She was convinced that God was in on it. It wasn’t bad, mind you. It was actually good. She was convinced that God was in those details blessing her.
“But how can you be sure?” I asked.
“Easy.” she said. “I prayed for it.”
Her prayer request?
For a parking spot to open up because she was late for an appointment.
It did. God ordained it. That settled it.
As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon. Acts 9:32-43
My friend was convinced that God heard her prayer for a close parking spot so she wouldn’t have to walk very far. She was late for an appointment and the inconvenience of having to walk two blocks would have made her more late, so desperately she prayed. God heard that request and caused someone to leave at just the right moment so that she could park close.
In her mind it wasn’t coincidence, it was divine intervention.
But does God really care where we park?
Our prayers are to be offered for the sake of the community and for the benefit of the watching world so that God’s Kingdom might further be established.
[/pullquote]I contrast that mindset with the end of Acts 9, and I’m struck by the differences that I see about prayer, action, and God’s intervention in the world.
And then I think about the times that I sat with pastors from other countries and heard their stories of faith and miracles. One pastor recently shared his escape from death. He had been chased down in his home country and was being threatened with death. The recent death of Christian brothers in the news was his likely outcome.
And yet, at the last moment, God intervened and he was miraculously rescued. His life was spared and he went right back to church planting.
And there have been other stories as well. Of leaders of former movements suddenly choosing to follow Jesus. The punishment for their crime was death, and yet I’ve heard their stories of miraculous escapes. One, on the verge of death, agreed to take his punishment and the accusers stopped and ran away.
And not just near death experiences, but of healing miracles, of the kind we see here in the life of Paul. People suddenly restored. People restored and transformed. Welcomed back into the life of the community. The Gospel power at work.
My friend was concerned with her own outcome. She wanted a favorable parking spot. Honestly, I just can’t make the leap that God honors that prayer request. Not because he can’t, or not because he isn’t concerned with her, but because it comes primarily from selfish intent. She left late, didn’t account for traffic, and wanted to avoid the consequences. She wanted God to excuse her poor choices.
In contrast, we see Peter’s request. They are not centered on him but on others. His actions and prayers are not for selfish gain but for Kingdom establishment. Peter’s perspective is not on himself but others.
In one instance, Peter healed someone who had been bedridden for eight years. Trapped by four walls, this man had no hope and was almost completely isolated from his community. In another instance, a woman known for her sacrificial love and service was missing from the community.Her life, in one sentence, was described as the fulfilling of the Great Commandment: she had loved God and loved others. Peter knew that this woman’s testimony and witness needed to continue. He prays that she might be healed so that those in need might not go without.
We must learn to take the same stance. Our prayers, as this story illustrates, are not to be focused on how God might get us out of a jam, especially those that are self induced. Instead, they are to be offered for the sake of the community and for the benefit of the watching world so that God’s Kingdom might further be established.