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Prayer Stories (Prayer III)

Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus



Prayer Stories (Prayer III)

Brandon Cook

At first, tuning into the reality of God’s goodness can be difficult or unnatural. It’s like tuning into a radio station and we can’t quite get the dial right. Because of the things that have been done to us or the things we’ve done, we can easily become deaf to hearing who God really is.[1]But through prayer, the station becomes louder. Somehow, we start to find it more easily, more quickly. We start hearing the song of God’s goodness, and that changes everything. Pray long enough, and you’ll soon have stories about all the ways that God speaks. 

When I moved to California, I felt I was ready to meet someone—the someone. I’d had a string of super dysfunctional relationships. If someone could be paid for creating unhealthy relationships, I would have been in the Big Leagues. Maybe an All-Star, too. But I had experienced some wholeness and healing, and after having sworn off women for a long season (I know that might sound dramatic; I guess you have to be dramatic sometimes), I felt ready.

My sister had told me to pray for my wife in specific terms. Like, “God, I’d like her to be like this… and this… and this… with brown eyes.” What the heck? I thought. I’ll give it a try. So I drove down Spring Street in Long Beach, praying for a few things, personality traits and whatnot. Then I started thinking about her looks. 

I’d always had an attraction to dark-skinned women. I spent some time in Israel and I had come away thinking dark hair, dark eyes, yes, the Lord is good. So, I opened my mouth to ask for that. And, as I live and breathe, I could not open my mouth nor bring myself to pray it. My body refused. Something within me—surely the Holy Spirit within and all around me—said, “Nope…don’t pray that.” I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew on a gut level that I wasn’t to pray those words. I literally said, “Wow, okay. I guess that’s that,” and kept on driving.

That week, I met the woman who would become my wife. She is gorgeous. And white as the Alpine slopes. Not what I had in mind. And absolutely perfect. I learned something from the encounter: on some intuitive level, I could hear the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t some magical voice in my head, it wasn’t even a communication in words per se, but I had heard—in the form of a tug on my mind and a clear sense of instruction, like an invisible stop sign—the voice of God. 

I heard pastor and author Greg Boyd tell the following prayer story: A man who had basically nothing and had been reduced to living in his car felt led to attend a church service at Greg’s church. Further, he felt led to put his last twenty dollars into the offering. A member of the church (let’s call him Bill) saw the man from the back of the room and, knowing nothing at all about the man, had a clear sense that he was to give the man twenty dollars. So after the service, Bill found the man and said, “I feel like I’m supposed to give you this.” The man broke down, because it was like God saying to him, “I see you, I have your back, and I want to have a relationship with you.”[2]

The moral of the story? The Spirit of God wants to make Jesus known, but his people have to learn to listen. Bill was listening, and because he was, God could make His love and goodness known. Bill was in prayer, even if he wasn’t trying to pray. The more we incline our hearts to hear the voice of God, the more we will hear, always. 

These two stories are simple examples of God wanting to bring someone—in one case, me, in another, a man whose name I don’t know—into His goodness. They are somewhat “sexy” stories, in that they have a twist in the tale. But the reality is that sometimes (most of the time?) our faith walk does not feel sexy. Sometimes those “wow” stories recede into the past like oak trees along a suddenly treeless path. But even in the most mundane parts of the walk, the voice of God is there, to remind us that He is with us and that He is at work. And that He is leading us somewhere. Wherever we are in our walk with God, Jesus wants to keep us aware of a constant experience of life through his love.

For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'

[1]See the ongoing realities of Exodus and Exile in ‘Chapter 11: The Grounded Life: Scripture.’

[2]I am going from memory, so I’m no doubt missing a detail or two about this story, especially since it’s not mine and I’m paraphrasing.