Prayer is one area I desire to develop further in my personal life and ministry. It is an area where many people feel inadequate. One of the great needs of our ministry is for men and women to support us in prayer. I would like to share an experience with you that has encouraged me in the area of prayer and perhaps will cause you to be more diligent in this area.
It was in California several years ago, shortly after Christmas and the death of my father. I became very introspective as I waited for classes to resume at Talbot Seminary. My mind remained preoccupied after I attended my father’s funeral. “I often think how unfair life is sometimes,” I remember telling my older brother. “Dad had such a complete transformation of his life that I wish Mom could have shared in it with him.” She had died right after I graduated from high school. I knew it was great that Dad died a Christian. Still, I couldn’t help but consider how wonderful it would have been if they could have experienced the joy of knowing Christ together before they died.
My mother had always had a deep respect for church and the Bible. I wondered why she had never become a believer. No doubt her self-consciousness—for one reason or another—kept her from church. But I didn’t know what kept her from trusting Christ. The more I thought about it, worried about it, and the more depressed I became. Was she a Christian or wasn’t she? I had to know. But how? I thought it was an impossible request, but I prayed, “Lord, you know that I’m miserable.. . .all I think about is whether Mom died as a believer or not. I have to know, Lord. Somehow, give me an answer so I can get back to normal.”
The next morning I drove to Manhattan Beach, mostly to clear my head and get my mind off my obsession. The weather was pleasant for January, so I parked the car and decided to walk to the end of a pier. Several people were fishing; I all but ignored them. Any other time I would have been eagerly sharing Christ and chatting with them. I was too distracted to talk to anyone that day. I remember staring out into the dark water. A woman fishing there noticed me daydreaming and began to talk to me. She was friendly and soon had me engaged in lively conversation. As we talked, we shared where we were from, and to my surprise she was familiar with my hometown—Union City, MI. But that wasn’t all—she said she had a cousin there, in the McDowell family! I almost couldn’t believe my ears!
She went on to introduce herself to me as my mother’s cousin. She had been brought up with my mother and father in Idaho. She asked me why I was in California, and I told her about attending Talbot Seminary. She was familiar with it, and told me she had been a Christian most of her life. She began to recall old memories. My curiosity about my mother peaked, so I asked about her spiritual background. She answered, “Your mom and I were just girls—teenagers—when a tent revival came to town. Your mom and I went every night. It was quite a big thing for our small town. It was so exciting!” Then she added, “I think it was the fourth night—we both went forward to accept Christ.” “Praise God!” I shouted.
I grabbed her hands and squeezed them. I told her she was an answer to a seemingly impossible prayer! Then I told her about the prayer I had said the day before. We talked on for two hours. Then we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers, and promised to visit again.
This was such a specific answer to prayer. I knew God had designed these miraculous circumstances to let me know about my mother’s decision. Tears of joy ran down my face as I thought of the reunion my parents were having in heaven. I can honestly say that this episode in my life has caused me to believe in God more and to believe that He wants to answer our prayers—and He will!
Until the whole world hears,