Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7
There are so many Scriptures on prayer power. The Scripture above just happens to be one of my favorites.
I don’t know about you, but I pray and pray and pray for my son, Joel, who has autism. Many times I do not see specific answers to those prayers.
And yet, the Scriptures proclaim prayer's power, again and again:
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14
So, how do we jive unanswered prayer with what the Scripture says about prayer?
I’m not going to get all theological here, but my understanding is that we live in the “yet but not yet” – the time between Jesus’ coming, death and resurrection, and the time when He comes again. God’s Kingdom came to earth with Jesus - and we've been given supernatural power to pray through the Holy Spirit - but the Kingdom won't fully come until the Second Coming. Until then, Satan is still at work in this world, and his machinations sometimes get in the way of our prayers being answered.
Does this mean we stop praying?
I love the way my pastor, John Richter of the Oxford Vineyard, explained it last Sunday. He talked about that famous verse where Paul says he prayed three times for a thorn in his flesh to be removed. Finally, God answered him, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
John said his understanding of this verse is that we are to keep praying until the Lord tells us to stop praying!
One of my most frequent prayer requests for Joel over the past ten years has been for him to live a happy and fulfilled life as an adult. We’ve always believed that Joel should live as independently as possible, so when he was 25, after much prayer, we helped to establish a farm for adults with autism, Safe Haven Farms. Although this farm is a fantastic place with many opportunities for those with autism, it wasn’t a good fit for Joel. Behavior – Joel’s main source of communication – went downhill. After five years of non-stop prayer, we moved him into a home of his own a year ago. We’ve watched him blossom ever since!
Sometimes something has to break in order to find the piece that needs to be fixed. And sometimes answered prayer looks like chaos at first, until we can get the bigger picture of what God is doing.
This was also the case with Joel’s day program. I wrote about it last month in a post entitled "A Day Program Without Walls." When Joel’s county-run day program was shut down because of a federal ruling, we began to put together an independent day program. Talk about prayer! I was constantly before the Lord with a one word prayer – help! It was scary, stepping out into new territory, putting together a totally independent program (Joel is the first person in our county to go this route. Many thanks to his team that helped make it happen).
One of Joel’s new jobs is tending to three vending machines. The machines were graciously given, by the parent group of the closing day program, to The Oxford Vineyard Church to use as an outreach job program for people with disabilities. Joel’s duties are to buy snacks and soft drinks, fill the machines, collect money from the machines, and deposit the money in the bank (he has staff to help accomplish these tasks).
As Joel and I walked through Kroger a few days ago, we passed the candy aisle.
“I need to buy candy for my machines,” Joel said.
Trying to keep my excitement to a minimum so as not to interrupt his train of thought (Joel rarely talks), I said, “Oh yeah! You have vending machines to take care of!”
“Yeah. I put candy in them. Need to buy pop.”
I grabbed the basket tightly with both hands to keep from jumping up and down. “I bet people really like buying stuff out of your machines!”
By now we were in the frozen food aisle. Joel looked at me – full eye contact – and said, “I get money from my machines. I like my job.”
By this time I was almost dancing down the aisle. We had no idea up to this point if Joel really liked the vending machine job or not. I couldn’t help it—I clapped my hands! Joel looked at me like I was crazy.
How long have we been praying for Joel to find satisfying work? I’ve lost count. So often it seems we take 10 steps forward and 5 steps back. I’ve often asked, “Where are you in this, God?”
But I’ve never stopped praying. The Scriptures tell me that God answers prayer. I realize my prayers will not always be answered in the way that I think they should be. God knows the bigger picture. His heart for Joel is much bigger than my heart for my son. And I also realize that Satan has more than a toe-hold in this world. The Scriptures say that he is the prince of this earth. He will try to block my prayers whenever possible.
But Jesus vanquished Satan with his death and resurrection, and when He returns, God’s Kingdom will fully come.
Until then, I will never stop praying—for Joel, for my husband, my other two sons, my adopted daughter, my daughter-in-law, my grandson, my church, my extended family, my community, my nation, the world.
Today, I give thanks for prayer power, and for this answered prayer—a job that my son loves.
You can read more about Joel and my faith journey at my website, Glimpses of Grace