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Why I know God answers prayer

By Randy Hurst

In 1976, my wife, Ruth, and I began pastoring a church that was almost two years behind on its building payments to the bank. The church was struggling financially, to say the least.

During that challenging time, we once personally owed exactly $90. We needed it the next day. Ruth and I joined in prayer that God would send the $90. We told no one except the Lord of our need. The next day, we received two checks in the mail — one for $50 from my sister and brother-in-law, Merlin and Judy Mitchell, and one for $40 from our friends, Jim and Betty Hall. Both had felt impressed of the Lord days before to send the checks and both checks arrived on the very day we needed them, totaling exactly the $90 for which we had prayed.

God is a loving Heavenly Father who cares about every detail of our lives. The miracle of prayer is that the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator who is present everywhere wants to have a relationship with each person in His creation.

Many people struggle with the concept that God would concern himself with small details. But people who can’t comprehend such a relationship with God are making two significant mental errors.

First, they don’t understand the nature of God. They mentally create God in their image rather than recognizing that the opposite is true.

Regardless of how many resources are at a leader’s disposal or how many people are available to help him, he has the same number of hours and minutes in a day as everyone else. That is why people with many responsibilities have assistants who protect their schedules from trivial interruptions.

Influential people with many responsibilities have increasingly less time for details. Many people conceive of God as being like that. Of course, nothing is too big for God, but in some ways what is even more wonderful is that nothing is too small for Him. It is precisely because God is infinite that He can devote himself to the infinitesimal.

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, King David wrote:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.… For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.… Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”1

God knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we speak. Jesus taught us that God not only knows us by name but also knows how many hairs are on our heads.2 Nothing is hidden from Him.

The second reason many doubt that God concerns himself with the details of their lives is that they don’t understand the value of people. Again, King David said:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”3

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician and philosopher rightly observed that the greatest star or planet in the universe is of less consequence to God than one human being, because stars and planets have no capacity to know their Creator and worship Him.

When I witness to people who do not believe in a personal God, I find it helpful to share testimonies of specific answers to prayer in my own life.

In 1979, Ruth and I were serving as missionaries to the Samoan Islands. Ruth had major surgery with complications, and we were forced to return to the United States for a year. We were considering moving from Springfield, Mo., to St. Paul, Minn. We had no money for the moving expense. We needed the Lord’s clear direction as to whether we should even move.

We asked the Lord for both His guidance and His supply, praying that if God wanted us to move to Minnesota He would send us $1,000 the next day. The next afternoon a letter was in the mailbox from Wilbur and Mary Timme in Aurora, Colo. I did not recognize their names. They had been in a missionary service I had preached at First Assembly in Aurora. They had taken home one of our missionary prayer cards and began praying for us every day. In the letter they said, “We were praying for you today, and the Lord spoke to us that He wanted you to do something, and you couldn’t do it unless you had this.” They enclosed a check for $1,000.

The greatest divine interventions Ruth and I have seen in our lives have almost always taken place when we were pursuing God’s purpose in our lives, in obedience to His call, and recommitting our lives to His will.

Promises abound in God’s Word, but almost all of them have conditions. Staying in a guest room of a friend’s home, I noted a plaque on his wall that read, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.”4 But the rest of that verse is critical to the promise: “... to those who are called according to His purpose.” God especially works in the life circumstances of those who are committed to His will and purpose.

Proverbs 3:5,6 reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”5 Notice that God’s promise to direct our paths depends upon our trusting Him with all our hearts and acknowledging Him in all our ways.

My family is genetically predisposed to migraine headaches. My grandmother and father suffered for many years with them, as have my sister, brother and even my teenage nephew. In each case the headaches began at a different age. I did not start having them until my early 40s. At that time I began to have severe migraine headaches about every two or three weeks. Only people who have suffered from this ailment know how disabling they can be. In my case I had to stay in a darkened room for an entire day and sometimes longer before relief came.

I had suffered persistent migraines for several years when I was asked by the leadership of Assemblies of God World Missions to serve as communications director and a member of the World Missions Executive Committee. I had traveled in ministry for 14 years until that time. Thankfully, I had never dealt with a migraine at a time when I had to preach and never had to cancel a speaking engagement or service. But now I was facing the prospect of working every day in an office environment.

For more than a month I sought the Lord in prayer concerning His will about accepting the missions committee’s invitation. I received no witness of the Holy Spirit or confirmation from God’s Word. No other circumstances confirmed to Ruth and me whether it was God’s will to accept this ministry assignment.

I knew that others had worked in similar circumstances with migraines. But the prospect of working each day in an office never knowing when I might suffer from a blinding headache was something that gave me great hesitation and concern. I took this need to the Lord in prayer and simply said, “Lord, I don’t believe I can handle working in a daily office environment with these headaches, even though I know my father did for many years. I don’t know what Your will is. If this invitation is Your will, would You just do one thing? Please heal me of these headaches.”

As I came to the deadline for giving a decision to the executive committee, I felt God had confirmed that we should accept the assignment. That was in August 1997 — more than six years ago. I haven’t had one headache since. There is no doubt in my mind the Lord healed me of that affliction, an answer to a very specific but simple prayer of faith. Receiving such answers is a matter of trusting God with all our hearts and acknowledging Him in all our ways.

Every person has three lives — a public life, which everyone knows; a private life, which only our family and closest friends know; and a secret life, which only God knows. Jesus said:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”6

The time devoted to prayer — “in secret” as Jesus describes — is when our life of faith is formed in sincerity and personal submission.

We should never forget what a wonderful privilege we have to enter the Lord’s presence. God’s people, the Israelites of the Old Testament, could not do as we can. But through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, the veil of the temple has been torn from top to bottom to allow us access to our Heavenly Father through God the Son — Jesus Christ.

Joseph Scriven said it so well in what has become one of the best-loved hymns of the Church:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

I believe the most effective Christian life — a life of faith, peace, hope and joy — is available to those who seek God’s help daily for even the smallest things, not just in times of trouble.

Randy Hurst is Evangelism Commissioner for the Assemblies of God.

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1 Psalm 139:1-4,13,16, NASB
2 Luke 12:7
3 Psalm 8:3-5, NIV
4 Romans 8:28, NASB

6 Matthew 6:6, NIV

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