This past Easter, my husband and I celebrated the holiday with our two sons and their families at the home of one son and his wife. Driving home the following afternoon, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant that is in a major shopping area about an hour from our house.
Pulling into a parking space along the front of a restaurant, we went into the restaurant to eat. Returning to our car after our meal, my husband turned the ignition switch, but nothing—–absolutely nothing—–happened. Not even a single light appeared on the dashboard. We tried various things that we knew to try, but they all produced the same result. Indications were that our car had a very dead battery.
“Luckily,” though, we weren’t far from an auto parts store, where a battery could be purchased. But “as luck would have it,” our foreign make car requires a special battery. Additionally, while the terminals for the battery are easily accessible, the battery itself is hidden away in an obscure place. On top of that, whenever the battery is disconnected, the car’s computer system must be reset. Replacing the battery would have to be done by professionals, not by us.
“Luckily,” though, we weren’t very far from both the car dealership and the garage that my husband uses when necessary. But then, “as luck would have it,” the time was after 6 p.m., and they were both closed. Their help would not be available until morning.
Thus far, our “luck” did not appear to be holding.
Our next option was to try using jumper cables to jump-start our car, so that we could at least drive home. But there was no one in the parking lot to ask for help.
“Luckily,” though, we had an auto club membership that could supply us with the jump that we needed. But “as luck would have it,” after dialing the auto service’s number and waiting for ten minutes in their telephone queue, we were suddenly disconnected.
“Luckily” though, a restaurant employee, willing and able to take a few minutes away from his job, agreed to use his vehicle to jump-start our car. So after rolling our car out of its parking space and pushing it over to the curb, the two car batteries were hooked together.
But “as luck would have it,” the jump was only slightly successful. The dashboard lights now came on when the ignition switch was turned, but the engine still did not make a sound. The attempt had only been able to rejuvenate the battery to a small degree. After several more tries without further improvement, the employee returned to work, and we returned (figuratively speaking) to the drawing board.
Running out of options, we decided to call the auto service number one more time, despite the previous disconnect. “Luckily,” though, this time we got through the automated answering system to talk to a person. The woman on the other end of the phone listened carefully as we explained our situation. Then she suggested that we skip having her send someone to try to jump-start the vehicle, since that had already been tried, and that we go straight to having her send a wrecker to tow our vehicle to the car dealership, where it could sit overnight. We agreed, and she quickly confirmed a plan with a local towing service. But “as luck would have it,” the wrecker service wouldn’t be able to get to us for seventy minutes. We would just have to wait.
But our problem, appearing partially solved, wasn’t over yet. We still needed a way to get home. So while we waited for the wrecker, we called our son, who “luckily” lives relatively close to where we were stranded. Also “luckily,” he was home from work, available and willing to be our taxi service. Arriving a short time later, he helped transfer our personal items from our vehicle to his. Then the three of us waited for the wrecker’s arrival.
After ninety minutes had passed, the woman with the auto service called us back to check on our status. Learning that we were still waiting, she then checked on the status of the wrecker. But “as luck would have it,” the wrecker had been delayed and wouldn’t arrive for another twenty minutes or so.
“Luckily,” though, while we continued waiting, our son remembered that he had a pair of super-sized jumper cables in the particular vehicle that he “luckily” had driven that night. He suggested that it might be worth using them to try to jump-start our car one more time while we waited. The larger diameter cables, having less resistance to current flow, might provide sufficient power to start our car’s engine, something that the standard cables had been incapable of doing. He also suggested (having “luckily” read the recommendation somewhere) that we allow the vehicles to simply sit for a few minutes, once they were connected, before attempting to start our car. The idea contradicts the traditional jump-start procedure of minimizing the time that the two batteries are connected, but we decided to give it a try.
So our son’s vehicle was turned on and the batteries were connected. While we stood talking, the cables did their job, transferring power to the battery that was in need from the battery that had ample to give. When the ignition switch in our car was turned, the engine started right up. It had received what it needed: a super charge.
We rejoiced, of course, at the “lucky” turn of events. But beyond the happy ending, there is more to the story.
When we had first discovered that our car would not start, we had prayed, asking God to start the engine in order to get us home. While my husband continued trying to start the engine, I continued asking God to start the car. But the words that I came to pray were specific words that had come to mind during the prayer. I asked (and kept asking) for “the power transfer that we need.”
When I asked, God could have supernaturally transferred power from Himself to our car’s battery to alleviate our problem immediately. But He didn’t.
For quite some time that evening, the prayer appeared to be going completely unanswered. In fact, nothing appeared to be going right. We did everything that we knew to do, to no (apparent) avail. Our prayers didn’t appear to be any more beneficial or effective than our “luck.” The immediate result that we had hoped to receive from the prayer just did not occur. The longer that time went on that evening, the more our hope of receiving the answer that we wanted faded into the background of events. By the time that the wrecker had been called, we had essentially given up all hope of driving our car home that night.
Then, when we least expected it, the power transfer that we needed (the one for which we had prayed) came. It came in a way that we could not have anticipated. It came through our son, who “luckily” lived nearby, who “luckily” was available to give us a ride, who “luckily” had driven his vehicle that contained the heavy cables—–the cables that he “luckily” had purchased once upon a time for just such a need.
It came through a tow truck that was late, an auto service employee who skipped over the standard procedure, a good Samaritan whose efforts were insufficient and a disconnected phone call. It came through all of the “it didn’t work” ideas that had come to mind to try.
“The power transfer that we needed” came through all of the “negative” results that, on their own, had not helped… except to lead us to the next step. The answer to our prayer and need had been in delivery the entire time, from the moment that the prayer had first been made. We just couldn’t see it coming.
We had wanted and were looking for immediate relief. But the set up that we needed to walk through, in order to get to the solution that God had prepared for us specifically, was a process apart from what we were expecting. The process in which we were unknowingly immersed was itself our answer. Every step that we were led to take, though appearing fruitless, actually moved us closer to the desired result.
Sometimes in life, we have the “good luck” of experiencing our prayers being answered immediately, as we hope them to be answered, and we rejoice. But sometimes the answers are a long time in coming, arriving in ways that we could never have expected, causing us to rejoice all the more at their arrival.
The reality of both immediate and delayed answers to prayer are explained in the Book of Daniel. In chapter nine, the angel Gabriel, sent to deliver the answer to Daniel’s prayer, tells Daniel that “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (Daniel 9:23a)
But in the very next chapter, a different situation arises when the answer to Daniel’s prayer is delayed in getting to him. The one delivering the answer to Daniel explains the delay. “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come to respond to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the prince of Persia. Now I have come…” (Daniel 12b-13a)
The delay was not God-desired, but a result of circumstances that had to be overcome. Our son, unbeknownst to us, had been equipped (prepared ahead of time by God) with the provision that we needed to solve our problem. But unaware of that fact, we had no reason to call him for help… until we needed a ride. That was the point to which God had been delivering us all along: the connection point between our problem and our solution.
Man’s knowledge is limited, but God’s is not. God works outside of time and space, going ahead of us to prepare our deliverance in advance of the adversity that is coming our way. He knows where we will be and what we will need every moment of our lives. Nothing takes God by surprise. If we have a problem, God has a solution. The solution, though, doesn’t always look the way that we envision it.
When what we see doesn’t match up with what we expect, it is due to our limited perspective, not God’s indifference. While God is busily maneuvering us through our limitations, we may not be able to see our answer coming any more than Daniel could see his.
Actually, there is quite a bit that we can’t see, such as why some answers (as we define them) to prayer never seem to come. We want to know why a loving God doesn’t simply “poof” us out of our problems, as a fairy godmother would do. But to limit God to being a fairy godmother would limit the eternal unseen Goodness that God provides behind the scenes, limiting His actions to our vision.
God’s ways are far greater than our ways, incorporating both the needs and provisions of many into the situations of each one. In doing so, God strengthens our connections to one another, as well as to God. If we focus only on the details (especially the ones that aren’t going the way that we want them to go), we can miss the big picture. We can allow the obvious to keep us from seeing the unexpected.
Sometimes (many times) the answer to our prayers (the “boost” of assistance that we need from God) is bigger (much bigger) than we realize. Sometimes we need more than that for which we even know to ask. Sometimes we need to persevere through circumstances that don’t appear to be changing, except maybe to worsen. Sometimes we need to lay aside our limited understanding and ask God for a glimpse of His vision. And sometimes we need to step purposefully around our own disappointment to trust in God’s vision for us.
God’s provision to our every need is always present, initiating the very prayer that jump-starts our faith to action and sets the delivery process in motion. With every step of faith that we take, we step further into God’s provision for us, empowered through our God-provided connection to Him. Empowering the words that we pray, God strengthens our faith in His faithfulness, delivering us into greater trust of God. Prayer is “the power transfer that we all need” in every circumstance in life.
When all was said and done that night in the restaurant parking lot, it was the bigger cables that saved the day, while we stood by, relaxing–—doing nothing but allowing the cables to do their job. It was the connection that mattered.
And in the end, our connection to The Source of all power is all that will matter.
To stay connected, pray; and pray to stay connected. It works both ways.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)