Saturday, September 30, 2017

God Uses Us To Answer Prayers

Have you ever prayed fervently for another person, group, or cause, and then realized that God wanted you to be part of the answer to that prayer? Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and begged God to restore the wall of his beloved city Jerusalem, which had fallen into total disrepair.

When the king perceived his cupbearer’s distress and asked what was wrong, Nehemiah prayed again before responding – a quick, piercing arrow prayer calling out to God for help..In that instant God made it clear to Nehemiah that he was to play a key role in the solution to his request, and he asked the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem to oversee rebuilding of the wall (Nehemiah 1;2). 

As I wrote about last time, our trip to Dallas for our dance ministry was emotionally challenging, given the stress and uncertainty over Hurricane Irma and how our family and properties would fare in the storm. Yet God used fellow Christians among us to encircle us in prayer, which greatly uplifted our hearts and helped to give us the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I firmly believe that God heard our heartfelt prayers, and those of other prayer warriors throughout Florida and the nation, begging for His mercy despite our sins. I believe that He answered by diverting the storm from fully attacking Tampa and other heavily populated areas, and by calming the hurricane force winds to lessen the overall destruction. Because of God’s holiness, He will judge us (Revelation 6:10), but because of His mercy, He lessens judgment (Isaiah 30:18; Psalm 101:1).

How amazing that we have a Father Who cares for us and gives us the awesome privilege not only of praying to Him for our own needs, but for those of others! Not only has he entrusted us with the responsibility to witness to others so that they can be saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) of His Son Jesus Christ, but He allows us to be His coworkers, praying for others and being part of the solution to their prayers (James 5:16),

In addition to the danger of the storm, we experienced other spiritual warfare in Dallas – but Jesus won! Praise God that Christ gives the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57), and if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

One of the worst challenges was the evening of the dress rehearsal. After I applied my stage eye makeup, somewhat closer to the lash line than usual because of the character I portrayed, I had a mild stinging and irritation in my eyes, but thought it would go away. During the evening it developed into an allergic reaction to eye makeup so extreme that both eyes turned crimson.

I experienced the worst eye pain I had ever felt, even worse than the pain of corneal abrasion or of eye infections I had had before. I actually felt like tiny knives were gouging out my eyes! During the last dance we rehearsed that evening, tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I could no longer bear to even look into the light, so that I danced much of it with my eyes closed. Afterwards brothers and sisters in Christ spontaneously gathered around to lay their hands on my shoulders and pray for me (James 5:15).

One cast member who suffered from ragweed allergy offered me an antihistamine, which I accepted gratefully in hopes that it would begin to address the problem. Another offered to call her eye doctor, but I knew that they would not prescribe anything over the phone, especially for a patient they had never seen. She offered to take me to the Walk-In Clinic the next morning, but we would not be able to do that and still make our early morning call for the first matinee.

That night the unrelenting, intense pain kept me awake, although the antihistamine seemed to help a little. As a retired physician, I knew that what I really needed was steroid eye drops. Yet my license has long been inactive, so I could not prescribe them for myself, and I knew that no doctor would prescribe them without seeing me. “Please, Lord – send me some steroid eye drops!” I begged through the night. 

The next morning, at a group meeting before the show, a cast member who had not yet spoken to me during this trip came up to me. “Would you like some steroid eye drops?” she asked, unaware that this was the very specific answer to prayer I sought.

What an amazing blessing! I instilled the drops at noon, and by the 2PM show, I was no longer in pain and the redness had lessened. I was even able to apply some eye makeup, so that my facial expressions would be visible from the stage, although I was very careful to steer clear of the lash line!

For all the shows, however, I was unable to wear my contact lenses, and I am legally blind without them! New prayer circles began forming around me, now asking God to allow me sufficiently clear vision to not fall off the stage or to miss the overhead lifts my husband Richard and I do, and to give Richard the discernment to lead me through these challenging moves.

Once again, God answered this specific prayer, and I pray and believe that He was glorified in our dancing and lift work. The Meet-and-Greet after each show gave us the opportunity, when complimented on our dancing, to give Him all the glory, because the only way we can do anything is by His grace!

The night after the first show, I prayed that He would give His beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2), to restore us after this painful ordeal that had deprived us both of sleep that is much needed for this physically demanding work, especially since Richard is now 70 years old!

He answered that prayer exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20), for we went to bed at 9:30PM, and before we knew it, it was 8:30AM --- eleven hours of uninterrupted sleep! Neither of us has slept that long or that soundly since we were teenagers!

We prayed for a good night’s sleep the following night also, because the next day we had a matinee and evening show – four strenuous dances in total, and we were both still emotionally as well as physically exhausted. But Satan had other plans, which, of course, could not have happened unless God permitted it for reasons we don’t understand, for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. 

At 6AM we heard an incredible racket right outside our hotel room window – loudspeaker announcements, tribal chanting, and even the National Anthem! It turned out this was a street festival, making sleep impossible, which blared on until 9AM, when we had to get up or we would have been late for the show! Then it stopped as suddenly and as inexplicably as it began.

Despite our lack of sleep, our performances in the matinee went very smoothly, although I was still fearful in those moments in which we entered the wings. The contrast between the bright hallway lights, and the nearly black wings made it even more difficult to see, and I navigated my starting position and connections to Richard by kinesthetic sense and trust rather than sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

But in the time between the matinee and evening show, Richard had developed chest congestion and lack of stamina, which had started with uncontrollable sneezing the moment we arrived in Dallas and progressed to a dry cough. So, when fellow Christians asked how I was feeling, I replied that I was better, but that now we needed to pray for Richard.

Then Richard was immediately bathed in prayer that he would be able to breathe freely and to have the strength and stamina needed for our dancing. God graciously answered those prayers, for His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As we danced, I knew that it was a struggle for Richard. Yet we danced smoothly, beautifully, and seemingly effortlessly, according to those who commented on it, and I knew that it was only by God’s grace and not at all in the flesh. Afterwards Richard told me that he prayed before and after each lift, thanking God for the move just accomplished and asking Him to uplift the move to come.

Praise God, He allowed us to finish strong, and our dances in the last show on Sunday also went flawlessly. As we thanked God, Richard also asked Him that we would have an opportunity for much needed rest and recuperation.

God also answered that prayer, but not in the way we had hoped. By the time we returned to Tampa, Richard’s respiratory infection totally drained him of all energy and he was unable to get out of bed. A few days later, I developed similar symptoms, and he was diagnosed with bronchitis and I with pneumonia. Now we are involuntarily resting, while praying for rapid and complete healing to be able to resume our ministries and service to Him.

But we praise God even in the trials (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Philippians 4:12) for the valuable lessons He has brought us, including greater reliance on Him and compassion for others (1 Peter 3:8). We praise Him not only for allowing us to be the recipient of prayer, but for the privilege of praying for others in the cast, for physical issues including ankle sprain and laryngitis, memory lapses, and artistic issues including music and staging.

God is so good, all the time! (Psalm 145:3) He has promised that if we ask, it will be granted unto us (Matthew 7:7), perhaps not in the way we had hoped, but always with His perfect solution. May we ask Him not only for ourselves, but for fellow prayer warriors (Romans 15:1-7), and that His perfect will be done! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Answered Prayer

Photo by Presearch 2011

How blessed we are as Christians to come boldly before Christ’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16)! There we find His mercy and grace that we so desperately need! He hears our prayer requests 24/7 (Psalm 143:1), provided our heart is right with Him and we are praying in His will (Luke 22:42), rather than to satisfy our foolish lusts (James 4:2-3).

Praise God for prayer warriors who intercede for us in prayer, knowing that where two or more are gathered in His Name, He is in our midst, and that if we agree in prayer, the Father will accomplish it for us (Matthew 18:19-20).

The events of this past week have been a blessed reminder that God answers our prayers, and that He gives Christians the unique privilege of being part of His answer to prayer. He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). He is working behind the scenes to bring all things together for good for those who love Him, for their ultimate well-being and His glory to accomplish His purpose for each of our lives (Romans 8:28).

As my husband Richard and I flew from Tampa, FL to Dallas, TX to dance in five shows in a major theatre production as part of our dance ministry, the airport was already packed at 5AM and there was no empty seat on our flight. Many in Florida left the state because of concerns regarding Hurricane Irma. When we took off, the projected path was up the east coast of Florida, so we had not prepared extensively as we live on the west coast.

But by the time we landed, the storm path had shifted and was headed straight for Tampa! On its way, it was forecast to pass through a coastal city where Richard’s sister lives on the water, and our son’s home was projected to be at least six feet under water if there were any storm surge.

While praying fervently, we wondered if we should return home to help our family and secure our property. But then we realized that God had long before planned and arranged for us to be exactly where we were, not only safe from the storm, but going obediently through the door He had opened to bless others through our dance ministry.

To abandon His plan would be to give the victory to Satan, when we know that the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15) and that we have sure victory in God’s Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Our hearts sank as we discussed constantly changing evacuation plans with our son and Richard’s sister. We invited both their families (and pets!) to stay at our house, further inland and at a higher elevation from their homes, but the congested traffic and unavailability of gas prevented Richard’s sister from doing that. Our son’s wife was traveling out of state, but our son agreed to weather the storm at our house with his dog and cat.

Although our minds and bodies were very active with constant rehearsing in Dallas, our hearts were with our family and home. Yet what a blessing as Christians in our midst bathed us in prayer, both in our presence and also by enlisting their churches, choirs, and prayer chains to pray for us.

They were bearing our burden (Galatians 6:2) and helping us to lift up our arms in prayer when we felt we could not do it alone (Exodus 17:12). Despite the constantly worsening weather reports, we were able to experience the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in His salvation (Psalm 21:1; 35:9; 51:12; Isaiah 61:10; Habakkuk 3:18).

One of our dear friends in Dallas told us that he prayed specifically that our son would not have to spend the night of the storm alone, as he knew from personal experience how frightening that can be. Later that afternoon, our son texted us that he had gone to a friend’s house that was newer and more storm-resistant than ours, and that he and the pets would stay there with his friend’s family. Praise God for this very specific answer to prayer, and for our friend’s discernment to ask for this in faith!

Hurricane Irma was still headed directly for Tampa with winds in excess of 100 mph and predicted storm surge of 10-12 feet all along the west coast of Florida. We feared the worst but knew that God is in control, that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and that He would not allow any harm to befall us unless it was part of His perfect plan (Job 1:12).

At what seemed to be the last minute, but was in fact in God’s perfect timing, the storm veered off slightly to the east, making a small circular detour around the heavily populated city of Tampa. In general, the winds and storm surge were far less than had been predicted.

What a relief to learn that our son, his friends, and Richard’s sister and her family were all safe; that our home and our son’s home experienced no harm other than a few tree branches down; that our church and all those it sheltered were unharmed; and that our business had no flooding or even loss of power!

Our hearts and prayers are with those who did not fare as well with Harvey and Irma, and especially with those in Puerto Rico and still in the path of Maria. We can’t pretend to understand why God allows such devastation, but we can trust Him to provide, protect and restore.

Whatever befalls us here on earth, we who have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) have the blessed hope (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3), meaning sure anticipation, of eternal joy with Him and our loved ones in Him! Meanwhile, He has appointed each of His children to be His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), His hands, feet and voice in this troubled world (Romans 10:15; Luke 12:11-12).

We were humbled and blessed by our brothers and sisters in Christ ministering to us through prayer and encouragement in this trial. We felt that we were in the midst of a loving family, even though we had met most of them only twice before, for a few short days a year apart. Yet their ministry continued in surprising ways, as did God using them to answer prayer, as we shall see next week!  

May we learn from the example of our fellow prayer warriors to lift one another up in prayer, bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2), and so fulfill the law of Christ! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett