I’ll be honest. I sometimes doubt whether prayer “works” or not. I’ve heard some people say that prayer is really just for our own benefit, changing and transforming us. I think that’s true. And yet, I do believe that there is much more to the practice of prayer, and that God answers prayers. Not all the time, and not always in the way that we expect, but I have had enough experience to believe it. One such experience happened about 4 years ago, when I was in a particularly confusing season of my life. I had recently moved back to Pennsylvania after a wonderful and life-changing year in D.C. I was asking lots of questions about prayer, God, my future, relationships, and so on.
My now-husband, Josh and I were on a date. He was surprising me by taking me to Indian Rock Caverns, an underground cave by Hershey, PA, after I had said I wanted to go see caverns. I was so excited, this was something my family used to do on road trips when I was growing up. A couple hours before we left, I was sorting through things in my car after my move, and found a spare car key. I tried to give it to Josh for safekeeping; he declined, so I just placed it in my bedroom.
We drove my Jeep to the Caverns, and when we got there, I left my purse in the car so I wouldn’t have to carry anything around. It wasn’t until I went back to the car to get some change to buy a soda, that I realized I had left my keys in the purse in the car…and locked it. Oops.
We tried calling AAA, but my membership had expired. We tried to access my dad’s membership, but they wouldn’t let me because, well, my name is not Brian Beckwith. My cell phone was also locked in the car with the rest of my life, and Josh’s was losing its battery rapidly. That annoying cell phone “I’m low on battery and about to die” beep kept getting in the way of my anxious conversation with the AAA operator.
Finally, Josh said, “Let’s go on the cavern tour and enjoy ourselves, we’ll figure it out when we get back.” So we did, and learned all about stalactites, stalagmites, and various majestic underground rock formations. Breathtaking, enough to make me forget for a moment that we might be stuck at the caverns forever with my locked car.
Back above ground, our problems were not going away. The cell phone continued to die, and we could not get in touch with any of our friends. There was no pay phone anywhere. We were about 20 miles from Harrisburg. We had been on the last tour of the day and the Cavern Visitor’s Center was closing. And just to add insult to injury, a storm seemed to be quickly approaching.
Finally, we were the second-to-last car in the parking lot. Josh, being the woodsman that he is, retreated into the woods to find a stick sturdy enough to jam the door open and hopefully unlock it. I stood by the car, waiting. My faith had been close to “empty” recently, but I said an elaborate prayer that I learned from Anne Lamott: “God? Help! Help! Help! Please!”
A family walked out of the Visitor’s Center to the parking lot; soon we would be the last car in the parking lot. At this moment, we were shoving the not-so-sturdy stick into the gap in the car door. The man approached us, “Do you need help?” I nodded my head, on the verge of tears.
“I’m a locksmith,” he said, “Let me go get my tools, they’re right in the car,” I nodded again, this time in disbelief. In five minutes flat, he had cranked the door open, unlocked my doors, and I was able to grab my precious keys, purse, and cell phone.
“Thank you so much!” Josh and I exclaimed. He started to walk away, back to his car with his wife and child. Not sure if I should offer him money, a hug, or what, I asked awkwardly, “Uh…can I give you anything?”
He turned around and smiled, “Just know that I do this for God. I keep my tools in the car so I can help people out of difficult situations sometimes. And I pray that I will be able to bless people.” He handed me his card, saying, “Give me a call if you need a locksmith sometime.” I started tearing up and thanking him again profusely.
Then I looked down at his card; it read, “Answered Prayers Locksmith.”
I go back to this story often, especially when it feels like my prayers (or those of friends and loved ones) are not being answered. I cannot explain all of the why’s and the how’s of prayer, but I know that sometimes God meets us in the simple things. God reassures that we are loved in tiny and in big ways, if we keep our eyes open to see these confirmations.
What are some ways that you have seen prayers answered?
Circle of Faith has a new way to open our eyes to prayer and the needs of others, check it out here.