It’s a story I’ve told a hundred times, maybe more. I was young and broke, with an unpaid emergency room bill hanging over my head. The hospital had just called, threatening to send the charges to a collection agency. I was sitting on the floor, in tears, begging God for an answer, when the phone rang again. It was a friend and co-worker, calling to finalize plans for a girls’ night out.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, hearing the shake in my voice and the too-loud sniff.
I told her.
“How much do you owe?” I told her.
“Oh, I’ve got that. I’ll give it to you, and you can just pay me back.” God answered my prayer in an instant of grace.
But, in truth, in order to answer that prayer, God had to have set in motion a whole series of events leading up to that instant. God led me to the job where I met the woman. God threw us together as we became friends. God heard our early conversations about a girls’ night out. God sent her to the telephone to finalize those plans at just the moment when I was miles away, sitting on the floor of my apartment in tears. God was busy answering a prayer I didn’t know I’d ever pray before I even prayed it.
Jesus speaks very clearly, “…(Y)our Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). He knows our needs before we ask Him. More than that, in many cases, if not all cases, he’s already begun answering them.
That’s how God works. He doesn’t act in the time–hours and minutes, one after the other–the way we do. In our world, in our time, an answer follows a request. God doesn’t play by those rules. God reigns outside time, seeing all our befores, durings, and afters, and working for our good in all of them.
So, why “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Why bother kneeling if our “heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:32)? Those are big questions with bigger answers than I have fully worked out.
But I do know this: God desires our prayers. He wants to know that we know to trust him. And as we grow closer to God, so do our prayers mold more and more to God’s will for our lives.
When we consider, right now, that God is already at work, laying the groundwork in answer to prayers we may not pray until next week, next month, or next year, how can we not find ourselves in awe? How can we not want honor and love such a God? How could we not give thanks in advance?
His eye really is on the sparrow, friends, and we know he watches over us.