Authored by Dan Roselle
I remember one of the first times I experienced an answered prayer in my life. I was 19 and a new Christian, just learning about Jesus and spiritual principles. I was living at a mission center for six months in an accelerated program for discipleship. I was in a dorm with about nine other young men who were all there for the same reason. I didn’t have much in the way of personal possessions or money at the time, so I found myself in need of a new pair of shoes, because mine were worn out. I don’t know if I knelt beside my bed to pray, but I definitely remember asking God to give me a pair of shoes. The next afternoon when I walked into the room I was surprised to see a new pair of shoes sitting neatly on my bed. I asked the guys in the dorm if they’d put them there, but no one knew where the shoes had come from. I thanked the Lord for that answer to prayer.
That was many years ago, and since then I’ve learned more about prayer; it’s still a very fresh and vital part of my life. I’ve mostly learned that prayer is, simply put, communication with God, a conversation with Him, if you will. There are many facets to prayer, but in my opinion one thing that stands out as important is that in prayer, one should stay open to how God will answer.
Openness in prayer is seen in the personal example Jesus gives us in the Bible. You may recall that the night when He was betrayed, He had been praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that His trial, suffering, and crucifixion were soon to begin. I found it interesting that Jesus didn’t want to go through all the pain and suffering as He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.”1 He was saying, “If there’s any way that You can get Me out of this, please do it.” However, and this is why I say that being open to how God will answer your prayers is so important, Jesus continues His prayer with, “Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine.”2 Jesus didn’t want to go through the pain and suffering, but most of all He wanted His Father’s will to be accomplished. He was so desperate that the Bible says that He prayed this exact prayer three times.3 We all know that obviously it was His Father’s will for Jesus to experience suffering and death for our sins, because that’s exactly what happened.
Some years ago I was in Moscow, Russia, with a group of 12 teenagers on a mission trip. I had paid $1,000 for train tickets to Siberia—a 96-hour train ride. Since the train didn’t leave until late that night, we left our small mountain of baggage at the apartment of a friend and went off to explore the city for a few hours.
When we returned to the apartment, three of the teen boys shuttled the luggage down via the elevator. Excitement was in the air as our cross-country trip was about to begin. However, just as the boys were carrying down the last batch of luggage, the elevator got stuck between floors. “No big deal,” I thought, “we’ve still got time before the train leaves.” The boys tried pushing various buttons, but nothing made the elevator move. Finally, the rest of the team went on to the train station, while I waited for the apartment maintenance man to arrive. I couldn’t speak Russian, but as I waited, I could understand from the neighbors that the elevator got stuck periodically and that the maintenance man wasn’t very prompt. At this point I was praying desperately that the boys would be released from their temporary prison in time for us to catch our train. I envisioned us running and jumping on the train at the very last minute!
Well, it didn’t happen like that. The departure time came and went.
When the boys were released, the four of us grabbed the bags and got to the station as fast as we could. We saw our team next to our pile of luggage on the platform … but there was no train in sight. That was discouraging. We were told that the train waited for us for about ten minutes, but couldn’t wait any longer.
I took a walk down the long platform that night talking to God about what happened. I asked Him all kinds of questions: Was I wrong to be planning this trip? Was it not His will for us to be in Siberia? Should we spend another $1,000 for this trip? Or get on another train and go somewhere else?
Here I was with a group of teenagers thousands of miles from their families, and I was responsible for them. I had to know what to do. I needed answers.
While walking down that deserted platform, the Lord comforted me by saying that the missed train wasn’t anyone’s fault. This didn’t happen because someone was doing something wrong and needed this as a punishment. Instead, Jesus wanted to use this as a learning experience for the team, to show us that seemingly bad things happen in life. There will be times when things go wrong—elevators get stuck, trains get missed, problems arise, unexpected events occur. However, it’s important to learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. It was an encouraging message for all of us and one that lightened our spirits, as we were feeling rather disheartened at the time. So we went back into the station to get tickets for the last train that night, the one leaving at 1:00 in the morning. We then set off on our exciting adventure to Siberia, which is a whole other story!
You see, prayer is our access to God. The Bible says that Jesus taught His disciples to pray; He taught them how to have access to the Father. The example of how He taught them to pray applies to us today. Each of us has that direct access to God. Each one of us is able to talk directly to God and ask Him anything we need to know in our lives. And what I find absolutely fantastic is that God gives answers. Of course, the answers I have received weren’t always the ones I wanted, and things didn’t always turn out the way I hoped for or thought they would happen. But the cool thing is that He answers me and He will answer you too when you ask.
Just be sure to stay open to His answers, just like Jesus prayed “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” When you have a problem or difficulty in life, take it to Jesus. Take time to pray, to tell God what’s on your heart. There may be others that you want to pray for, too. And I have found that He works the same way with those prayers. Explain their need and ask for His help in the situation, and then trust. Trust that He’ll give you or them the answer, or that He’ll work out the situation. But most importantly, trust that His will is what will be done in the situation.
1 Luke 22:42 NLT.
2 Luke 22:42 NLT.
3 Matthew 26:42–44.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International