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You Want Answered Prayer?
May 2 and 3, 1998

ACTS 9:36-43

How many of you pray? How many expect results? Different question, isn't it. A rabbit hopped right in front of the car. The driver couldn't help but hit him. Being a sensitive man and an animal lover, the driver pulled over, checked the rabbit and, to his dismay, found him dead. A woman pulled over to ask what was wrong. "I feel terrible," he explained. "I accidentally hit this rabbit and killed it." The woman told him not to worry, went to her car, pulled out a spray can, walked back to the limp, dead rabbit, and sprayed him. Immediately the rabbit came to life, jumped up, waved its paw at the two humans, and hopped down the road. He stopped, turned around, waved again, and hopped some more, turned and waved, hopped and waved, until he was out of sight. The man was astonished. "What was in that can?" The woman showed him the label: "Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave." (Yes, it came from e-mail! I know some of you are going to pray that my hard drive crashes!)

Peter (not Peter Rabbit) got results! You want answered prayer? In the incident preceding the lesson read, Peter healed a paralyzed man who had been bedridden for eight years. In the lesson read, Peter was called to Joppa (called Jaffa today). Tabitha, a beloved saint and seamstress of the church had died. Tabitha in Aramaic (the common language of the day, which Jesus spoke) is Dorcas in Greek and Gazelle (a small, swift, graceful antelope with lustrous soft eyes!) in English. A number of widows were there (interesting how the church, even its earliest days, had a large number of widows). They were weeping, and showed Peter some of the clothing that Tabitha had sewed. Peter asked them to leave him alone with Tabitha. Peter knelt down and prayed. You want answered prayer? Talk about faith. Peter acted on his prayer. Without any sign that the prayer had been answered, Peter said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, sat up, and Peter helped her stand.

The incident is reminiscent of Luke 8 where Jesus was called to the home of a Roman named Jairus. His 12-year-old daughter had died. Jesus asked the family and the professional mourners to leave the room. Then he prayed and, in faith, said, "Child, get up!" And she lived. Talk about answered prayer.

You want answered prayer? Dr. Larry Dorsey, the author of a book on prayer and medicine called Healing Words takes the power of prayer seriously. He began to pray for patients when he decided that withholding prayer was the equivalent of refusing to use a potent drug or surgical procedure. He reports that a simple attitude of prayer seems to set the stage for healing. He cites research studies that show lower blood pressure, slower heart rate and lower metabolic rates as a result of prayer. Prayer lowers the need of heart patients for antibiotics. Prayerful attitudes precede the spontaneous regressions of cancer.

You want answered prayer? In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the crops in Minnesota. So in the spring of 1877, farmers were worried. They feared that the dreadful plague would once again visit them and again destroy the rich wheat crop. The situation was so serious that Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 as a day of prayer and fasting. He urged every man, woman, and child to ask God to prevent the terrible plague. On that April day all schools, shops, stores, and offices were closed. There was a reverent, quiet hush over all the state. The next day dawned bright and clear. Temperatures soared to what they ordinarily were in midsummer. They were devastated as they discovered billions of grasshopper larvae wiggling to life. On the fourth day, however, the temperature suddenly dropped, and frost covered the earth. It killed every one of those creeping, crawling pests. Talk about answered prayer.

We got a call from Wanda, a young school teacher in Illinois and former parishioner and long-time friend. For some time she had been having terrible migraine headaches. She went from doctor to doctor who told her they were in her head! She even saw a psychiatrist and told him, "Of course, the headaches are in my head, but I'm not imagining them nor creating them." Finally, a neurologist discovered a tumor on her brain, and scheduled surgery. Wanda asked to be put on prayer lists. The word went out across the country, and people began to pray. The day before the surgery, Wanda experienced terrible pain. She said it felt as if someone was in her head cutting with scissors. The next day, when the surgeons opened her head, they lifted the tumor out. All of its tentacles were loose. Wanda explained, "Doctor Jesus cut the tumor loose." Today, 20 years later, Wanda is doing fine. Talk about answered prayer.

You want answered prayer? What I believe happens when we pray for someone or some situation is that the Holy Spirit gathers our prayers, our energy, our spirit, and combines them into a force of healing power. God can do more when we let God use us. We co-operate with God. We don't have to use words. Focus on the person or situation. Image the light of God shining and let God do the work.

When you do use words to pray for someone, follow Paul's model in his letter to the Colossians. Of course, you want to pray for your children or grandchildren, but what do you pray for? When you pray for your children, your spouse, your pastors, your church, your friends, your neighbors, people you don't know but who have asked for prayer, use Colossians 1:9-12 as a model, and pray for six results:

1) Pray that they know God's will for their lives. Colossians 1:9, Paul wrote, "We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

2) Pray that they would do God's will in their lives. 1:10, "so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him..." Knowing and doing are two different things. Knowing God's will and doing God's will is the prayer. Only through action do people fulfill God's purpose for their lives.

3) Pray for productivity in their lives. Continuing in verse 10, "bear fruit in every good work..." Pray that they may know God's will, do God's will, and be productive.

4) Pray for them to have a growing relationship with God. Continuing in verse 10, "grow in the knowledge of God." Someone has defined happiness, "Happiness is growth." The reverse is equally true. Stagnation is unhappiness.

5) Pray for power in their lives. 1:11, "May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience..." None of us can make it on our own strength and endurance. Pray for power.

6) Pray for them to have a right attitude. Continuing with verse 11 and 12, "while joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light." Pray for a joyful attitude, an attitude of gratitude.

By the way, praying for these six results for yourself is also not a bad idea! Pray that you may know God's will, do God's will, be productive, grow in your relationship with God, experience God's power, and have an attitude of joy and gratitude.

You want answered prayer? Pray! And believe!

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris