My connecting flight had been delayed (again), so I decided to use the time getting to know at least one person in the congested waiting area. I started talking to a leader from Zimbabwe who oversees a network of churches in various Central African countries. He had come to this East African city to see the pastor of a new church plant. His boarding call cut short our conversation, but he scribbled down the pastor’s number in the hope that I would make contact on my return through this city. Slim chance of that, but I pushed the note into my bag and boarded my flight. Ten days later, I was back in that city.

This time I had a complimentary overnight stay in a plush hotel. Conference ministry had been blessed but demanding, and conditions very rustic. My dream list was a hot shower, big meal, comfortable bed and ten unbroken hours of sleep; it was about to happen. Or maybe not. First, there was a ‘what am I missing’ feeling and then, the image of a crumpled note with a phone number. I fished out the pastor’s number from my bag, called him, and within an hour I was in a taxi navigating the city’s back streets. I walked into a room too small for the number of people. The pastor greeted me: I saw you last night. Huh? No, not me, I was in another country last night. He went on: I saw you in a dream – the Lord said “this foreigner will come with a message for you.” I told the Lord it’s not possible as we’re off the map, unknown, but he told me to wait and see. Then the pastor gave me the meeting (no pressure!).

I was tired, my mind was slow and I definitely wasn’t feeling like God’s anointed messenger! I read a scripture, shared for a while, and then my weariness got lost in what happened next. Some dropped to their knees, others were face-down. A mix of sorrow and joy, repentance and praise, surrender and hunger for God. We were on holy ground. I felt like a spectator, watching God at work from a ringside seat.

As the taxi bumped through the dark streets, I replayed the events. I had not initiated the night’s encounter with the Lord. He was at work before I got involved. The dream the night before, a connection at the airport a week earlier…. and probably much more that I don’t know about. My involvement with this group was, at most, a week old; the Lord’s was much longer. But he had opened a corridor for me to join what he was already doing. The kindness of the Lord! – choosing to write us into his works-in-progress!

This truth of God working ahead of us, then drawing us in, is relevant to prayer life. Often when faced with needs (personal or missional), we appeal to God to do something about it, to get involved. Why not rather approach him as the Lord already at work in that area of need? It’s a synergy of unequal partners; he the great Lord at work and we the little ones drawn into things too big for us. He has chosen to work our praying into the outcomes that serve his glory. He works ahead of us, anticipating our prayer involvement with him (a participation we don’t want to withhold) and shaping that involvement. Seeing him at work ahead of us adds a restfulness to our praying. Rather than rushing our requests, we pause to see his scepter already over the need, and to admire him. A good admiration habit when bringing a request to him is to thank him that he:

  • is PERFECTLY AWARE of the need
  • is ALREADY AT WORK
  • has chosen to INVOLVE OUR PRAYING in the outworking of the answer

Note: We’ll be on an extended ministry trip over the next few months, so Wingspan blog posts will probably be irregular for the remainder of this year.

Prayer growth resource: Shaped for Prayer Enjoyment