Do you ever pray to God about something, knowing that He has the power to answer your prayer but not really expecting that He will?
We just finished up an awesome Sunday school study at Grace based on J.I. Packer's book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. If you, like me, live in the middle of a hay field, way out in some sparsely-populated corner of rural Northwest Tennessee, you probably find that opportunities for evangelism are limited. I just don't run into very many people on a typical day!
So, in working through this study, one of my prayers has been that God would provide opportunities for me to share the gospel with others. Another of my prayers as been that when God does present these opportunities, I will actually recognize and act on them. I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes - you know, completely miss the obvious until, too late, my 20/20 hindsight kicks in. And I have been praying that when a clear opportunity arises, I will not be afraid or hesitant to take it.
I really have been trying to do a better job of keeping my eyes wide open.
A couple of weeks ago, an unfamiliar car pulled up in our driveway. I figured someone was lost and needed directions. As I headed out the door and down the front steps, an elderly woman got out of the car and walked over to meet me. "Can I help you?" I asked.
The woman's husband climbed out of the car and came to join her. "Yes," she answered, "We are looking for someone to talk to who likes to study the Bible."
I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. Talk about a clear opportunity! I couldn't have missed this one if I'd had my eyes squeezed shut! I was so excited that I felt like I was going to pop.
"Oh, I love to study the Bible!" I replied. "Come up here on the porch where we can talk!"
Vernon and Delores and I talked about the Bible for almost an hour - about who Jesus is, about God's sovereignty, about why the world is so messed up, about sin and our need for a Savior. We read Scripture together, and more Scripture. They asked lots of questions, and I asked them lots of questions, too.
Finally, Vernon stood and turned toward the steps. "We really do have to be going, Delores." He reached for his wife's arm. "Can you tell us how to get to Reelfoot Lake?" he asked.
After I gave Vernon directions to Reelfoot Lake, Delores asked, "Could we come back and talk to you again sometime?"
"Absolutely," I answered. "I would love to talk with you again." I gave her my phone number and told her to call me next time they were out this way.
I don't know if Vernon and Delores will ever come back or not. I do know that I prayed for a clear opportunity to share the gospel with someone, and I know that God answered that prayer by sending someone - two someones - right to my doorstep.
There have been other prayers I have prayed, however, that God has not answered so clearly or so quickly. Sometimes, God's answers have been so subtle, so gradual, that they were almost imperceptible. Sometimes, the answers have come so long after the initial prayers that I foolishly assumed that God either didn't hear or did not intend to answer.
Then, when He does answer, after months or years of what seemed to me to be silence - that feels like Christmas morning, too. Or maybe more like Christmas in May, because it takes me so completely by surprise.
1 month ago