"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2).
My granddaughter and I roll over and pray that she can "go to a school where they teach you about Jesus," then she drifts off to sleep like it's a done deal, and I am jello.
She has told me God speaks to her. Finally, curious, I ask her what that is like for her. She says, "He doesn't talk out loud, He talks in my brain." I request an example and she says that when her Mom tells her she can go play, she asks God. "What does He tell you," I pried. "Last time He told me to decorate my hamster cage."
What now? Do I nip this in the bud? Do I say, "No, darling, God doesn't speak to people that way anymore, and even at that there were only a few"? She might throw the story of little Samuel back at me, because I have shared that one, and she doesn't forget a thing.
You can appreciate that I am stuck. My granddaughter is not yet old enough to have had her theology fine-tuned. The thing she has asked for is impossible. And yet my next thought after writing those words is that there are precedents for impossible things. He "calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Romans 4:17).
I need to decide how to deal with this school prayer business. No sign of an answer to date. Do I check in occasionally: "Has Jesus sent you that teacher yet?" Or do I refrain, lest her childhood faith be injured? I know she is looking; she reported to me in mid-play one day that there are no kids in her class who believe in Jesus. I was astounded; did she ask every one of them? "What about the pre-school before that?" I probed. "There was one," she said.
Who are those God inclines Himself to? Are they those like Simeon, who was "waiting for the consolation of Israel," and Anna, who was "worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day?" (Luke 2:25,37) The coming of the Christ child led Anna to "give thanks to God," and I've thought that we are to thank God for Christ and for salvation and all the things we already have-and this is true.
But now I am entertaining an outrageous notion-that I will thank God for the very thing I am presently asking for. This is the completion of the circle of faith that James commends-nay, insists on-as a condition for effective praying: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting" (James 1:6).
Now come the voices: "No, that is presumption, not faith, to thank God for something He may not be pleased to grant." But then why would He bait us: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24)? He bids us to increase in faith. What would that look like? "'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'" Jesus asks two blind stalkers. "'Yes, Lord.'" And as Jesus heals them He says, "according to your faith" (Matthew 9:27-29).
How long will we wait for that fist-sized cloud? One week? One month? One decade? What if there is no teacher who loves Jesus this year? Do I inquire of the child again at the start of first grade? If there is none next year, do I ask in September of 2012? Do I ask every year till college? Is it folly to keep this dream alive in her mind?
Here is my confidence about my granddaughter's prayer: God is going to do something for her that He would not have done if she had not prayed for a teacher who loves Jesus. He will bring into the world-at the perfect time and place-a reality that would not have existed.
And just think how grand it will be, how much more praise will ascend to God, when we receive what we have so long sought. Evan Roberts prayed for 11 years for revival in his native Wales. It came when he was 26, and he was electrified. But then again, he was a child when he had prayed.