It was just two months until my daughter’s high school graduation. She was attending a Christian boarding high school about an hour from home. She started telling me about the events of the weekend and that she would really love a new dress for the different occasions during graduation. She would be wearing a gown for part of the weekend but several times she wouldn’t be wearing a gown and she really wished she had a couple of new dresses for the events.
My husband had been out of work for several months and while I am a teacher at a Christian school, my salary wasn’t stretching nearly far enough to cover our monthly expenses, let alone the additional expenses that come with a graduation – including new dresses.
I tried to sound positive and told her I would take her shopping soon, but in my heart, I knew that we didn’t have the money for new dresses. A dress from Goodwill just didn’t seem like the thing for a graduation dress.
I began to pray about the situation. We had been praying for a job for my husband. Now we were praying for dresses as well.
As parents, we have tried to shield our children from the financial stresses of our budget as much as possible. Not that they haven’t known that we’ve struggled financially, but we haven’t wanted them to feel like they couldn’t tell us they were sick because it was too expensive to go to the doctor, or that if they needed something, they shouldn’t ask.
We had done our own photo-shoot for senior pictures. I ordered announcements through an online company and purchased them in two batches so I could use a coupon on each order. I started watching for sales on paper plates and party supplies so we could still have a celebration. I called the different family members and we planned for a potluck so the food was provided by everyone.
A few days later, my daughter called me with great excitement. A mom friend from the school had invited her to go shopping. An anonymous benefactor had given this lady some money to take my daughter shopping for a new dress for graduation. They were going that weekend, if it was okay with me.
I did my best to sound excited for her as I wiped my tears. I wanted so much to be in that position. I wanted to be the one to take her shopping, to see her pick out and try on dresses that would make her feel beautiful and loved. I wanted to tell her to pick out whatever she wanted and I would buy it for her. But it was not to be.
After talking with my mom about the situation, she reminded me that this was truly a blessing for our family. She understood the tears in my heart but she also saw that God was providing an answer to prayer for my daughter.
The Choice was Mine
The longer I thought about this, I realized that I had the ability to choose how to respond to this blessing. I could continue to feel regret and envy or I could accept this blessing and the generosity of these women. I could let my hurt come through my conversations with my daughter which would in turn make her feel like she couldn’t accept the gift or I could tell her how blessed she was to have people who loved her.
How many stories in the Bible include someone praying for something and the answer turning out differently than they had hoped for? Abraham and Sarah prayed for a son for decades! Joseph prayed for deliverance from his brothers, from slavery, and from jail. Mary prayed for her precious boy and he was crucified on a cross. But they kept on praying!
One of my favorite verses is in Jeremiah 29:11.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
I have claimed this verse for years. I love that God has plans to prosper and not to harm me. That He has plans for my future. Does that mean new dresses? Maybe. Does that mean a job for my husband? Perhaps. But what it definitely does mean is that God has my problems in His hands and He already has the solution or blessing in answer to my prayers.
A short time later, my mom gave me a tattered, tan, manila folder labeled “Karen’s Blessings.” For several years, we had lived across the country from my parents. We were in a different time zone and it wasn’t always easy to make daily phone calls. So I had gotten into the habit of emailing my mom and telling her about the things going on each day. Over the years, she had printed out the emails where I had told her about answers to prayers or blessings in our life. Blessings like getting good deals on clothes, groceries, or other items we needed.
I had no idea that she had kept these messages and as I sat and read through them, I was reminded over and over again of how much God does indeed want to bless us. He had blessed us and continued to bless us! I just needed to remember these blessings.
On Mount Carmel, Elijah had an opportunity to pray. He prayed for rain after three years of drought. He prayed for rain in front of the whole assembly of people. He prayed to God in front of the opposition. He prayed for rain on a cloudless day.
This whole situation was difficult. He had been the one to confront King Ahab to tell him there was going to be a drought. Now, he is in the position to point the entire nation to God through his prayers.
When Elijah prayed, God answered His prayer and sent abundant rain. Enough rain to water the parched land. Enough rain to make the crops grow. Enough rain to make the roads muddy and fill up the creeks and rivers.
The Rest of the Story
Let me tell you the rest of the story. I have claimed a lot of verses in my life. And I have also seen a lot of answers to prayers. So I have learned to anticipate answers. Not knowing how they will be answered but knowing that God cares about the details of our lives.
A few weeks before graduation, I received a truck load of donated items to give to students and school families from a non-profit organization that we had partnered with. Within this donation were four brand new dresses!
The dresses were beautiful. They were expensive. They were beautiful colors, lacy, pretty, and just my daughter’s size!
I immediately called my daughter and texted her pictures of the dresses. She was so excited and so was I. When she tried them on, they fit her perfectly! She had a new dress for each weekend activity for graduation!
What an amazing answer to my prayers. What a testimony of God’s plan to give us hope. What an opportunity to share this blessing with my daughter and remind her that God had her needs and wants in His control and He cared for her desires.
What are You Praying For?
Have you been praying for something in your life that feels like you will never get an answer? Do you claim the promises but feel like God is not listening to you? Perhaps He doesn’t even see your need. Perhaps you are not important to God?
What are you praying for today? Do need a miracle to pay your bills? Have you been looking for work forever? Is there a broken relationship that needs a miracle to heal? Do you need a reminder that God sees your needs and loves you so very much? Are you praying for a particular need for your kids?
Write down your prayer requests. Find Bible promises to claim as you pray. Then watch God answer those prayers. Write down the answers so that you can look back and see how God has blessed you in the past. When times are tough, read through those answers and know that God is still in the business of being God! He will take care of you!
If you’re looking for a way to record those requests and answers, you can get a beautiful FREE Praying for Rain – Prayer Journal here.