Last evening our two year old created a stressful situation in our household. She opened up our patio door and let Sally (our little dog) right out the door. Sally ran off into another neighbor’s yard immediately and then vanished down the street. She was nowhere to be found. She seemed to enjoy this newfound freedom. Usually, when we take her outside, we tie her to a leash. But this time she didn’t have a leash and she was making a break for it. This caused our entire household to go into crisis mode. Our five year old started to cry. Our nine year old started to cry. And because our two year old didn’t like seeing other people cry, she started to cry. Three daughters crying at the same time…this is not something a dad gets used to. So I started crying (just kidding).
My wife and I tried to console each of our children by letting them know that Sally would come back after a while. After all, this is the place where she receives food, water and love. But this did not calm their nerves. We stepped outside and started to call for her, but she wouldn’t respond. “She’s gone forever, she’s never coming back,” said my oldest daughter. Even though I knew that wasn’t true, and even though I tried to convince her otherwise, this is exactly how she felt. Twenty minutes had passed and still no Sally.
Then my wife had an idea. “Let’s pray for God to bring Sally back to us.” So the five of us gathered around a chair in our living room and my wife said a simple yet sincere prayer to God on behalf of Sally. She prayed something like this,
“God, we know that you can bring Sally back to our house. You know how much we love Sally and how much we miss her right now. Could you please bring Sally back, and bring her back quickly? Amen.”
After the prayer, the girls ran off into another room. They were still weepy and yet were trying to hold it together. No more than ten seconds had passed and guess who was at the door? Sally! I yelled, “Sally’s back!” so that everyone in the house could hear. My wife asked me, “Are you serious?” There she was, trying to get into the house. We opened up the patio door and we hugged her and gave her a treat. Did God answer our prayer? Or was it just a coincidence? This event reminded me about two things that we so often forget when we pray.
First, God wants you to take everything to Him in prayer. In the Contemporary English Version of Philippians 4:6, we are told “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.” The word everything in this verse means the “big stuff” and “small stuff.” Everyone takes the “big stuff” to God in prayer. When a tragedy strikes, people turn to a higher power. Many self-proclaimed agnostics turn into practical believers when bad things happen to them. It is human nature to call upon God when the “big stuff” happens. But when it comes to the “small stuff,” like a seven pound dog running down the street, we can feel foolish for going before the Lord in prayer. Our daughters were taught a tremendous lesson last night because they saw God answer a prayer for something that might seem small to God, but it was a major issue to them.
If you can truly see into God’s heart, you will see that He genuinely cares about you. We are told to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Notice the word “all” in this verse. Not just the major things in life that cause you anxiety, but even those small things that you don’t think God would be interested in. Often times, we think we need to save up our prayers for when it really counts. Therefore, we don’t pray about the little things. But this is where our faith can really grow. When we see God working in the small things, it feeds our belief so that when the big things come our way, we have the faith to pray for God to work.
God is never overwhelmed by our prayers. We can get overwhelmed by other people’s requests. But God cannot. God can hear simultaneously millions of requests and not be confused as to who is speaking. That is our God. And if God couldn’t do that, then He wouldn’t be God. The very definition of God is that He is all-knowing, and an all-knowing God has the capacity to hear everything all humans say and has the power to respond to every single request.
Second, when your request is God’s will, He will respond immediately. Ten seconds after we prayed as a family, Sally was at our door. My wife reminded me what she had said at the end of her prayer, “bring her back quickly.” God did just that. But doesn’t God have better things to do? Yes, He does, and He is doing those better things at the same time. He does everything at the same time, so for Him, He doesn’t have to prioritize like we do. He just does things that are His will. And it was God’s will to bring little Sally back to our home so that our girls could see their faith grow.
Jesus told a story once about a widow who pleaded with a judge to bring her justice concerning an enemy. Someone was taking advantage of her, and her only hope was a judge who didn’t care about people. The judge ignored her for a while. But the widow was persistent. She kept going back to the judge and asking him the same thing: bring me justice! Because the widow kept bothering the judge, the judge finally brought justice to the situation. Many times, people read this story and they try to figure out how God and this judge are similar. But Jesus’ point in the story is that our God is the opposite of this judge. God does care about people. And our God will respond “quickly” to our requests (Luke 18:8).
If you are requesting something, and it is God’s will, you will not have to wait for it. It will happen immediately. I sat down with my two older daughters last night and made sure they noticed the connection between our prayer for Sally to come home and God’s answer to our prayer. I told them that God listens to us and that He cares about us. They nodded their heads in approval. We all sat down and thanked God for caring about us and answering our prayer. Their faith is growing, and it was in a moment like this that God took the time to care for us.
If you are a parent or a grandparent, look for opportunities to pray with your children and grandchildren. Teach them the importance of praying for everything. Instill within them the faith that brings joy to their heavenly father’s heart. And make sure you help them notice when God does answer their prayers immediately! No matter how big or small “the stuff” might seem.