While writing Surprised by Prayer I was intrigued by all of the true stories of answered prayer I was hearing from the people whose experiences I was putting in the book. I started wondering why I wasn't seeing more answers in my own life.
One morning as I was brushing my teeth I noticed a church bulletin I'd left on the counter. My eyes fell on the name of a new family who had joined our church. Since there are several thousand members at our church, I'd never met the family listed but their street address grabbed my attention. They lived on a street I walked every morning while praying!
My heart started pounding as I realized that as I pass new homes, I pray that whoever moves there might find a church where their faith would grow. Although I'd said those prayers over and over again for months, as far as I knew, nothing had ever come of them before now. Suddenly I was staring at proof that God answers prayers right there on my bathroom counter!
I was so excited I grabbed the bulletin and went to my study and took out my journal and wrote, "It's such an amazing feeling to see an answer to prayer written in black and white." Then I got a little carried away with the enthusiasm of the moment. My pen flew as I wrote, "Why don't I try a 100 answered prayer experiment where I try to find and record 100 answers to prayer in my own life? I'll count this as answer number one." Before I had a chance to rationally think through how hard this might be, I wrote down, "Answer to Prayer # 1," in my journal and described the story of the names on the bulletin. The experiment was underway.
Unfortunately, the next morning when I sat down and opened my journal my pen sat idle. I couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary that had happened that seemed like it was an answer to prayer. I saw that if I was going to have any chance of succeeding I was going to need to overhaul my personal prayer habits and I was going to need to develop new ways of finding answers.
Over the next few weeks I struggled hard to find answers. After I'd finally found about 10, I realized that I had done it by broadening my idea of what an answer looked like. I wasn't just counting favorable turns of events and solutions to my problems, I was also counting the ways God was helping me a little bit each day, steering me in the right direction and giving me the courage and strength I needed. I saw that the types of answers I was writing down could be grouped into three main categories: Action Answers, Presence Answers and Word Answers. After I identified these categories, my experiment took off and I was able to find 100 answers in 51 days.
This challenge made an incredible difference in my prayer life. In the past prayer had been very one-sided and rather boring. I usually sat making requests and mentally listing all sorts of needs and problems. Challenging myself to find answers had transformed prayer into something that was exciting and interactive because I was connecting very real results to my prayers very soon after praying.
The day after I wrote down answer to prayer # 100 I found myself opening up my journal and writing "Answer to Prayer #101." The challenge had done so much for my faith and my prayer life that I decided to keep on numbering. Today I have over 1,300 answers to prayer recorded in my journals, answers that came even when my father became seriously ill, when my sister's house burned down to the ground and when our son was deployed to Iraq.
In the PPP series we invite groups and individuals to try their own experiments to see if they can meet the challenge of finding 100 Answered Prayers. Try it! It changed my life forever. How will it change yours?
Goal: For the group to collect 100 answers to prayer during the course of the Personal Prayer Power study.Purposes:
Finding 100 answers is meant to be challenging. The idea is to make this seem like a true achievement rather than something that can be done quickly and easily.How the Challenge Works.
In DVD lessons 2 and 3 participants will be learning about the 3 main categories of prayer answers. During the week they'll be gaining practical experience identifying them in their own lives using the Action Guide homework activities.
Here are the three main categories of prayer answers:
|1. Action Answers||Resolutions to our problems.|
|2. Presence Answers||Responses that give us new strength and hope.|
|3. Word Answers||Replies from God|
Here's a more detailed explanation of the categories of prayer answers that the participants will learn in videos 2 and 3.
|My Answered Prayer!|
|Circle type of answer: Action Word Presence
Participants may submit as many answers to prayer as they wish each week. Collect all of the slips and make a grand total for the day.
Optional: Create a chart or a visual way of keeping track of answers to post in the class that will show progress toward the 100 mark. If space allows, you could post the actual slips in groups of tens on the wall. If space doesnÕt allow, you could create a graph or a thermometer type chart.
As answers accumulate, it might be interesting to keep tabs of the numbers of answers in each of the three categories to see the kinds of answers class members are finding the most frequently or the most quickly after praying.Tips on Budgeting Time While Gathering Answers
Keep this activity to a 10 minute maximum.
Remember time limitations. DonÕt cut into valuable discussion time by allowing this to take more than 10 minutes.
The recommended way to gather the answers is to hand out the slips to each group member and encourage them to write down their answers instead of sharing them out loud.
Having a slip of paper in everyoneÕs hands causes everyone to think through the sorts of answers theyÕve had during the last week. It also encourages those who may not have had time to do the homework activities to at least take a minute or two at the beginning of class to reflect on what happened that week in their prayer time.
When the leader collects the slips the leader may read the slips to the class. Or, the leader may simply count them by category and add up the total. This saves quite a bit of time since people have a tendency to go into longer versions of their stories when speaking than they do when writing them down. Having the leader share the answers will keep things to the point while allowing the class to appreciate and enjoy the results.
In classes with more time available, class members might want to comment on or discuss answers after they have been read by the leader.
Another way to share the answers is have participants get into groups of two to share answers with a partner. Then the leader can go around the room and ask for the number of answers each group of two has to contribute without going into the details of exactly what the answer was.