|ONE MAN'S ANSWERS TO PRAYER by Arthur C. Custance|
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Conclusion|
This Doorway Paper was first published privately in 1972. It is included in 'The Flood: Local or Global?' volume 9 of the collected Doorway Papers.
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For more than forty years I have kept a record of answers to prayer. Looking back over the years since I first came to know the Lord, I think I have learned certain principles in the matter of praying which throw light on why our prayers tend to become less and less specific as we mature, especially those prayer requests which relate to our personal needs.
Though it sometimes surprised my friends when they first learned about it, I had many answers to prayer before I became a Christian. Moreover, these answers were exceedingly specific. After I had become a Christian but while I was still very young in the faith, my answers to prayer were less dramatic than they had been previously, yet they were still more specific than when I had grown somewhat older in the faith. In some ways one might have expected the opposite to be the case.
It seems to me that in the time of youth we have more concrete decisions to make, even though most of these decisions (not all of them) are probably less crucial to the rest of our lives -- contrary to our own impressions at the time! As we grow older we have fewer decisions to make but they are apt to be more critical, partly because there is less time to make corrections. Thus at first, like the prayers themselves, our answers to prayer are more concrete and specific, often the simple Yes or No kind of thing. Later on, the prayer life of a child of God tends to become more diffuse, more like a conversation with God than an appointment arranged in time of emergency for the presentation of some request.
For this reason, any record of answers that we may have kept in the earlier days is likely to be more event-centred, the need-and-supply kind of thing. It will be journalistic, a record dealing with the works of God. Later on with the passage of years, the record tends to become more reminiscent, more private as it were, not written for public consumption, often difficult to put into words and frequently best expressed simply in the form of an actual quotation from Scripture. We find we have begun to be more aware of the principles which govern God's dealings with us, the ways of God rather than His works. The lesson is learned by an unconscious process of assimilation. We learn to prove His Word until it comes to reflect our own experience in a wonderfully personal way, as though passage after passage were written with us in mind.
As often as not, there is no specific answer to a specific request, just a proving out of the faithfulness of God, whose promises are so perfectly expressed in Scripture that one needs no more than to record the words of a text and perhaps to add "Amen!" Such a text is "Commit thy way unto the Lord...and He shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5) or "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6). So guidance is not so much sought as experienced, and one can no longer record a succession of discrete answers but only God's unfailing faithfulness. Or so it seems to me as I look at my own journal.
The consequence is that keeping such a journal becomes increasingly difficult, not because of a less vital experience of the Lord's goodness, but because that experience so pervades the fabric of daily life as to be scarcely noted at all. What might then become worthy of note in such a record might turn out to be only the periods of shadow -- but in such times the incentive to keep a record is not usually there. And so the account of God's dealings, by a kind of process of default, in the end fails to reflect the real course of our life. My journal is like this: the real record is in heaven. But what follows is nevertheless taken from it, directly or indirectly, for a concrete record made at the time often recalls to one's mind the attendant circumstances. I have not embellished this record except where some words or background explanation seemed essential. The earliest entries are not only the most specific, but they also account for events which took place in the very depths of the Great Depression in Canada when literally every cent was vitally important, when one could support a family (and even have something left over to buy books!) on as little as $10 a month! I have noted this, because some of the most exciting answers to prayer recorded involved tiny sums of money which today would seem of no account whatever but at the time were tremendously important. The reader will need to exercise considerable imagination to realize how critical it could be to save five cents on a purchase in those days.
I have tried to thread these answers to prayer together so that certain principles emerge which may perhaps make them more than simply an entertaining record or a personal testimony to the faithfulness of God. There are lessons to be learned.
Next Chapter - Who's Prayers Are Answered
Also see Doorway Paper 10 The Place of Art in Worship by Arthur C Custance Ph.D.