Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together….Before they call I will answer; While they are yet speaking I will hear. (Psalm 34:3; Isaiah 65:24)
The Hot Water Bottle
Dr. Helen Roseveare (1925-2016) was an English Christian missionary, doctor, and author who served in Zaire. She worked late one night in the 1960s helping a mother in the labor and delivery ward. Sadly the mother died, leaving a premature baby and a two-year-old daughter. There was no incubator and no electricity. The night was cold and drafty, so they wrapped the baby in a blanket and stoked up the fire. They needed a hot water bottle to keep the baby warm, but they didn’t have one or any place to buy one.
The next day Dr. Roseveare gathered the orphanage children for worship and suggested things to pray about including the premature, tiny baby and her sister, crying because her mother died. One ten-year-old girl named Ruth prayed, “Please, Lord, send us a hot water bottle today for the baby. It’ll be no good tomorrow because the baby will die. We need it now. And Lord, please send a doll for her sister, so that she knows you love her.” Dr. Roseveare appreciated the prayer, but her own faith was not so bold. She thought, “I believe the Lord can do everything; the Bible says so. But I’m not sure that He will do this, this time.”
That afternoon while the doctor was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a large 22-pound package arrived. Dr. Roseveare started weeping tears of joy, because this was her first package from England. She called the orphanage children to help her open it and thirty pair of excited eyes focused on this large cardboard box.
On top were clothes for the children. Then bandages for leprosy patients. Bags of raisins and nuts. And amazingly, a brand new hot water bottle! Ruth, the child who prayed so boldly, was in front and said, “If the Lord has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly too!” She felt down to the bottom and pulled out a beautifully dressed doll. Ruth’s eyes gleamed! She never doubted Christ! Miraculously this parcel had been on route to Zaire for five months, packed up and sent by a Sunday school class in England.
God does not always works this way, but He sometimes does. This true story stretches my faith to ask the Lord to do impossible things. Scripture says Christ is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.1 Our faith in Jesus rests on and is reinvigorated by recalling that He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful. Dr. Roseveare wrote, “Our Heavenly Father knew in advance of the need, and the child’s sincere requests, and five months earlier God led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles in the package.”
“When God intends great mercy for His people, He first of all sets them praying.” (Matthew Henry)
Jesus Does the Impossible
Christ says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God….Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.”2 The Lord is the King of kings, not our servant and not a cosmic vending machine, so He can answer in any way or time He pleases, or He can decline our request. But Christ urges us to be bold about praying to Him as little Ruth was in Zaire. Asking God is our responsibility; answering is His right and privilege.
Jesus’ prophet Jeremiah asserted, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” And then God Himself spoke, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”3 Christ is the Creator and Upholder of all the planets, including ours! So anything we need is easy for Him to supply, if He deems it wise and best for us. We are to be faithful in our duty of prayer. The Lord is free to answer any way He chooses.
So when our pain or illness is worsening, or we can’t break an old bad habit, or we are unemployed or underemployed, let’s keep praying for one another until God’s answer comes. When we have some suffering we don’t want or lack a blessing we desire, let’s keep praying. When we have broken or frustrating relationships or wayward or unbelieving children, let’s keep asking God to help us. The Psalms are honest that life is tough and hard and painful at times, and that we sometimes feel like we’re going down the drain. But Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”4
Does the Lord Really Answer Sometimes Before We Pray?
In our present and fallen world, it often seems that God’s answers don’t come or are delayed. The Psalmist asked, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”5 Most of us feel that way sometimes. But let’s remember the Father’s un-stingy generosity with us, beloved! We worry about unanswered prayers, but how often has He given us un-prayed-for answers? Many times the Lord has provided for us when we forgot to petition Him, “Give us day by day our daily bread.” The Father’s mercy is new to us every morning, even when we are remiss to request, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Moment by moment, a thousand times a day, He keeps us from careening into confusion or drifting into disaster, even when we fail to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”6
Isaiah 65 is describing life in the new heavens and a new earth, after Jesus Christ returns for us. But even now, by God’s grace, He answers sometimes before we pray to demonstrate that from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.7
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Ev’rything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.
Notes (various translations): 1 Eph 3:20. 2 Luke 18:7; Matt 7:7. 3 Jer 32:17;27. 4 Mark 5:36. 5 Psalm 10:1. 6 Luke 11:3,4. 7 Rom 11:36.