The wind swirled the pregnant clouds overhead as rain lightly tapped my window. My knees were nestled in the brown carpet of our bedroom as I stole away for a time of private intercession. In a home with four small children, these moments are few and precious. Amidst fluttering thoughts, the Lord gave me grace to plead on behalf of friends, family, and church members. The minutes moved quickly as I relished the presence of a living Redeemer “who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). Even in moments of silence, as I wrestled to know what to say or ask, I recalled the promise of Romans 8:26, that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The overarching theme of my prayers on that windy day was God’s majestic, all-encompassing, and all-wise sovereign rule of his universe. Theology met practice that day as I placed my loved ones into the hands of a good and gracious King. I began to finish my time of prayer and even smiled as I rejoiced in the knowledge that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). With a hint of glib assurance, I put a proverbial bow on my prayers by extolling the greatness of God’s sovereign purposes to work in all things to confirm his children into the image of Christ – up to and including pain and suffering. With a hearty “Amen!” I jumped back to my feet and made my way to my door.
It was, at that providential moment, that a muffled chime caught my attention. It was my cell phone. I had left it half-covered by a thick blue and white blanket on my bed. The familiar ringtone was accompanied by the screen’s caller I.D. that told me it was my beautiful wife on the other end of the line. Full of joy from my time of prayer, I answered the phone with a chipper, “What’s up?” Her response, however, made my countenance fall. “Don’t be mad,” she said solemnly. On a three-hour road trip in our van with all four children and her mother, a coolant malfunction caused the vehicle to break down in a town that I had never visited nor had any contacts in. After a number of internet searches and phone calls, the van was safely towed to a dealership and my little crew of castaways were rescued by a young employee driving a new van fresh off the lot. What was intended to be a fun, inexpensive road trip turned out to be an anxious and expensive affair. It was certainly not the outcome that I foresaw when I helped them pack the van that morning. My brow furrowed as I recalled checking the oil before they pulled out of the driveway. My brow furrowed even deeper when I thought about paying the mechanic’s bill. Then it happened. My glib sense of fulfillment in praying so fervently for God’s will melted into a humble appreciation for the Good Shepherd’s will and ways.
In short, I realized that he had graciously given me an opportunity to practice what I pray. My worship of his sovereign might and wise Kingship both in his universe and especially in the lives of his children gave way to the understanding that his purposes were being worked out even as I prayed. While on my knees praying for his good and gracious will to be done, my van was overheating in another town two hours away. Was he still good? Was he still wise? I had to decide. With all of the promises of Romans chapter 8 washing over my mind, the Spirit of God brought me to a place of surrender as I realized that he was indeed good, wise, and infinitely more so. Are you praying for yourself and others today? Are you citing God’s sovereign rule over your life and theirs? That is good. Perhaps you will be blessed with an opportunity to practice what you pray. Perhaps blessing or calamity will come to your doorstep today. My prayer is that in all circumstances you will cling to the hope that, for those who are unified to Jesus Christ by faith, all things certainly do work for good. That good, of course, is stripping us of all weak, earthbound dependencies and causing us to cling even tighter to the cross of Christ. This is where joy is found. So, dear saint, set yourself to prayer with the knowledge that you are being trained to rest in Christ. He might even use your minivan to do it.