Monday, October 15, 2012

Praying in Faith and Acting in Obedience

I am so excited to share this post. At various points in my life, the Lord has taken me through seasons of experiential learning in regard to prayer. I have always believed in the power of prayer. I have seen answers to prayer as God provided for my family, growing up on the road and living on support. When I was in my first year of traveling on my own with Life Action (when I was 18), the Lord took me through about 8 months of learning to pray a very specific prayer request and expecting that He would answer, not just hoping He would. This month has been a similar experience.

On October 1st, we contacted AIM about our current support levels in order to update our friends and supporters on our progress. We soon discovered that our numbers were not lining up. We were told that we had 96% of our outgoing support, but our records were showing only about 50%. The bottom line is that the entire portion of our budget designated for a vehicle was not included in the original number. To be honest, our hopes of leaving on schedule in January seemed nearly lost. We were now left with only two months to raise around $17,000 and I tried to begin preparing for a delay in our plans. At the same time, I was trying to think of some way that we could come up with the money on our own - since it seemed God hadn't handled it. I would never have admitted that, but that's sort of how my mind was working.

Then my dear wife and I began to talk. I am convinced that this is one of the reasons that God brought us together (and why he brings any man and woman together). At times when I am down or I lose focus, God will use Abby to say something that gets me back on track, or vice-versa. So we say, "I guess we need to pray really hard this month." One of us says, "Well, let's pray for something specific; specific prayers get specific answers, right?" "OK, then let's just pick a number." So one says, "Let's pray for $10,000 this month." The other says, "Whoa. I was thinking something more realistic, like half of what's left." The one says, "Why? Is there like a limit for how much we can ask for?" We chuckle at the reality of that statement. I mean we're at God's mercy anyway, right? He owes us nothing. Anything He brings in will be more than we deserve and only a taste of what He can provide. So we decide to pray for that number. Every night at dinner, we asked Jesus for $10,000 to help us get to Africa. Each time we would pray with Kyle before putting him in his crib, we would pray, "And please provide the $10,000 that we need to move to Africa. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Thus we were praying. We've prayed that every day this month, multiple times. To make practical steps, we began to contact more people. We wrote people who had already expressed an interest in supporting us. We emailed people whom we've never approached about support, but we knew their hearts and trusted that they would be willing to pray about giving. It would be up to the Lord to move hearts to give.

In this process of praying expectantly, I have noticed one thing to be significant - possibly critical. If one is to truly pray in faith, he must be in a position to rely wholly and completely on God, with no backup plan of his own in case the Lord does not answer as planned. In other words, there is often some crucial step that must be taken - some practical sign of surrender - before the Lord will answer the request. Here is what that looked like for me. As I began to pray for this month's $10,000, I was formulating in my mind some financial gimmicks that we could work together to come up with the money. For example, we could try to eliminate budget items we don't need as much, or we could pay everything from our own savings account and then finance the balance with some of our monthly salary, etc. None of these would come up with all the money we needed, but they would at least bring in a good portion of it, "making things easier" on God. My step of faith came on Tuesday, October 9th.

We have been planning on completing two of my ten seminary semesters before leaving in January. My next 8-week term was scheduled to begin on October 22nd, but I hadn't signed up yet. Since hearing about the big financial need, I had talked to Abby about not taking this semester and putting the money towards Africa. "I would rather be a semester behind on my studies than be delayed in going to Africa," I said to her. Looking back, I can see my lack of faith so clearly. I'm sure most of you can as well. I thought I was being wise. I thought I was even being sacrificial, putting my family and ministry ahead of my own goals. But as we prayed through it for the first week of October, Abby was the one to say, "I think you should go ahead and take your semester." The cut-off date for registration was October 10th. I registered on the 9th. And I remember as I signed up thinking, "OK, Lord, that's the last of my plan. There is no way that we'll be able to come up with this money unless you provide it."

I was at work that Tuesday. I actually registered for classes during my lunch break. Around 2:00, Abby called Chick-fil-A and asked for me. She told me that an old family friend who lives about 45 minutes from here just called. We have never heard from him personally and I haven't heard from him at all in probably 10 years or more. He had read of our needs in my parents' newsletter. He was meeting with the other elders of his church the next day at lunch and asked if I would come to share our Africa plans with them. I asked my boss if someone could come in and work for me for a couple of hours the next day. Someone did and I went to the meeting. I was very blessed by my time with the men. I sensed in the elders a very simple and whole-hearted commitment to the Lord and His work. We had a wonderful time fellowshipping together and discussing mission work. Later that evening, our friend called back and said that the church wanted to contribute $5,000 to our expenses. To give you the full perspective on this provision, the church has about 50 members, or 14 families. We ought never to underestimate what God can do with a small group of spirit-filled believers committed to do His will.

This is only one story. Family after family responded to us, committing $1,000 here, $500 there. Some families who already support us monthly committed to send extra for the coming months before we leave. Nearly every day, I have come home from work to Abby saying, "We got another $200 from so and so." Once we were praying in faith, with no backup plan of our own, God began to provide faster than we've seen him provide at any other time in our lives. As of this morning, between the commitments people have sent or pledged this month and the monthly support that will come in during November, we have 100% of our outgoing expenses pledged! We were asking for $10,000. God has brought in over $14,000. Our records won't officially reflect this until all of the pledges are in, but God has provided everything we need - not just half.

As we've prayed, I've anticipated writing this post. I told the Lord that I would. God's purpose in answering prayers is to bring glory to Himself. This is how we were praying: "Lord, please do this, so that we can tell everyone how great You are and how miraculously You've provided." He has. He is. Praise His name and His great power. I pray that this post will motivate each of His children to pray big things in faith, acting in obedience to everything He leads. Give God the chance to prove Himself great!

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