"Lord, please help Granddad come to know you." This was the frequent request during the children's nightly prayers. Granddad, a retired major from the US Army, lived far away and was far from God.
Have you prayed today for people and ministries in other areas? Have you ever considered that, in the same way, someone in another geographical area has probably prayed for a person or family or ministry in the area where you live? In answering those prayers, God may use any number of means. Many of the answers will come through the life of a believer. Could that person be you or me?
A sovereign, caring Father Our God is "Lord of heaven and earth" (Acts 17:24). He is "the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords …" (1 Tim. 6:15). Whether I am at home, on campus, at work, or out of town, the Lord is "familiar with all my ways" (Ps. 139:3). He knew Nathanael's heart "under the fig tree" (John 1:48). The Lord knew the run-away in Rome, and directed Onesimus' path to intersect with that of Paul, who led him to faith in Christ (Philem. 22). Days before an African diplomat departed for his homeland, the Lord dispatched Philip from Samaria to a remote desert road to be an answer to his prayers (Acts 8:26–27). He knows, He cares, He directs.
God Has His People
When Elijah felt alone, God reminded him that He had seven thousand of His people close by (1 Kings 19:18). When a new convert prayed, the Lord chose a believer in the same town to welcome Saul into the church (Acts 9:10–11). When Paul first arrived in Corinth with no place to stay, Aquila and Priscilla opened their home to him (Acts 18:3). Later he was told, "Do not be afraid … because I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:9–10). Today, in the cities, suburbs, or small towns, God still has His people.
God Hears His People
God hears the prayers of His people. "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…." (2 Chron. 16:9). He heard the cries of His people in Egypt (Exod. 3:7). The Lord knew of Saul, "for he is praying" (Acts 9:11, 12). He heard the prayers of a military officer and used Peter to be an answer to Cornelius' prayer (Acts 10). "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14).
God Uses People
"God … comforted us by the coming of Titus," Paul wrote (2 Cor. 7:6). The Lord often uses people to carry out His purposes. After the 70-year exile, we're told God stirred the heart of the King of Persia to allow His people to return home to rebuild the temple. He also moved the hearts of His people to carry out His plan (Ezra 1:1, 5). The same verb is also translated "stirred up" (NASB) "prompted" (TEV), "aroused the spirit" (Hag. 1:14, AMP), and "gave the desire" (LB). Nehemiah stated, "I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do …" (Neh. 2:12). The Lord stirs and prompts His people to accomplish His purposes.
To encourage Timothy, Paul wrote, "In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay. Some are for special occasions, others are for ordinary use" (v. 20, TEV). The master used a variety of vessels or containers to accomplish various tasks. In a similar way today our Master wants to use His "vessels" to minister for Him.
How can we be usable vessels? Paul continued: "Those who make themselves clean from all these evil things, will be used for special purposes because they are dedicated, useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed" (v. 21 TEV). When a need arises, our Master looks for a clean, available vessel.
If you and I today are to be usable, we need to ask ourselves the following:
- Am I available, cleansed from evil things, set apart, useful to the Master?
- Am I listening for His promptings? Am I preoccupied with my agenda?
- If I sense His prompting, am I willing to respond?
- If I am unavailable, unprepared, or insensitive to His promptings, the Master may use someone else, and I will miss the blessing. (See Esther 4:14, 15.)
An Available Vessel
One available "vessel" was Butch. While listening to a tape on "prayer," he heard a speaker—whom had had met previously—relate how he and his wife and children were praying that his father, a retired Army major, would come to Christ. Butch later learned that this man's father lived, as he himself did, near Washington, DC. Not long after that, while driving one afternoon, Butch noticed a man standing on the corner. Butch couldn't believe his resemblance to the speaker he'd heard! So he stopped, introduced himself, and discovered that indeed it was the speaker's father—the one for whom the family was praying.
That encounter began a friendship between Butch and the "Major." They met for an extended period of time, during which Butch often endured smoldering cigars and war stories. As their friendship continued, the Major's health declined. One night Butch came to the Major's bedside and said, "I've been listening to your stories. Can I tell you one of mine?" He agreed, and Butch read the story of Nicodemus meeting Jesus in John 3. At Butch's invitation the Major trusted Jesus Christ as his own Savior. He said with a salute, "Now I'm under a new Commander-in-Chief!"
A few weeks later, the Major entered His Lord's presence. The family that prayed for Granddad, Major George Hendricks, was that of the Major's son, Dr. Howard G. Hendricks. The Lord used Butch Hardman, a pastor in the suburbs of Washington, DC, to answer someone else's prayer.
Off the Shelf
As you are praying this week for people or ministries in other areas, you can be confident that the Lord knows all about them. He has some of His people nearby. And He hears their prayers. The Master is able to stir His vessels to minister on His behalf. At the same time, believers near you, and in other areas, are probably praying that God will do a work in the lives of people or ministries in your area. He will be looking for vessels He can use—those that are clean, available, and useful. He will prompt and dispatch His servants to carry out His ministry. Will we be alert to His promptings? Will we be available for the Lord to use you to answer someone else's prayer?