The Prayers of a Stranger

Psalm 37

That moment that someone you don’t know rests her hands on your back and leans down to pray for you, your soul feels a little laid bare.

How will they know what to pray?

They haven’t peered into the hidden corners of your heart.

They haven’t watched you toss from side to side in the middle of the night or read through your prayer journal.

They don’t know you.

But God does.

I sat in a chair two weeks ago with some beautiful, Jesus-following, God-passionate women surrounding me in prayer.

That’s when she started talking to God about me as if she knew everything weighing on my mind.

I’d been praying intensely for months.  I do it every year, really, spending the summer in focused prayer about my fall commitments.

I seek God about what groups to join, where to step down, what ministries to let go of, what ministries to invest in, and what we, as a family, should be doing.

I lay my calendar out at His feet and give Him sovereign control over it.

But this year, I was praying and getting nowhere.

I kept telling God the same thing, “I’ll do whatever You want me to do, but just tell me what it is!!!  Please!!!”

The thing about decisions is that there are usually deadlines.  And there are other people waiting to find out what you decide.

Oh, the pressure!

But I still hadn’t heard that clear, neon-sign direction from God, and His silence was stressing me out.  Big time.

Then this woman I didn’t know prayed for me.  She said, “Dear Lord, please don’t let her struggle or fret over what to do anymore.  Help her to know that You are pleased with what she does and You are with her.”

That prayer set me free.

She didn’t know me.  She didn’t take prayer requests before she bowed her head by my side.  She simply prayed and God used her prayer to break through my noisy, cluttered, confused mind with one clear question:

What do you want to do?

What do I want to do?  I told Him the truth—I’d do anything He asked me to do even if I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities or even if it’s not what I would do on my own.

He asked me again.

Heather, what do you want to do?

I fumbled a bit, feeling sheepish to say it as if it made me less spiritual to want anything: “Well, Lord, if I’m being honest, and I had the freedom to do anything at all, this is what I would want to do.”

Two days later, He gave me everything I wanted.  With all of the sovereignty and power of our Sovereign, Powerful God, He had moved every piece into line the moment I got honest with Him.

Sometimes we’re selfish beings. We want to use God like a divine Santa Clause or a prayer vending machine.

But when our hearts are truly seeking His face and our lives are deeply committed to obedience despite the cost, God can do this:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 36:4 ESV).

It begins by delighting in Him, not in our own selfishness or greed.  But it also means knowing how to answer when He asks, “What do you want?”

It means trusting His love for us enough to be honest with Him.

Caleb asked his daughter Achsah this after she married.

“What do you want?” 15 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs (Judges 1:14-15 ESV).

She knew what she wanted.  More than that, she knew what she needed.  In that desert land, she needed the water from the springs in order to thrive or even survive.

She also knew she was the beloved daughter of a caring father who didn’t just give her one set of springs when she asked, but gave her so much more.

And you and I, that’s what we are, beloved children of a caring Father.

Margaret Feinberg writes:

He knows what you need and stands ready to hear from you. God is asking, ‘What do you want?’ Will you get off your donkey and ask boldly for what you need to survive?’ (Fight Back With Joy).

It could be in His sovereignty and wisdom, He’ll tell you ‘no.’  And, it may sting at first, but the sting will fade with time and grace remains.

But maybe, just maybe, He’ll say ‘yes.’

Maybe, just maybe, He was waiting on you all along, wanting you to bring your requests to Him and ask.  Simply ask.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.