God can begin to answer a prayer even before we pray it!

by Rod Smith

© 2022-2023 Rodney A. Smith

How can God begin to answer a prayer months before the prayer is even prayed?

Consider this story written by a missionary doctor who worked in Africa.

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator). We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). 'And it is our last hot water bottle!' she exclaimed.

As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drgstores down forest pathways.

'All right,' I said, 'put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. You job is to keep the baby warm.'

At noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. 'Please, God' she prayed, 'Send us a hot water bottle today. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.'

WhileI gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, 'And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?'

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say 'Amen?' I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes.

I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting, Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle.

I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, 'If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!'

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, 'Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?'

'Of course,' I replied! That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon.'

'Before they call, I will answer.' (Isaiah 65:24)

When you receive this, say the prayer. That's all I ask. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want - but do send it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost, but a lot of rewards. Let's continue praying for one another. This awesome prayer takes less than a minute.

Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this. I ask You to minister to their spirit. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance, and strength. Where there is fear, reveal Your love and release to them Your courage. Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them. I ask You to do these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

How can God know the future? How can God begin to answer prayers even before they are prayed? How can God change the future in order to answer prayers?

The answer is simple, yet hard to grasp: God is not regulated and constrained by time as we humans are.

Our lives are completely regulated and constrained by time. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons and years flow on at a regular and unstoppable pace. There is no going back to change the past, or jumping ahead to see the future, even though we would like to do so very much. But we can only see and change the present.

Since our lives are so completely constrained by the flow of time, it is natural to assume that God is also under the same constraints.

But to God, there is no past or future, only the present. Both God the Father and Jesus the Son referred to themselves as 'I am,' always existing in the present. 'God said to Moses, 'I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.' (Exodus 3:14 NIV) 'Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!' (John 8:58 NIV)

Since God created the universe, he is not bound by the laws of nature, including time, like we are. Time does not flow on at a regular and unstoppable pace for God. The Bible says, 'With the Lord a day is like a thousand years. And a thousand years are like a day.' (2 Peter 3:8b NIV) He can hear the prayers of many people in many places at the same time, look backward in time to answer the prayers, and look forward in time to see the effects of answering prayers.

River of Time

To help understand how time works differently for us and God, think of time as flowing like a river. The current flows at a steady rate, 60 seconds a minute, twenty four hours a day, 12 months a year. Unlike a river, we cannot swim upstream or downstream in time. We can only drift with the flow. But God is not in the River of Time. He is up on the river bank. When He hears a prayer, He can walk upstream, back in time, and stir the water enough to change what happens so the prayer is answered. Then he can walk downstream and see how that change affected other events. He can immediately move back or forward in time 1,000 years, or He can study one moment in time as long as he wants.

This explains how God knows the end from the beginning, and every event and prayer in between. He can begin to answer our prayers even before we pray them.

This article may be downloaded and printed as long as no changes are made to the text, and proper credit is given to the source:

If you have questions or comments, please EMAIL me at rod@rodsgarden.50megs.com

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