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Prayers and Answers
How Do You Recognize Answered Prayers?
One day last year a friend of mine - who was a Christian - asked me, "Sarah, when you pray about things I hear you say "God told me" or "God showed to me...", How do you know the voice of God? If I pray, how will I hear Him, and what if I have and didn't know it?"
I thought about my response and simply told her about my own personal experiences. I told her that the more she studied the Word, she would find an abundance of information about prayer. I could go on for many days about prayer and all of its perfect power, but my answer to her was this;
"God speaks to me in my dreams. He illustrates things, like years ago when I became frustrated because I was praying ardently for someone, and the situation only seemed to worsen. I told the Lord I was tired, and that night I dreamed a robin toiled to build her nest, fattened herself, sat on her nest, laid her eggs, and sat on her eggs for three days. Then she flew off never to return. The eggs grew cold and died. When I awoke, I said out loud, "I get it. Keep the eggs warm until they hatch..."
"The secret of prevailing prayer is to pray until the answer comes." -Wesley Duewel; Mighty Prevailing Prayer
My next answer was, "God speaks to my mind...have you ever prayed for something, or you've had a burden or a concern, and suddenly, when you least expect it a "thought" pops right into the front of your mind? I mean, a thought so clear, and you know you didn't place it there. That's the Lord."
And I added, "Some people call it their gut, but mine is the Holy Spirit. When I (the Holy Spirit within me) discern a situation and I get that "gut" feeling, I know the Holy Spirit within me discerns it for me. I always go with my "gut"! It has never been wrong.
Another way the Lord speaks is through visions, which I have had two: one in youth and one a few years ago. A vision is like a movie that plays before you...some call it a wakening dream. Many people receive signs from the Lord; something to demonstrate His presence, His plans, and more. God demonstrates His presence in my prayer life all the time by sending me confirmation through others, without their knowing.
And yet another way God communicates with us is through His glorious voice. I have heard the voice of the Lord only once...physically heard it. And it was strong, yet soft. My Mother had Lupus and I was trying to work, care for my mom, and go to college full time! I was in a fix, and I cried out, asking God what a girl is supposed to do when she cannot do everything! He simply said, "Your mother has cared for you. Now it is time for you to care for her." I was astounded. So that is exactly what I did. I put my mom first, and Praise the Lord she is still here today!
Many people have many experiences communicating with God. God always answers my prayers, sooner or later, one way or another. My friend was delighted. She told me, "I have heard Him...in my dreams and the "thought popping into my mind". I knew it wasn't me, and my prayers were being tended... no one ever explained it to me."
Prayer changes lives and people and moves the world. Prayer is sometimes an untapped resource. Prayer is one of the driving forces of my own life. I pray like most people daydream, talk to themselves, or brainstorm. If you see me pausing out in public, guess what? I'm praying about something. I pray when I drive, when I laugh, when I am grocery shopping, and just about everything else a person does on a daily basis. Some people appear to be attached to their cell phones most of the time - well I'm attached to God. Once I learned I have God's ear, it was on from there!
It is common for strangers to approach me in public. They just walk up to me and begin. The other day my kids and I were in WalMart when a lady approached me. She stopped in front of me and said, "My brother is dying of cancer. He is so young, in his early thirties. He is in the hospital again and he's going through treatments. They are horrible. I love my brother..." I hugged her and said, looking her in the eyes, "What is your brother's name? (I know God already knows his name, but it helps me). "Craig," she answered. And my reply was, "I will pray for Craig, and I will call the prayer chain. We will pray for healing." We hugged again and she grinned. Then we went our separate ways and continued shopping.
For me, anyway, this is a very familiar scene. I am never shocked by what I hear, and I know what to do when the Lord presents me with someone. Pray! And I do! Sometimes, I feel their burden, and when I do I give it to the Lord. I lift their sorrow or their pain up to God. He receives it, and the burden is gone. I rarely get a follow-up on the requests and prayers of these individuals. But once in a while....WHOA.
My favorite example from this year is the story of a man I know. Bob is in his 70's, and a precious person. He is a man of few words. One day I saw Bob and immediately perceived he was upset about something. I did not pry. Later I saw him again and he said, suddenly and with tears in his eyes, "I am so sorry Miss Sarah that I have not been cordial today. I have received some terrible news. My grandson and his wife are expecting my first great grandchild, a son, and lately things have not been well. The baby is sick, very sick, and also has severe downs syndrome. Tests show the baby's health is rapidly disintegrating, and now there is talk of terminating the pregnancy so as not to risk the life of my grandson's wife! I am so hurt - we are hurting. We are so scared, and to think this baby will not live...."
The Lord nudged me during Bob's plea, and I knew what to say. "Bob, let me tell you a story." (He looked at me as if to say "What??") This is a true story about a little boy who just finished kindergarten as a straight A student. A little boy that is mine. When my son was in my womb, he, too, was extremely ill. He had two rapidly growing cysts inside his brain - cysts which could cause death before he was born. He also had a growing cyst on the base of his umbilical cord, and it was preventing my son from being nourished. Well, I and others prayed for healing. I prayed hard. I never cried. I asked for healing, but gave my prayer to the Lord, asking that His will be done. I knew that my next doctor's visit would otherwise involve some grim decision making. My next visit arrived, and the doctor was speechless. My son was absolutely perfect. Not a cyst in sight!! That doctor looked at me and said, "Someone has been praying for this child, because there is no medical explanation!" Bob, I am going to pray for healing, and you pray for healing too! Now you hear me when I say that as you walk out the door, I will be praying for this baby!"
Bob pointed his finger at me and smiled, "Miss Sarah that is exactly what I needed to hear today. I'm going to go call my grandson right now! I'm going to share your story! We will pray for healing."
The next day I received a phone call. I didn't recognize the voice. It was a man and he was shouting. I finally realized it was Bob. He said, "Sarah!! I had to call you!!! We're at the hospital having tests done and I am here to tell you this baby is PERFECT! This baby is HEALTHY! This baby has been HEALED! (He was crying at this point) I can't talk much - just had to thank you, and praise God!"
Intercession. It is fundamental to God's work in our lives. I take my job as a prayer warrior seriously. Prayer comes naturally. If you develop the habit of praying, it transforms your life, and then the lives of others. Prayer is the mechanism, the power through which God works on so many levels. Intercessory prayer is so important for those whose human limitations overwhelm them. It is nice to know others pray for you or a loved one. It is nice to know God hears us, even better if He hears us through ourselves and others. It is a comfort.
I have only scratched the surface with my own experiences concerning intercessory prayer. I would love to hear your stories. I have long wanted to write a book about prayer, and include the act of this spiritual gift. Answered prayers are some of the greatest faith-builders I know! If you don't believe me, ask someone if they've had an answered prayer. Feeling overwhelmed? Find me in the grocery store. I will pray with you! Do people approach you with their burdens? Hallelujah! Prayer works! Make it a habit. Pray as freely as you breathe. God is always listening.
This is just a small example of God's continuous work in our lives.
Prayer is, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "the trading of the heart with God...it is the cannon set at the gates of Heaven to burst open its gates!...True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the Throne of God. It is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance, but a spiritual commerce with our Creator."
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:22
"I pray on the principle that wine knocks the cork out of the bottle. There is an inward fermentation, and there must be a vent!" - Henry Ward Beecher
"No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but that he suffers much from it." - Guy H. King
"If people were right with God and loved Him truly, they would pray as naturally as they breathe." - Spurgeon
"The prayer of the feeblest saint on earth who lives in the Spirit and keeps right with God is a terror to Satan." - Oswald Chambers
"Prayer blesses all things, brings all things, relieves all things and prevents all things. Every thing in every place and every hour is to be ordered by prayer. Prayer has in it the possibility to affect everything that effects us." - E.M. Bounds
""Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6