Answers to Prayer in the Midst of Non-Answers

This week in Women's Ministry, be reminded by this meditation from John Piper, that God hears us when we pray.

Meditations on the Detours of God  (Meditation from John Piper, A Godward Life, Book Two [Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1999], 315–17)

On the way to South Carolina in the heat of June, our water pump locked up sixteen miles east of Knoxville on the interstate. The car immediately overheated and we had to stop. The nearest station was fifteen miles away, and it was Sunday morning. Pretty bleak. The sun was blazing down, pushing the temperature into the nineties, and I had no idea what to do. We were hurrying to get to Myrtle Beach for a once-in-a-lifetime five days with my father. He and his only grandsons (my sons) were planning to do some deep-sea fishing which was all scheduled. 
After piddling around with the motor for twenty minutes or so, I knew there was nothing I could do. No cars were stopping to help. But we needed help. Can you imagine how hard it was for me to try to stop a car on that freeway? It took me ten minutes of walking in circles to get up the courage (or to get down the pride) to try to flag down a car.
Finally, I got a rag from under the front seat and went out behind the U-Haul trailer we were pulling, and held it up in the air to signal our distress. I stood there for two or three or four minutes, and the cars just whizzed on by. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was on my knees, as it were, with a flag in my hand, standing like the Statue of Liberty, and they didn’t stop. It was humiliating. (It’s not hard to see why the white-flag-waving truce of repentance and saving faith is so hard for people.)
Abraham (who was nine at the time) came up to me and said, “I think we need to pray.” I said, “You’re right.” So I put down my flag for a moment. Abraham and I prayed right there by the trailer. When we opened our eyes, two vehicles had pulled over. One of them was a mechanic. He looked at the car, diagnosed the problem and said, “You know everthing is closed today. If you go into town, you’ll have to wait till Monday. I could go get the part and fix it here on the road for you.” Well, that is what happened, and we were on our way again in about four hours.
Now here’s the puzzling thing. I believe with all my heart that God answered Abraham’s prayer, and that he answered it with a one in a thousand possibility—a mechanic, Sunday morning, sixteen miles from home, working for a trucking firm that was open for trucks on Sunday, and willing to go all the way to town and back to help us. Inceredible! I believe that was God. But, the skeptic says, “If your God is so powerful and so wonderful, why didn’t he just keep the water pump working?” In fact, we had asked the Lord for his help earlier that morning. We asked for a good-working car all day.
But God did not give us a trouble-free day. Instead he let us come into trouble (which, of course, he could have kept from happening) and then helped us in some amazing ways in the midst of our fear and frustration and sweat and disappointment. So here, as in a thousand other times of my life, I was thanking the Lord for his grace, not to keep me from trouble and sickness and frustration and disappointment, but to give me amazing help in the midst of it.
Why does he work this way? Four answers (for starters):
1. God knows better how to run the universe than I do, including the timing of my arrival in Myrtle Beach (or not!); “I am God, and there is no one like Me … saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9–10).
2. God loves to teach nine-year-olds (and forty-three-year-olds!) lessons in faith and prayer. “Our affliction … came to us … so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). “It is good for me that I was afflicted. That I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
3. God prizes the discipline of humility more than trouble-free days. “God has chosen the foolish things … and … the weak things of the world … so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
4. God had a gospel word for that mechanic. I gave him the tract “Quest for Joy,” and on the way with him to Knoxville to get a new water pump, I spoke to him of faith in Christ.
Only eternity will show the full wisdom and mercy of God in the curious derailing of our plans and “reinterpretation” of our prayers for a “good” day. Such are the good purposes of God in the detours of our lives. With such a God, surely we should be the most trusting and grumble-free people in the world.