Getting Gritty in Prayer: Stories of Answered Prayer

Today’s sermon shared some answered prayers. Such stories help us get gritty for prayer: they tell us about God’s faithfulness in the past and thus encourage us to keep on trusting him in the future. There are all sorts of caveats and nuance to how to understand God answering our prayers. But at the end of the day, God, the Lord over everything, tells us as his children to pray, and he promises that he will hear and answer. So hopefully these stories from all sorts of people (some anonymous, some perhaps identifiable) can encourage you to be gritty in prayer and to be aware of how God has answered prayer in your life.

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March 20, 2004. Two weeks before our son was to marry a sweet young woman named Maria, whom we looked forward to adding to our family. We got the call from Maria, ‪at 1:50am that Kyle had been caught up in an avalanche. He had not been found yet. They called off the search ‪until sun up in 5 hours or so. We literally fell to our knees and prayed. Overwhelmed with grief, at the more than real possibility that he did not survive, falling on our knees before our Father was instinctive and the only thing we could do til morning.

God answered our prayers. Not all of them, but he’s given us blessings undeserved, taught us lessons in a way that we needed, and assures us that He’s still working for our good and his glory.

We prayed that Kyle would miraculously have survived but knew in our hearts that was improbable. We prayed for our kids, Dane & Cali, asking for wisdom and the words to tell them. We prayed for Maria and her unthinkable loss, a total shift in what she thought her life would be. At the same time, God prompted us to pray for a husband for Maria. One that he would prepare to step into a very difficult situation. We prayed that if it was his will, that we would maintain a relationship with her.

Three and a half years later, and our relationship with Maria still strong, she met and eventually married Brent in 2007. He was 5 years older than her, a believer, and willing to do the hard work of helping Maria rebuild trust in another relationship. Knowing that the Fitzpatricks would be part of the “package;” not in a weird, Kyle’s parents way, but in the “we love Maria and are committed to her” way.

2007 – Maria and Brent were married on his family’s farm in Wisconsin, and we were there.

2015 – Cali and Chris were married in Hermann, and Maria, Brent and their two boys were there.

2016 – Dane and Lillie were married in Excelsior Springs, and Maria, Brent and their two boys were there.

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One day my son was in the car as we were headed to the church building (it was a ‪Thursday morning), and he wanted a donut. I told him that there are only usually donuts around on Fridays because of men’s ministry and on Sunday mornings. He was bummed and sat quietly the whole ride to the church. I prayed informally in my head but didn’t have a lot of hope. We get there, and he says once more that he wants a donut, and I skeptically offered to take him into the workroom to see if there were any there, knowing that he’d just be upset all over again. We get in, and there is literally one donut left in a box on the counter area. Out of my surprise I told Shelly at the front desk and she says, “It’s stuff like that which makes me know God delights in answering the prayers of little children.”

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I was raising financial support for a summer missions project in Hungary and was well short of the necessary amount. I had a strong sense that spending my summer in this way was a good thing for me to do, but there was definitely some disagreement by people close to me, and the money wasn’t coming in. I was praying but also didn’t know what to think.

The guy who had been instrumental in me becoming a Christian suggested I contact this one couple. I didn’t know them, although I had gone to high school with their son. I sent them a letter and followed up with a phone call. He said,“Well, we’re glad for what you’re doing, and we want to provide what you need.” I stammered in surprise,“That could be about a thousand dollars!” He replied,“That sounds good.” And so the night before we left, I picked up a check for $1,000. And that summer was hugely influential in my faith.

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Back when I was doing juvenile justice center ministry I would go to lead Bible study at the center. As ‪the evening was approaching I started to be struck with a migraine but I felt very led by the Holy Spirit that I was to go and lead this study. I left in my car and my head was pounding; the lights were bothering my eyes and when I arrived at the center I honestly did not know if I would be able to complete leading the studies.

I started on the restricted side; this study had about 12 boys. The room was stifling hot; the lights were bright shining and my head was exploding. I started the study and then I just stopped and told these boys that I had a terrible migraine and that we needed to stop and pray right then and there. I asked them to bow their heads with me and I would pray. So I prayed and asked God to remove my headache so I could lead the class. After I finished praying I lifted my head, and my headache was completely gone. The boys asked me how I felt and I said: God healed me right then and there from my headache. I said we have to praise Him for his healing power so I said a prayer praising God. The boys could not believe it and kept asking me about my headache and I was then able to explain that we have a God who hears our prayers; knows our every need, and yes, God does answer prayers. At that moment I realized that God healing me of my headache was not for me but it was for a way for God to display his glory, his healing power to these young boys who really didn’t know who our God was and what our God can do.

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We had decided we were going to adopt but the costs really freaked us out. We’d been planning and praying that the Lord would ordain our steps and help us figure out where exactly this money was going to come from. We came up with a certain amount we were going to contribute monthly. Not sure exactly how we were going to work it out, we prayed the Lord would help us figure it out. The very next day, a check came in the mail from an old life insurance policy that had never been closed out. We’re not sure how they found us. The check was within $10 of the amount we had said we needed to save. God answered our prayers almost immediately. That pretty much started our path toward our first son.

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You are probably looking for happy stories so this isn’t it. Here’s one of prayers not being answered how we thought they should: we were in the waiting line for a child 0-3, and the line was long. We went to a conference and met lots of people with older kids. We both really felt called to increase our age range but were very nervous about it. We started praying God would make our path very clear, that we would know what he wanted for our family. Within a few weeks, we found out we were pregnant and decided to put off making any decisions. But that pregnancy turned out ectopic and ruptured. I felt desperate and lost. Why would God give us a baby only to take it immediately away? I kept praying, asking God to heal our hearts and make the path clear. And Eric and I talked about it and were both sure that our lost pregnancy was God’s way of making sure we heard his call to adopt older. Had that baby arrived, we would have had plenty of time to wait and might not have increased our age range. We would have missed our on the biggest blessing he was preparing, our son. We got our referral for our son one week before our due date for the baby that wasn’t meant to be. We would not have been able to accept the referral if we were pregnant. We also traveled to meet him exactly one year after the emergency surgery from the year before. I know in full certainty that God’s answer to my prayers about how to build our family and whether or not to adopt an older child were answered by what we considered a tragedy at the time.

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We were on a mission trip to Belarus. We were over the allotted kids at camp and if caught we could have been put in jail. Vladimir, the camp director, had been imprisoned several times for his faith in one way or another. About midnight, as I was walking to my room on camp to sleep, the police drove by very slowly with their bright lights shining in. They settled on me for a moment, then scanned the grounds around me. God in his mercy, caused them to be blind to all that gave witness that we were over the limit of kids we were to have and caused me to keep on walking as if all things were ‘well,’ which, they were. God had it.

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One time my friend and I served Tuesday nights at Loaves and Fishes years ago. We served ‪from 5:00-6:15, and it was summer time, with people lined up all the way down the street ‪at 5:00. We always served bread and peanut butter and then the meal. My friend came to me and said we are OUT of bread and it was only ‪5:15! I looked at her and went over the stove and simply said, “Father God, it is only ‪5:15, and we are already out of bread. You will have to make this stretch just as you did when you fed the 5,000.” Then I just continued to serve those coming to eat. About five minutes later there was a knock at the back door which no one ever uses. I went to the door, and this man said that he has never ever been to Loaves and Fishes, but he had all this extra bread, and someone suggested to take it to Loaves and Fishes. Then my friend and I right there praised God for not only hearing our prayer but answering so quickly.

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When I have prayed for that job, that car, college acceptance, for health concerns, or for a place to live and it goes well I say thank you to God then want to post on Facebook that God is good. But when that painful desperate prayer is not answered it can shake our faith. It is then that I have chosen to place trust in my God. It has been in those unanswered prayers where I was led to ask others to join forces with me, seek Scripture more, find books pertaining to the subject, or even seek wisdom from friends or counselors.

It has never been the same path with each unanswered prayer. It instead has been a journey that has led me into deeper relationship with my Lord and Savior and with his church. I have had prayers that have taken two to four years to be answered or even longer. I have one that has been on-going for 26 years. The waiting has kept me dependent. Quick victory can make me proud and think outcomes were due to my effort. When my prayer has not been answered it has led me to a choice. Will I give God a time limit and then decide he has failed me and I can no longer trust him or will I trust there is purpose in the waiting and the outcome?

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Our third day in Tokyo I started experiencing some minimal but really unexpected bleeding. I was 17 weeks pregnant, and any bleeding in pregnancy definitely causes concern. Those first few days were filled with fear, uncertainty, and even denial that anything was wrong. We were across the world from our friends and family, completely alone in a very foreign city. By that I mean we couldn’t read or speak the language and had no idea where good medical help was.

His pregnancy is one of the most vivid and profound experiences I have trusting in the Lord despite the outcome, and also feeling his immeasurable grace and mercy towards us and Jack’s life.

Those first few days were the scariest days because we had no idea what was happening. I would lay awake praying repeatedly for comfort, safety for our baby, and God’s presence to be with us. I would sit and read different Psalms over and over to be comforted by his word and give me words to pray and affirm who God says he is. Those nights were filled with anxiety and fears that were vividly accompanied by his peace and care for us. Prayer was the ONLY thing we had, and I felt very dependent on giving my thoughts and fears to God. We didn’t know the outcome but prayed repeatedly to cling to him.

That first visit to the Japanese doctor was SHOCKING. For some reason I feel like God protected us from the reality of the situation. The doctor basically revealed there was a blood clot bigger than the size of the baby at that gestational age! It was bigger than Jack and he was surprised Jack was still alive and okay. He gave very severe warnings to limit any activity, and told me my pregnancy was now VERY high risk.

So there we were across the world, planning to spend the next 8 weeks in a country with a high risk pregnancy. Those 2 months there were filled with VIVID prayer, constantly asking for protection and peace, and God’s will for this little life. We had no idea if I would be able to carry Jack full term, or if we would lose him at any point.

Fast forward to coming home to America, the pregnancy stabilized and we hadn’t experienced anything nearly like our experience in Tokyo until 27 weeks (3 weeks after our return home). I was in the hospital for a week with the same circumstances, a very large blood clot between Jack and my uterus that could basically cause him to miscarry at any point, or be born very premature. 27 weeks is usually the earliest a baby can be born and have any potential to survive outside the womb. I was put on bedrest the rest of the pregnancy very uncertain if Jack would be born at any point, potentially very early. Those next 3 months, much like the 8 weeks in Japan, my prayers were very vivid and necessary to maintain any peace. We continually had to trust Jack’s life into God’s hands, and even surrender that he may not be born alive. Prayer continually sustained my trust in God, even if it meant something different than what we hoped for. Praying psalms and God’s word affirmed who He has always been and gave me perspective outside of this one circumstance. I really wrestled with believing God’s goodness, facing a horrible outcome for my baby’s life.

Jack was born at 39 weeks, induced labor in fact. He was full term and didn’t want to face any other unforeseen complications. He was completely healthy and born without any side effects from his difficult pregnancy. I still can’t believe it!

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Does God answer prayer? In her final days Jody and I continued to pray for God to heal her body, but, on what turned to be her last night, she asked me to pray for her to have a good night’s rest; and if God didn’t have it in His plan to heal her body, to take her on to heaven without pain and suffering. She slept all night! I woke her about 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning so she could take her medicine, and she went back to sleep. She woke up about 8:30 a.m. and talked to Jordan and me for a few minutes and then went back to sleep. At 1:40 p.m., with her family attending her, Jody quietly and almost unobtrusively took her last breath on this earth and took her first breath in heaven. To a person suffering from lung cancer how that first breath must have felt! So, did God answer my prayer from the night before? As surely and as perfectly as only God can. You see, when we “let go” and “let God”, all things will truly work for good to those that love Him. While we grieve over our loss, trying to fill the hole in our world that Jody left behind, we claim the promise of John 14:1-4, and proclaim “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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