One Saturday, when the missions ship Doulos was in Papua New Guinea, I went to the onboard book fair. While browsing the shelves, I heard an audible voice in my head, saying, “Alyssa. Alyssa.” (Her name has been changed here to protect her identity.)
Alyssa was one of the inmates I had visited as part of a Doulos prison ministry team. She was in her mid-twenties and had to serve a four-year sentence for embezzlement. Recalling how well-spoken she was, I thought, “Maybe Alyssa is literate. I should give her a Bible to read.” So I bought a Bible from the book fair, gathered some of my Bible study materials and wrote a letter encouraging Alyssa to read them.
On Sunday morning, I asked a friend who was visiting the prison to pass the books to Alyssa. That evening, a letter was delivered to my cabin, and it read:
The tears couldn’t stop coming and my heart beamed with thanksgiving. How loving is God to hear Alyssa’s prayer! And how wonderful it is to witness His glory, having been part of God’s plan to be an answer to Alyssa’s prayer!
Even though God can answer prayers in mighty and mysterious ways, yet He often chooses to involve people (yes, including imperfect ones like me) to be an answer to someone else’s prayer.
One example of this takes place in 2 Corinthians 8–9. Paul had gone around churches in other cities, asking for a monetary collection to bless the poor among the Christians in Jerusalem. The churches in Macedonia, even though financially stretched, joyfully responded with a big love gift. The Corinthian believers were then encouraged to follow through on their promise to offer a generous gift, as this act of service was not only supplying the needs of God’s people, but would overflow in thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:12).
Can you imagine the joy and relief experienced by the poor in Jerusalem when they received the generous offerings? Previously, while struggling to make ends meet, lacking food or shelter, hadn’t they cried out to God in prayer, pleading for Him to provide? God could have answered their prayers much faster by raining down manna from the sky. Instead, God used Paul and churches in different cities to answer their prayers, and much more happened than the targeted results of fundraising. The hearts of the Macedonian and Corinthian believers were stirred, they learned about the needs of the poor in Jerusalem, and were challenged to grow in faith, love and generosity.
This Christmas, may we avail ourselves to God, asking Him to use us to be an answer to someone’s prayer. It could be offering a love gift, a listening ear, or an act of service to someone we know or heard about. Let’s not forget that as the world longed for a Saviour, God heard the prayer of His people and answered by sending His one and only Son, Jesus, into our midst. Just as we have received much, may we also freely give.