Our new church hired Christie as a part-time office helper. She was participating in a high school program for credit that would give her some training “on the job” to build practical work skills for after graduation. Planting a new church and starting a new school, I needed any help I could get, so having Christie do some records for our grammar school was great.
One winter day Christie stepped into my office and sat down. She said that she could not work that day because she had gotten the flu. It was going around the school and the church. So I was not surprised. I said I was sorry she wasn’t feeling well. She did look feverish and tired. I sure didn’t want the flu, so I was glad for her to skip her work hours that week.
When she started to get up to go, I thought to pray for her. Christie wasn’t a believer and I had been asking God to open her heart to the gospel. So I asked, “Christie, can I pray for you?” She said, “Sure, Pastor Josiah.” So I prayed simply, “Lord thank you for Christie. Help her to know your love for her and to feel better today. In Jesus Name, Amen.” You know, the usual kind of pastor’s prayer I had prayed a lot. It was so familiar I prayed it almost like a blessing at a meal. “Lord, make us thankful for these and all our many blessings…” Almost by habit.
Christie got up and started to open the door as I turned around to my roll-top desk. Then she stopped and asked, “Preacher, do you hear things when you pray?” My head had already left the conversation with her and moved to the details on my desk, so her question surprised me.
“You know, there are all sorts of experiences in prayer, Christie.” (I was scrambling mentally to figure out what she was talking about.) “Why do you ask?”
“Well, when you were praying for me I heard a rumble or a shaking like a big truck going by. Did you hear that?”
“No, I didn’t hear anything, Christie.”
“It was deep and pretty strong…” And then she stopped and her eyes got big. “Oh I know what it was. Preacher, I’m well! God healed me!” And she left my office to tell folks what God had done.
Me? I was still trying to figure it out. You see, God was not only drawing and caring for Christie, He was also trying to break through my casual and unconscious rationalism to remind me what I knew deep down. As a minister, I knew God could heal people. I just didn’t think that He’d do something like that right then and there. I slowly began to realize that God was teaching me as much as He was helping Christie.
He was telling me that He was more interested in folks like Christie than I was. That He was more interested in answering my prayers than I was willing to pray them. That He was willing to work even when my faith wasn’t all that strong or focused. Even when I wasn’t expecting Him to. And that maybe, despite all my study and care, didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about Him. Maybe He wasn’t nearly as tidy and predictable as I thought.
I was surprised when Christie did not become a Christian immediately, even though she sent lots of her friends to the church. I was also surprised that God had used my quick prayer not only to help Christie but also to remind me just how much He loves the people around me and how willing He is to move toward them.
That winter day a couple of decades back, God not only healed Christie He also started teaching me in new ways about His love and power especially as He reaches out to those who don’t believe. Of course, not every prayer brings what I might hope for. But it helps me to remember that God loves the world and loves to answer the prayers that move His Kingdom forward. So I am still learning to love, believe, and pray. And I am always amazed at what God has done to reach those who don’t know Him.