Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Prayer and the Providence of God

In 1885 evangelist Daniel Whittle published a little book entitled, The Wonders of Prayer, which contained amazing stories of answered prayer, including the account of Admiral Thomas Williams. The Admiral and his men were crossing the Atlantic on September 8, 1799. While sailing past the uninhabited island of Ascension, a desolate thirty-four square mile speck of volcanic rock in the South Atlantic, Williams was suddenly “seized by an unaccountable desire to steer toward it.” 

What made this strange was that ships never stopped at this island since it had no way of supporting life. But the feeling to heads towards Ascension Island became so urgent that Williams told his crew to change course. They did so reluctantly, warning against the delay. Then a sailor spotted something unexpected through his spyglass—a white flag. They found sixteen shipwrecked men, destitute and near starvation, who had been praying for a miracle and for God to send someone to rescue them in the nick of time.1 

That’s just one example of God’s providence coupled with prayer. In the Old Testament we find a similar story from the life of Elijah. The prophet spoke in obedience to the Lord and God shut up the skies around Israel. The drought was so bad that it dried up the book of Cherith where Elijah was encamped. Then the word of the Lord came to the prophet and God commanded him to go to widow of Zarephath. 

Elijah arrived just in the nick of time. As the widow was preparing one final meal for herself and her son, Elijah showed up on her doorstep and told her to fix him some dinner as well. The Bible says, “And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:15-16). 

That’s the providence of God working from both ends of the equation. Elijah needed to eat and the widow had his next meal. On the other hand, the widow needed a miracle or else she and her boy would die. God directed Elijah to exactly the right place at the right time and both the prophet and the widow were the recipients of a heaven-sent blessing. 

God’s providence assures us that He will meet our needs in unexpected ways so that there will be no room for man’s boasting. Living in God’s will is exciting and surprising. When we are obedient to the direction of the Holy Spirit there is no telling how God might connect us with people and events. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the Lord’s leading and be ready for an adventure. 

1. Daniel Whittle, The Wonders of Prayer (1885), <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11553/11553-h/11553-h.htm>

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