FOR ME, PRAYER is a bit like American football. I’m not talking about desperate Hail Mary’s, but how—after more than two decades in the United States—my understanding of the game is inversely proportional to the amount of time I spend watching it. The more I am exposed to it, the less I get it. Same with prayer sometimes.
Having said that, there have been a couple of football plays through the years where I caught a glimpse of what was going on. For a few moments all that running around in different directions gelled enough for me to trust that someone has a strategy for all that’s happening, even if I am not sure.
It’s been the same with prayer, on occasions. Like the time many years ago when I sensed God had something new in my life, maybe a major change of direction. One evening I felt nudged to read Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Noodling on that, it seemed to offer me a three-step plan for guidance. If God had a new place for me, first I’d need an address. Then I would need to search it out, and finally gain access. So I simply asked God to send me an address.
The envelope arrived the next morning. In it was a letter from a missionary leader with whom I’d had some previous contact. He was asking me to consider leaving my job in England and join his organization to start a communications office.
And so began a two-year process that led me to Amsterdam and ten years as a missionary-journalist. The address came surprisingly quickly, to be followed by a longer season of confirming this call with my home church. Then, raising the funds to support me in the volunteer position—the seeking and knocking. Several times along the way, that same Matthew verse was offered to me by other folks blissfully unaware of its significance.
Then came another unexpected twist a few years later. It required a decision whether to relocate to a new base of operations in Colorado Springs, in the U.S., despite my love for my new homeland. What to do? I hummed and hawed, pros and cons lists in hand.
As the indecision dragged on, I got frustrated. One day, while praying, I felt God tell me to let go and trust Him because He would make it really clear. Okay, I decided, that’s fine. But then I got to wondering just how might He make it abundantly obvious? It occurred to me that one way He might do that would be to send someone entirely independent and ignorant of the situation to talk to me about Colorado Springs.
Later that same day I was finishing work at my offices in the center of Amsterdam when I heard footsteps coming up the back staircase. Two men I did not recognize passed on the landing, no doubt just the latest in a stream of frequent guests to use our center’s hospitality suite at the top of the building; I paused to welcome them and introduce myself.
So where are you from? I asked.
Colorado Springs, in the United States, the first man told me. I’m a pastor there.
And so, a year later, this pastor welcomed me to his church as I made my new home in America.
Not everything has always been as clear in the years since, for which there are no doubt many reasons. But I remember those two situations with gratitude in times when everything seems a bit chaotic around me.
God is calling the plays, even when I don’t see it.
Photo credit: stevendepolo via Foter.com/CC BY