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A simple prayer

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By Tom Wilmoth

Back in 2006 a study was released questioning the power of prayer to patients undergoing heart surgery. The major national media outlets glowingly carried headlines from the study such as: "Study shrugs off power to heal" (USA Today), "Power of prayer flunks an unusual test" (MSNBC.MSN.com); or "Study: Prayer didn't help sick" (Seattle Times).

Anyone who reads how the study was conducted will see the flaws in it, including the fact that all of the prayers were dictated to include the phrase "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications." There was no mention of who participants were praying to or in whose name they were praying.

The fact is, that makes a difference.

And there were many other theological problems that I could go into, but I won't.

I bring the study up, to simply say: "There is power in prayer, no matter what a $2.4 million study might say."

That's not to say we dictate to God what He must do; it is to say, we pray and pour out our hearts to the Lord, trusting in His will to be done.

The truth is, the Lord does hear the prayers of His children. And He not only hears, he answers, according to His plans and purposes.

And sometimes those answers just blow us away.

I give this example, relayed to me by a friend a week ago:

My friend had flown down to Florida to bring his son back to the area for a visit. His son had recently joined the military and had some leave to take.

They were planning to drive his son's truck back, but when my friend got there, he found the truck apparently had a starter problem. They went to an auto parts store to get a new starter. When they tried to fire the truck up to leave, the starter went out totally.

There he was, stuck in an unknown city without any tools and with limited knowledge of what to do.

My friend went up under the truck to take a look. After about 30 minutes of deciding the job was bigger than the tools he had (none) and his knowledge of how to do it (limited), he prayed a simple prayer: "Lord, I'm going to need some help here."

As he came out from the truck, a man was standing nearby.

"Hey," he said. "You going to need some help?"

Of course, my friend didn't hesitate.

It turned out this gentleman offering his hand of assistance was a mechanic. Even with all the know-how and tools, it still took this man an hour and a half to complete the job. My friend said without this Good Samaritan's help, he would still be in Florida.

Now some may say, "Well, this was just a good man doing a good deed."

Yes, but there's more to the story.

About midway through the job, my friend asked his newfound friend if he believed in the power of prayer.

"Of course," he said.

And then he began to tell his story.

The man had been driving down the road, having taken a break from work at the shop, when he began to pray. His prayer wasn't a request, but simply an open ear to what the Lord might have to say during his drive.

And the Lord said to him, "Stop here," as he passed the auto parts store.

The man initially began to argue: "Lord, I still have two cars to do back at the shop. I'm tired. I don't have time."

"Stop here," the Lord said, though not necessarily in an audible voice.

So the man listened. And after the brief argument that he was destined to lose, he stopped.

Then he met my friend. Then he lent a helping hand. And then he left, knowing that he had listened, obeyed and helped as he'd been directed.

Some may call this good fortune; some may call it a product of circumstances.

I call it the true power of prayer, at work, with the Lord watching over those who are His.

Prayer is not dictating our will to God; it's letting our will be molded into His.

Prayer is not words or phrases being lifted up in ritual; it's communion with the One who cares about us the most.

Prayer is not just calling up God to give our litany of requests and then hanging up; it's taking time to listen, and then obey.

As we celebrate this season when God looked down on us and came to dwell with us, it would be good for us to look up in return ? giving thanks, giving praise and giving ourselves.