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The Prayer Answer That Shocked and Even Scared Me

April 27, 2014

Some people would call it a miracle.  Some would say it’s a coincidence that defies imagination.  The odds against something like this happening can lead you to one clear conclusion: that the mighty all-universal God can answer prayer in such a surgically specific way that it can frighten you.

Our classroom discussion centered around this very subject on Friday afternoon.

I had concluded our final notes on Hebrews chapter 11 – the Heroes’ Hall of Faith –  and we moved onto the subject of apologetics.  Our first discussion centered around the existence of God and I was on the third type of response that a Christian would give:  personal testimony.

“Do you talk about your personal encounter with God?  I mean, like the time you made your decision to follow Jesus?” asked Tyler.

“You could,” I replied.  “But the argument could be made that you’re basing it on a personal decision that would have nothing to do with the listener – they might claim it’s simply an opinion of yours, or your personal quirky way.  When I say personal testimony I am referring to a transcendent encounter that cannot be explained by the imagenatural world. ”

“You’re referring to prayer, I take it,” said Jay. “Answer to prayer, where people can see  the results.”

“That is the very thing I mean,” I replied.  “How many of you have had an answer to prayer that could not be explained away in natural terms?”

A number of hands went up around the room.

“Well, what about you, Dr. Zockoll?” asked Tyler.  “I know this is the response you teach, but do you personally have any experience yourself that you would tell someone?   An answer to prayer that is so far-fetched that’s it’s actually bizarre?”

“Oh, definitely,” I answered.  “Numerous times. But one sticks out in my memory – it was in my childhood but I remember it quite clearly.  And it was so specific in its answer that I think our whole family was speechless.”

“Can we hear it?” asked Tyler.

I nodded.  “When I was a child of about eight or nine, we lived in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  It’s probably one of the most beautiful towns in America and would have been an idyllic childhood memory except for the fact that my father left my mother for another woman.  When he left our family of six children, he also took his financial support.  We were poor, and I mean poor.  I can clearly recall the time when my mother folded a handful of pennies in my oldest brother’s hand.  ‘Don’t lose these,’ she said, ‘but go bicycle to the store and get a box of macaroni.  Nothing’s left in the cupboard.  That’s the only money we have left in the house.”‘

I continued. “There were times when only the kindness of local farmers kept food in our home.  Neighbors would leave baskets of rhubarb and fresh-shucked corn on our back porch, anonymously.  I recall us eating corn on the cob repeatedly.”

“Then came the day when all resources were gone.  Dad no longer stopped by the house and threw us grocery money or any support.  Mom was in a fix.  But Mom was a prayer warrior.  It was a Saturday morning, I recall, when she ordered all of us little ones to pile into the Volkswagen bus to get ready to go shopping.”

“Mom called my thirteen-year old sister Gwen back into the house as the rest of us headed toward the vehicle.  ‘Gwen, we’ve got to get on our knees and pray,’ Mom said.  ‘Your father is nowehere to be found and he was supposed to bring the money for the month’s groceries days ago.  There’s no food in the house and only God can see us through.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see your father again, but we’ve got to have food for the family.  Gwen, we’ve got to pray and ask God for a month’s worth of groceries to get us through.'”

“Gwen and my mother got on their knees in the front room of that country farmhouse and prayed deeply, but didn’t finish.  They were interrupted by a knock on the door.  Now, we lived quite a ways from town, so to visit our home was fairly unusual – we just didn’t get visitors.  Mom rose and opened the door to see an official-looking man on the porch.”

“‘Are you Mrs. Zockoll?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ my mom replied.  ‘May I help you?’

“He breathed a sigh of relief. ‘We’ve been looking high and low for you for months,’  he said.  ‘I’m from the local Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Holiday Parade last year.  Your family entered our Fall Festival Parade as a group, didn’t you?’  My mother nodded.

‘But that was in October,’ she said. ‘And this is April.’

The man nodded and shrugged. ‘We had a problem with our paperwork – well, the fact is, we lost the papers –  after the parade, but the judges remembered a funny little family of kids who entered as clowns and danced around, entertaining the crowd.’  He looked at my mom with an apologetic expression.  ‘I am so sorry it has taken so long, but the fact is, your family won third place in last year’s contest.  We finally found the paperwork and want to bring you the prize!’

‘Third place?’ My mother asked.

‘Yes,’ the man replied.  ‘As you may have known, first place prize was a motorcycle.  Second place was a television set….’  He motioned towards some workers unpacking aimage car.

‘But third place is a month’s worth of groceries!’

“As the workers piled the bags of groceries in the front room, next to where my mother and sister had been on their knees praying, Mom openly wept with joy.  Gwen ran and pulled us from the VW bus, excitedly telling us the news of how God specifically answered her prayers…

…and not only a general prayer of help.  Specifically a month’s worth of groceries.”

I raised my finger and gestured toward the ceiling as the class sat stunned.

“Listen, students, “I said.  “God didn’t answer the prayer after Mom asked.  He answered it while she was asking.”

“Wait,” said Jay.  “Those people had to have been in the car with those groceries heading to your house even before your mother started praying.   In other words, God knew your mom was going to pray that prayer.”

Justin grabbed his forehead.  “Whoa.”

“It is mind-numbing, isn’t it?” I said.  “God’s amazingly-specific answer to a poor mother’s prayer in lightning-fast speed.  It does more than embolden me – it actually frightens me that such a powerful God can be so incredibly personal.  This, my friends, is how I share a personal story of my encounter with a living, dynamic Heavenly Father.”

And I share it whenever I am able.

How do I know there’s a God?  He’s made Himself known in many personal and specific ways.

Amazing ways.

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