“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2, NLT).
What does prayer look like? If you watch movies, like I do, you see Hollywood’s version of prayer. There are funny attempts at prayer and serious prayer in “The Apostle,” in which Robert Duvall cried his heart out to Jesus. There’s also a prayer scene from “War Room” in which a woman prays for the Lord to raise up Christians. In both of these movies the emotion is real and raw.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, so prayer was not something I was exposed to, except on Christmas Eve or during dinners at a neighbor’s house. I’ve never really thought about my prayer life now that I’m a Christian—I just know that, when I pray, I literally talk to God like He’s right there.
It is humbling when the Lord answers your prayers. Years ago, our small group kept a prayer journal. We would write our prayers down and go back, each week, and ask if the prayer requests from the week before had been answered. In those weekly moments, I took those small answered prayers for granted. I found it very powerful when we looked back at the journal, years later, and realized how many of those prayers were not only answered but how the Lord was present, every step of the way, in our lives.
One thing that I’ve prayed for, for fourteen consecutive years, was that the relationship between my brother Mike and our entire family would be healed. There were many tearful prayers about how I missed him terribly. There were many prayers of anger and frustration in which I shouted at God for allowing a woman to come into Mike’s life who led him to abandon our family. There were also prayers in which I asked for forgiveness for being angry at this woman and many prayers for my heart to be changed towards her. I believe that nothing is stronger and more powerful than praying for someone towards whom you hold resentment. In my opinion, the Lord uses those moments to soften our heart and draw us closer to Him. He didn’t allow me to harbor resentment and anger towards her after I prayed for my heart to be changed. I have prayed for my brother Mike and his new family for many years.
The Lord answered those prayers two summers ago—after fourteen years. That’s a long time! Did I stop? No. Did I give up hope? Yes, sometimes. But, in the Lord’s perfect timing, I received a phone call from Mike. The phone call brought on happiness and a peace that I can’t begin to explain. We met later that summer and we hugged and cried together. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Then, the Lord allowed me to meet my niece and nephew for the first time. Seeing them face to face, and hearing their voices, was like nothing I can describe.
Now, years later, many phone conversations, several visits and vacations to meet them, and texts in which he asks me to pray for them or someone they know, are treasured like gems.
Another Prayer Answered
We were on our way home from vacation right after my relationship was mended by the Lord. I texted my brother to wish him well on a court hearing he was a part of. He quickly texted back and it was obvious that he was upset. I texted back these words: “We can come and be your support team.” His reply: “Third floor lobby, yes, please come.” Fourteen years of praying … and waiting … and the Lord put me in a place where I could be there to support him. So we waited in the lobby as the lawyers met and made arrangements. I prayed quietly; my brother paced and talked and paced some more. The lawyers came out and said that he received everything he had hoped for. Another prayer answered.
What’s on your prayer list today? Have you given up hope? If so, I plead with you that God is there listening. It could take years to know His answer to your prayer. But isn’t it worth it to reach out and know that He listens and His plan is WAY bigger than ours could ever be? Trust Him.
Challenge: Start a prayer journal and write down your prayers. Check in weekly, monthly, yearly, and see how God has answered them. Go one step further and log those answers next to your original request in a different color ink.
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer” (Romans 12:12, HCSB).
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, NIV).
I invite you to join us for the “Be Constant in Prayer” conference at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Lansing, Mich. on Saturday, February 2.
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