What I Learned About Prayer – when I went shopping with my three year old son
Summer days in Melbourne can get oppressively hot, into the high 30’s and even mid 40’s. Not every home is air-conditioned, so when the temperature soars, a favourite place to go is the local shopping centre. Keep cool, shop a little or go to the cinema. Our local centre is Fountain Gate.
Back in 1993, when this story took place, Fountain Gate was much smaller and undercover parking was limited. If you wanted to park undercover you had to ‘get there early’. Come too late and you’d risk parking out in the sun in never-never Land, several hundred metres from the comfort of the shops.
Under cover parking was a luxury that few could afford when the elements were extreme.
As we cruised the undercover section again searching for a park it was obvious that everyone had the same idea. Come to Fountain Gate to avoid the heat.
I didn’t think there are any spots left. ‘Looks like we’ll have to park outside.’ I observed.
None of us cared much for that idea, but it looked like we’d have a better chance of winning Tattslotto than finding a vacant parking space undercover that day.
’ ‘Let’s have a look up this way, may-be someone will leave and we can take their spot.Hema, turning the steering wheel to the left. quipped
‘Buckley’s chance of that … Absolutely no chance…Zip!’ I thought, holding my tongue
‘Shannon I want you to ask Jesus to give us a parking spot undercover today’.
‘Hema you can’t ask Shannon to do that’, I thought, ‘God has more important things to concern himself about than little boys asking for car parking spots’.
‘OK, mummy …’
‘… Dear Jesus can we have a car park under the shops today. Amen!’
Now context is important at this point.
Hema and I believed then (and still do) in the power of prayer. We had experienced answers to prayer in our lives and we wanted Shannon to grow up knowing that he could chat (pray) with Jesus at any time, just like he chatted with us. We wanted Shannon to understand that God was his heavenly daddy and Jesus loved and cared for him more even more than we did.
But asking for a car park, undercover. Was that being a little bit too precious? There were car parks outside in the heat. Wouldn’t God expect us to use those?
Just then a car backed out leaving a spot right in front of us. No mere searching and within 30 seconds of Shannon saying ‘Amen’.
I should have said a loud ‘Amen’, but the response was, ‘Crikey, who would have thought…’
‘Thank you Jesus’ a little voice responded, from the back seat, as Hema parked the car.
‘We do that every time we go shopping. Shannon prays for a parking spot.’
‘And I suppose you get one too?’
That got me thinking. ‘God, what’s going on here?’
I have a daily quiet time when I take the opportunity to read the scriptures, reflect and pray, but during the day I often ‘chat with God’, expecting guidance and responses to my questions. We dialogue together as great friends should. Don’t get me wrong. I revere God but he has asked me to treat him as my ‘heavenly father/dad, so I do!
‘Lord, are you saying that you don’t mind Hema asking Shannon to pray for a parking spot?’ I asked. ‘Isn’t that a bit trivial?’
‘No, not at all … love it actually’ God replied. ‘Nothing’s too trivial. Shan’s learning to trust me. That’s why he gets a parking spot undercover when it’s either really hot or pouring rain.’
I shivered despite the heat. I had come so, so close to putting a stumbling block in the way of my little boy.
‘Lord forgive me’ I breathed, ‘I never realised’.
A few days later I had to return to Fountain Gate, alone this time. The weather was still hot.
‘Lord, I’d really appreciate it if yould arrange a car park undercover today.’
No response this time. Absolutely nothing.
After travelling up and down the undercover section of the car park for almost a quarter of an hour, looking vainly for a parking bay, I gave up in disgust. All were taken. I’d have to look outside … In the heat.
I found one about ten minutes walk from the shopping centre entrance.
Trudging away from the car I mumbled; ‘Hey Lord, You answered Shannon’s prayers for a car park but not mine, why’s that? I could have used a spot undercover or at least closer to the shops. Why now and why so far away?’
I got my answer then, but not the answer I was expecting.
‘With Shannon it’s about building trust, with you… you need the exercise!’
I have a question for You …
When was the last time God surprised you with His response to your prayer?
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Until next week continue to live a life of expectancy.