being and has an overall plan to take care of me.
Could I put that heavy duty theology in terms Alan would understand or that he would have time or inclination to consider?
For an hour, I fretted.
I really need to work harder at finding out where people are in their faith before I go putting God’s reputation on the line.
Finally, I relinquished. “Lord, you know Alan’s heart better than I do. You do what’s best. And yes, can I ask you to fix that water line? I know you can.”
An hour later, Alan rang our doorbell. He said nothing. His thumbs up hand gesture was enough. I returned the signal and closed my door, happy that God answered my crazy presumptuous prayer and relieved that I didn’t have to explain God’s choices.
Why did God choose to answer prayer about a stuck water valve?
God cares about water lines, lost keys, and other creature comforts. But He cares most about strengthening our trust in His ability to provide.
Check out the various stories of how the recipients of Jesus’ healing touch responded to the miracle. Some praised God. Others walked away. Many times, Scripture doesn’t mention any kind of reaction. Then there were times that a miracle happened but the vast majority of people in the crowd had no idea that Jesus had been the instigator.
John’s gospel tells the story about Jesus’ first recorded miracle. He was at a local wedding feast and poor management caused a shortage of celebratory wine. Jesus’ ever proud mother told Jesus about the shortage, assuming with all confidence that he could fix the problem. He did but only his mother, disciples, and the servants who filled the water jugs knew that Jesus had turned water into wine. The clueless steward of the wedding feast declared the wine the best of the feast.
The story ends with the note that Jesus’ disciples “believed in Him.” The miracle wasn’t necessarily for the bridal couple and their guests. Instead, it was for those watching on the sidelines who needed a faith strengthening example of Jesus’ divine power. While it was convenient to have the wine, Jesus’ action gave strong evidence to His identity as the Messian, the divine Son of God.
Answered prayer proves God’s existence, power, and love for us.
God is not a magic genie or indulgent grandfather who gives us whatever we selfishly want. He is not a vending machine where we insert our money, push a button, and get whatever we ask for at the touch of a button. God intends his answers to build our faith so we will be more inclined to turn in obedience to Him and trust Him the next time He does need to delay response.
And it is not all about us. God’s answer are as much for others as they are for us. Those who watch our struggles will grow in their faith when they observe God answer our prayers or when they witness our trust and confidence as we wait for God’s best timing.
Why pray about the small stuff?
I think it is just wonderful the way God can use the seemingly small and insignificant events of our lives, good, bad, or inconvenient, to shout His power and love and display His glory. He can and does use the everyday ordinary like not enough wine, stuck water valves or all kinds of small stuff as stepping stones for both us and those who watch us.
So the next time you hesitate over praying about something seemingly small, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What could an answered prayer for lost keys get you besides finding lost keys?
- Strengthening of your own faith and trust in God’s care for you.
- A story to tell.
- Renewed gratitude for what you have.
- Evidence of God’s interest, power, and love to those watching you: whether a child, an unbeliever, or another Christ follower who needs a reminder of God’s love that day.
- A launching pad to pray more deeply for those watching you.
This story is not over and I shouldn’t be done either. Now that I’ve had that interaction with Alan and I saw God’s intervention to our water problem, I’m going to now pray that God keep bringing people and situations into Alan’s life that will build his faith in God. Yes, I hope we can have more meaningful conversations with Alan. But I’m also content to let God bring other people of His choosing into Alan’s life that will bring this man to full faith and obedience to the lordship of Christ.
In the meantime, I’ll be extra grateful for my next hot shower.
How has God answered a recent prayer you’ve prayed? Who has watched you? How can you now pray for their faith?