Not just another “$500 Story”

I know that I have likely mentioned the Priscilla Shirer study One in a Million on more than one occasion. It was one that I did with a close friend at a time when I was walking through a wilderness in life. But, it’s in those wilderness places…in sometimes painful isolation…where we can hear God the clearest if we stop screaming long enough. I am thankful for that time and all of the many things God taught me while I was there.

In this study, Priscilla told of “The $500 Story”. When she was a child and her father (Tony Evans) was in seminary, times were tight. They were making due, but her mother cried out in tears one night because they were in need. 500 dollars. That’s all they needed to make ends meet. So, they went to the Lord in prayer. The next day, Priscilla’s father went to school and opened his on-campus mailbox….only to find a money order for $500. During this portion of the study, Priscilla said that her parents remember that story still today “as a sign of God’s hand on their lives during a wilderness experience.” She writes, “The story serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness…and encourages them to rely on God in the good times and the rough, resting in the knowledge that God is always in control.” (from One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer)

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I have been a big advocate of writing down prayers and encourage people to make it a practice. Whether it’s a simple list that you pray over, or a specific prayer written like a letter to God himself- here is such a wonderful aspect of this practice that brings blessing upon blessing. Priscilla encourages us in this portion of the study to remember some “$500 Stories” that we can hang onto in the dry seasons. Keeping prayers in my journal makes those stories stand out. When God answers prayer, I go back in my journal and make note of how and what He did. Sometimes He answers in an unexpected way- but, He answers.

This week, I wanted to share one of those stories with you.

Last April, I had a routine medical test done. Nothing fancy, no special need or circumstance- just a test. Through a series of blunders (that I will gladly spare you from) I received a letter from our insurance company that they were declining to pay for that test. I was shocked. But, even more so- I didn’t know what to do. I started making phone calls and called upon my past experience as an insurance agent to get to the bottom of this matter. (Or at least try.) I thought the matter had been handled. However, this Monday- 4 days ago- I found out that it was not resolved. So here I am, staring down the barrel of a $2000 medical bill. And I realized something. I couldn’t remember ever praying specifically about this matter. I’d look through my prayer journals, but no…I really can’t recall a time. So instead of looking back, I decided to lean forward. I prayed.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:5-8

I needed wisdom. I relied on my own experience before and it got me nowhere. How did I not pray about this? “Ok…God…it’s yours.” I prayed and wrote it down in my journal. I prayed that God would place the right people in the way to see this situation clearly. It wasn’t just a financial perspective, there were other factors. I asked for the Lord to show them the whole picture. Furthermore, I didn’t want to ask Him to be completely off the hook for this bill. I knew that a service was rendered and that it is customary for that service to have a fee attached. I asked the Lord to somehow have that fee reduced so we could be responsible and pay for it. I prayed for the sweet lady I spoke with on the phone that day, Zineb. I prayed that she would be patient with me, and I with her. And I would reflect the character of Christ when speaking with her to resolve the matter. Then I closed my journal.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Thursday, January 15th…three days later. Shortly before 3pm, I received a call from sweet Zineb. In response to the good news coming from her lips- the only thing I could say was “Praise the LORD!”. I thanked her for her willingness and diligence. God made a way. The bill has been reduced to $350. Instead of a $500 story- God gave me a $1650 story! I went to my prayer journal and wrote an answer and date on the page that contained the initial prayer and petition. Then I opened a fresh page to give thanks. Indeed. Praise the Lord!

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:13-14

SO THAT THE FATHER MAY BE GLORIFIED IN THE SON.

I am not telling you this because I am happy that my bill was reduced. I am not telling you because God was quick to answer. I am sharing this so you will know and understand how awesome God is and how much He cares. So that He may be glorified! And this is another story…another response to prayer that I will hold in my heart for the tough days. I know God is good. ALL THE TIME. I don’t want to be like the Israelites who wandered the desert and forgot one miracle after another. God provided- Always and often. Yet, they seemed to forget so quickly.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:3-4

No, God is not the slot machine that some preachers would make Him out to be. You cannot insert a prayer and pull the arm expecting prosperity and blessing. As for blessings: they don’t just come in the form of happy things and easy times. God blesses us infinitely through the trials and struggles we endure as we lean closer to Him. TRUST in the Lord…Take DELIGHT in the Lord. Your desire will be for Him and He will give you the desires of your heart and all to His glory.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:26-28

This year I challenge you to keep a prayer journal. It will not only encourage regular, dedicated time for thoughtful prayer –  but, will also serve as a reminder of His infinite mercy, provision, and grace and love in your life.

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