I learned an important lesson in prayer a couple of years ago. I went on a short term missions trip to a very poor community in the Amazon region of Peru. While we were there we were asked if we could pray for a little girl who had been hurt. She was born with some sort of birth defect that prevented her from walking normally. In addition a large antique sewing machine had fallen over on her. It left her without the ability to walk at all, in addition she was in constant and excruciating pain.
When we visited her, it made us all feel quite somber and hopeless for her. She needed some serious medical attention, but her family had very little money. Even if they were able to scrape together the money, given the amount of pain she was in, there would be no way for her to take the 20 hour bus ride over the Andes mountains to get to Lima.
Her mother insisted on picking her up and holding her so that we could all lay hands on her. When I saw how much pain this caused the girl it caused my stomach to turn. Several people prayed out loud for her. My own prayers were quite weak. I prayed that God would ease her pain and I prayed that somehow the family would be able to get the money to get her to a doctor. I left thinking “what hope is there for this child?”
The next day the little girl woke her mother up standing next to her bed and smiling. Her mom asked what she was doing standing and she matter-of-factly stated “God healed me”. The way the story was communicated it sounded like the little girl said it like “no duh!” And sure enough she could walk again. We found out when she walked across the community to see us. It was a real miracle.
There was no doubt in my mind that God had done this for this little girl. He had performed a miracle and did so despite my own lack of faith. I felt like I had such a small and impotent faith in that moment. I prayed in a way so that I wouldn’t be disappointed. God proved himself to be so much more generous than I could imagine. While we were praying, God was planning a party for this little girl and I was trying to find a way to excuse myself because I didn’t think it was going to be all that great.
I learned an important lesson that day about the need to pray boldly and with confidence. I’m listening to a series of lectures by JP Moreland right now. He made a great point along these lines. We can go about praying in such a way so that we’re never disappointed by God’s lack of answers to our prayers. If we choose to do that we’re trying to protect our own faith. If we pray boldly and seek miraculous answers to prayer He may only grant our request 5 times in 100. But if our prayers are big and specific enough, those 5 times will be far superior to any disappointment we might feel the other 95 times.