When Prayers of Avoidance Produce Counter Results

Steph's Rools of Grammar-1 smallUnanswered prayers we can deal with, but what happens when the very thing you pray fervently to avoid occurs? In secular psychology that’s called aversion therapy. In Chrsitiandom it’s called unexpected grace. Today Stephanie Prichard, author of Stranded, shares a time when God brought about the very thing she’d been praying He keep her from. As you read it, pause to consider your prayers and protective hedges, then dream about what life might look like if those hedges were removed.

GIVE-AWAY! Note: Stephanie has graciously donated an e-copy of her novel, to be given away to one reader chosen randomly through the comments left on this post. 

Before I continue, and as long as we’re shouting out book deals, I wanted to let you all know, Amazon currently has Beyond I Do on sale for under $6! Print and e-copies! Get yours here. Read a free 36-page excerpt here.

Pleeease, Not Ice! by Stephanie Prichard

Because I’m somewhat expressive (I say “imaginative,” my children say “drama queen”), I occasionally lack credibility with my offspring. Take the winter I was in Chicago helping my daughter recover from surgery. Every day I walked my grandchildren to and from school, loving the stroll with them between rows of condos on a street bustling with traffic. A right-hand turn down a quieter, tree-lined street led to the school.

It was that quieter (read “deserted”) street that caught my imagination when the sidewalks turned into sheets of ice the very hour I needed to get the kids. “I can just see myself falling and breaking my leg,” I told my daughter. “I’ll be lying there, unable to move, and along will come some man. ‘Can I help you?’ he’ll say, and when I tell him I can’t move he’ll wring his hands in delight and go ‘Mwhooohooohooohaha!’” I paused at my daughter’s rolling eyeballs.

“It’s your last day here, Mom. The kids will be disappointed if you don’t walk them home.” She handed me a scarf and mittens and pushed me out the door. Well, it felt like she did, anyway.

Hoo, were those sidewalks slick! Barely maintaining my balance, I slipped and slid and skidded ten steps forward, heart thumping, sweat gushing from my armpits. Dare I crawl on my hands and knees? If I could make it to the corner, maybe someone would help me stand and cross the street. But what if no one was there? I’d have to crawl across the street in front of the stopped traffic, and they’d all laugh at me. We drama queens do have our limits, you know.

I eyed the patches of lawn between the sidewalk and condos. Well, duh, why not walk on the grass? The blades, though glazed with ice, would provide texture to tread on. With a sigh of relief, I stepped onto the frozen grass.

And fell.

Yep. Onto the hard sidewalk. With my foot twisted under me. And I couldn’t move.

“Can I help you?” A man appeared out of nowhere.

As if following my own script, I said, “I can’t move.”

I stiffened, waiting for the “Mwhooohooohooohaha!” Instead, he pulled out his cell phone and asked, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

“Please! And can you call my daughter too?”

Within minutes, she was skidding across the winter wonderland to kneel beside me. Tears spilled from her eyes. “Mom, I’m so sorry!”

How could I say “I told you so” to that?

An ambulance ride and five hours in the emergency room later, I learned I had broken my ankle. Ouch. The very circumstance I had feared … had come true.

That little drama effected a mighty change in me.

I was a coward, and I had ended up in exactly the situation I was afraid of. What if, instead of squaring off my anxiety against circumstances (pleeease, not ice!), I had addressed my character deficiency (I need to be brave)?

ID-10075996Until this incident, my prayers for myself and others had pretty much asked for avoidance of any kind of suffering. Please, heal his cancer … give her a happy marriage … don’t let him lose his job. My prayers spoke only to circumstances, not to character transformations. Now I pray, Please, may he trust in Your plan for his life … may she learn to forgive her husband … may he see his shortcomings at work.

We don’t know if it’s God’s will to change a circumstance, but for sure we know it’s His will for us to grow in godliness.

***

Stephanie is an army brat who lived in many countries around the world and loved it. She met her husband at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she majored in English/Literature. She and Don have lived in Indianapolis, IN, for forty years, and in retirement have turned to co-authoring novels now that their three children are busy raising a beautiful crop of grandchildren for them.
All Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers wants is to give his dying wife a last, romantic cruise to the Philippines. Unable to save her in a mass murder aboard ship, he washes ashore a jungle island, where he Stranded Front FAC72discovers three other survivors. Heartbroken that he failed to save his wife, he is determined not to fail these helpless castaways.
Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson rescues a young girl and her elderly great-aunt from the same ship. They badly need Jake’s survival skills, but why is he so maddeningly careful? She needs to hurry home to nail a significant career trial. And, please, before Jake learns her secret that she’s responsible for his wife’s death.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What do your prayers center around? I find, if I don’t actively pray against it, I can be incredibly self-centered. When that happens, my prayers become largely about my comfort and self-preservation. But when I turn my focus off myself and put it onto Christ and others, my prayers change and become more eternal focused. What about you? Have you had a learning moment, like Stephanie did, that altered the way you thought or prayed? What do you do to keep your prayers focused on Christ and His mission, whether in you (your growth) or in the world at large? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
And speaking of prayers and God’s attentive handiwork, join me on Kimberly Rose Johnson’s as I talk about testing, addressing the question: If God’s all-knowing, why would He test us? 
AND, before you go, I encourage you to stop by Faith-filled Friend’s new blog to sign up for our newsletter and receive two free ebooks, Sweet Freedom volumes one and two along with great, free content every quarter, including:
Healthy and family favorite recipes, scenes from a novel that will grip your heart and increase your faith in Christ, devotions, and more! Visit Faith, Friends, and Chocolate (our new name!) and click on the newsletter sign-up button in the right hand column/side bard. (Go here.)
For those wanting to follow my launch, here’s where I’ve been this past week:
GIVE-AWAY! Yesterday I visited the Engrafted Word where I shared how God used a painful event to reiterate and impassion my call. You can read the interview here, and engage in the conversation to get entered into the give-away drawing.
On Monday I visited Simple Country Faith to share a time when it seemed God’s leading directly contradicted my husband’s will. So what do you do when you’re certain God is asking you to do something but your spouse is strongly set against it? Read more here.
On Thursday I chatted with blogger and book reviewer Cindy Loven about my latest release, When Dawn Breaks. You can join our conversation here.
BooksigningposterforFCLincolnpublicity-page-001 And for my fellow Nebraskans (or those looking to embark on a road trip 🙂 ) I’ll be at Family Christian in Lincoln a week from Saturday and would love to see you! And if you have any friends in the Lincoln area, please share the event with them. I’d love it if you’d share the event picture on your social media sites as well. 🙂 I love my publishing company and all they do in regards to missions and would love to see them thrive. 🙂
To my Kansas City area friends, I’ll be in your area at the end of the month. Details to follow.

True Survival Adventure by Max Elliot Anderson

I love a good story. I love a true, God story even better! Today’s story-devo first appeared in Guidepost in 2005. It was then reprinted on Max Elliot Anderson’s Books for Boys, on Friday, November 26th. Hopefully I’ll never get stranded along a desert road, but if I do, I know God will be right there with me. His arm is never too short to save nor His ear to dull to hear. What a mighty, loving, merciful God we serve!

*                                      *                                      *

“Living Legends” is the title of a film we were shooting. It documented what happens in a Native American family when the father becomes a Christian and leads his family.

Our final family interview was shot on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. We finished early, allowing us to begin our trip back home sooner than expected. One of the local people gave us directions including a shortcut, right through the reservation, which would cut fifteen to twenty miles off the trip.

We set out on the course we thought would take us to the main highway, but things went very, very wrong.

Oh, the scenery was beautiful, so long as we were sitting in a moving car, on a good road. But things deteriorated quickly after our tires left the pavement and we continued on a gravel surface.

With my military training, I should have known better and turned back the way we had come. We didn’t do that and soon I was stopping the car in order to jump out to remove jagged rocks from our path so our car didn’t bottom out and cause damage.

We reached a place called Seven Mile Wash. It looked like I could just drive across the dry sand, and continue where the road started up again on the other side. Immediately our tires became mired in what I can only describe as a powdery dust that resembled talcum powder. It took hours to jack the car up, dig out the tires, place logs under them, and inch the car forward, only to repeat the process over and over again.

Eventually, as I drove over a rise, with the sun in my eyes, the car started down the next hill and we hit a patch of those jagged rocks, tearing a hole in the transmission pan. As the fluid gushed out, gears began to slip until the car couldn’t travel any further. Our car was disabled and we were hopelessly lost.

As my dad stood next to it, I wrote down the numbers on a marker so we could try and explain to someone where our car was, after we hiked out of that wilderness. Well, that didn’t go as planned either. After several hours of hiking, we found that we’d gone in a full circle, in the dark, and wound up right back at our car. At about 2 AM, we were at 5000 feet of elevation, it was freezing out, so we spent the night sleeping in the car.

At daylight, we decided to try hiking out again. It wasn’t long until we discovered what a hostile environment we were stranded in. We walked for most of that day, lost touch with each other a couple of times, and my father fell and split his head open. Both of us became pretty discouraged. We were hungry, thirsty, and very lost. That’s when I hiked to the top of a rugged hill, to try and find out where we should go. As I sat on the ground, beneath a small tree, a sparrow landed on a branch just above my head. He began singing his lungs out as if to remind me that if God’s eye is on the sparrow surely he knows where I am and what I need. In the distance I could see the reflection of a car on a straight road. It was miles away, but there was no mistake that help was in that direction. So on and on we trudged through gullies, across ice-covered streams, through brush and rocks.

It was almost cruel when we reached the area of the road because, from where we stood, it was a climb nearly straight up and our strength was gone. Somehow, with super-human strength, we made it to the top.

I took a roll of camera tape out of my jacket pocket and quickly made a sign that said, “Help!” The first car that saw it stopped and took us to the nearest town where we arranged to retrieve the car in the morning, and then slept for what felt like days.

Because I had written down the marker number, our tow truck driver knew exactly where our car was located. We piled in with him and drove off.

Our car was hooked up and taken into town where repairs were made. Finally we were on our way home after one of the greatest survival adventures of my life.

But before we left the area, we decided to drivew back to the place where we were rescued and take one last look.
Humm. Maybe I’ll have to write a book about that some day.

Max Elliot Anderson
Author Web Site