Do I believe God answers prayer? Absolutely! I pray often and for many things, protection, provision, solutions, etc. But there are some answers to prayer which shape our relationship with God and those are the ones which stand out in my mind.
When I was 10 years old I went to camp for two weeks. I didn’t know anyone else who was going, it was the first time away from home and the girls in my cabin chose to use me as their victim for emotional abuse and ridicule, someone who was on the “outside” so they could define themselves as being “the cool ones.” Even the counselor wanted to be one of the cool ones and joined their side against me. I believed there was a God and I didn’t have anyone else to turn to.
“God, please, please help me!” I prayed in desperation.
Now I determined at some point of time in my childhood when I had been spanked for crying that I would not cry anymore, but this situation was beyond my resolve. I thought I was all alone in the cabin and I started to cry. One of the girls came back to the cabin and saw me crying.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I want, I want, to go, home,” I said between sobs.
I never intended to let anyone know how much I was hurting, but the atmosphere changed significantly after that. The girl must have reported what she had seen to the others and perhaps most of the girls still had a conscience because they were kinder for the remainder of the week. I knew God had heard and answered my prayers. He had sent the girl back to the cabin to discover me. He had enabled me to cry. He had moved their consciences. He really did exist and He even cared enough about a little girl to answer her prayer. This gave me the desire to know Him better and prepared me for the time three years later when my brother would present me with the gospel, the fact that this God did indeed care about me, so much that Jesus had died on the cross for me and that I could receive Him as my Savior and have a relationship with Him.
Fast forward twenty-five years to one of the darkest times of my life. Using an emotionally and spiritually abusive pastor, Satan convinced me that I was an arrogant rebellious bitch who could never be obedient enough to my husband and who could never really please the Lord. I remember sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to be seen for unexplained hives that would break out all over my body.
I looked into the corner of the room and cried out in my soul, “Lord I want to know what You are really like.” Did God answer that prayer immediately? No, I was in a situation in which it was very hard for God to speak to me. There was an imposter in my life. Someone who claimed to speak for God and to act in His behalf. As long as I believed that lie, my viewpoint of God was skewed. But God never abandoned me. He whispered to me. He worked with me and eventually He freed me from the imposter and I came running out of bondage with the deep desire for relationship with the real God, having seen the imposter for who he was and wiping his face off the face of God. But that prayer, the exact place, the deep desire is all etched in my memory as a very important prayer, one that God continues to honor and answer. I think it is a prayer that He appreciates and would have everyone pray. I hope others don’t have to be in the same straits I was in to pray that prayer!
There is another prayer I also prayed a few years later when things had gotten even darker. The imposter had determined that I still had too much spirit. He wanted all the members of his church to have a nice car. From His point of view, having a parking lot full of nice cars was part of what defined him as a successful pastor. He had pointed out to my husband a car just being released, an Impala SS. Since it was just a Chevy, we should be able to afford it and it looked cool and had a big engine, etc. Just a few days before my birthday the car my husband ordered arrived. It had been 15 years since we had bought a car and it was pretty exciting. I had a chance to drive the new car for several months, but the pressure my husband was facing from the imposter to forbid me from driving the new car won out. We still had our old car, so I could still get groceries and drive my sons to the doctor, but the imposter could use the fact I couldn’t drive the car as a point of humiliation in his campaign to destroy my spirit and show me how unworthy I really was.
I was determined to humbly submit, but the pressure I faced was relentless and the old car deteriorated, and the imposter had forbidden my husband to spend any money to keep up the old car. I took to keeping my walking shoes in the trunk because I had no idea when the car would give up the ghost. After about two years the combination of being publicly humiliated by the imposter in bible class multiple times a week, the old car which was making me feel unsafe, and the despair I felt because it seemed so wrong for my husband to treat me that way, led me to another prayer of desperation down on my face in the closet. I told God that I couldn’t take any more.
I felt like a failure to ask Him for relief because I believed all this pressure was from Him to change me. Well, the next day that old car died for good, just one block from home, and I was able to coast to the curb and park! After a few days of driving me around my husband finally gave me my own set of keys to the Impala. I think God wanted me to understand that He was not behind the abuse. He was just waiting for me to ask. This whole scheme grieved Him more than it grieved me, because He is the One who created me a spirited woman and He wanted to use me in His plan and I would need that spirit to do His work. He was revealing Himself to me although it took time to fully understand what He was showing me.
There are also prayers God didn’t answer which also reveal things about Himself. One of those prayers was an all night prayer. My 20 year old son had applied for a job at a large engineering firm in our city. The vice president of production was impressed with him and he was offered a job which he accepted. He was to start the next morning. However, the imposter called up my husband and ripped him apart verbally, calling him a rebel and warning him that my son should not take that job. Now my husband had kept the pastor (imposter) informed during the entire process of applying for and interviewing for the job and he had not offered any warning or disapproval of my son taking the job, that is, until the night before he was to start his job. In my eyes, the thought of my son not showing up for the job at this point of time was unspeakably terrible. But do you know what I stayed up all night praying? I asked God to change my pastor’s mind. I didn’t even think to ask God if my son should go to work the next day. My mindset of obedience to the imposter was so ingrained that I couldn’t imagine going against his command. I have often thought back on how incredibly blind I was, but that is the nature of bondage. Thank God I am now free and can see!