Remember my preference

About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part VII:  One Man's Answers to Prayer

Chapter 2

What Can We Pray About?

     IN THE PAST I have often been chided by friends who did not know the Lord, for praying about trivial things. Usually people say, "Oh, don't you think that it is a little childish to expect God to be concerned about such unimportant details of your personal life?" Sometimes they would add, "After all, you wouldn't expect the king to bother himself with such little things." True. But it makes a difference if the King happens to be my Father. We tend to be ready enough to say, Is anything too hard for the Lord? Out of my own experience, I would ask in the same spirit, Is anything too small for the Lord? To both, the answer seems to me to be, No!
     Looking over the record I have kept, I am still amazed at my Father's condescension, and I honestly doubt whether anything is too small to be the subject of prayer. I have a few illustrations that will make you smile: only I should emphasize again that some of these were during the worst years of the Depression in Canada when cents were almost as important as dollars are now, pennies like pounds. I have to elaborate the circumstances a little in some cases.

     One summer between university terms, I managed to get a job dispensing blocks of ice from a small ice station, one of many scattered around the city of Toronto. A 25-pound block of ice was 6 cents and a 50-pound block was 11 cents. I don't know why the odd figure...But it was very important always to have coppers for change, for the ice company that ran these stations and kept them supplied had considerable competition from other companies in the city. Each station was really a giant icebox with a little lean-to attached for the attendant.

     pg 1 of  10     

Not to have change could mean the loss of a number of early sales and a low tally for the day, and in those times, one's job was continually in jeopardy.
     On this particular morning, I had no personal resources, and the small-change kitty we were allowed to retain from the previous day had somehow ended up with no pennies either. I went to a local store, but they could spare none. I sat down at the ice station a little troubled, but decided to pray about it. Almost immediately, the storekeeper sent his son across with 5 coppers just received unexpectedly. Then a man came up for 50 pounds of ice, the first customer that morning, with 6 coppers and a nickel. The next customer came for 50 pounds, also with 6 coppers and a nickel! This was really exceptional, because most people only had small ice-boxes in those days.
     Imagine my surprise when a third customer came for 50 pounds and handed me 6 coppers and a nickel. It is scarcely believable, but the next customer -- the fourth man in a row -- did precisely the same thing. So I now had 29 coppers!
     I never recall this little incident without thinking of the Flood for some reason: but more seriously, it does make me think of the words in the original Greek of II Corinthians 9:7 which quite literally could be translated, "God loves a hilarious giver" -- because He is one Himself!
     Let me give another little illustration of this aspect of God's giving hilariously. I used to play on the cricket team for Toc H, an army club with quite an active program at the time. Cricket is not the same as baseball, and the score for the team can run into the hundreds; even one player can score a hundred runs or more. On the occasion I have in mind, we were doing very badly indeed: in fact, we had scored only 35 runs and we were all out. Unlike cricket as a rule, this particular game was very unpleasant because the opposing team was behaving in what was always considered in cricket a very unsportsmanlike manner. Our players were put out one after the other by various shady means which are completely out of place in any decent cricket match.
     I said to the padre who was captain of our team, "Do you believe in prayer?" He was rather surprised, and a little amused, I think. But as we walked out to the field for our opponent's turn at bat, he looked at me and said, "Sometimes."
     To make a long story short, or perhaps to make a short story even shorter, this is what happened. In the first 6 bowls they scored 9 runs right off -- which looked promising for them but

     pg.2 of  10     

not for us. But then one man was put out. By the eighteenth bowl (the third "over"), the second man was out. In 3 more bowls a third man was out. Then came the most unpleasant character on their team, who apparently was considered quite a notable player. He was out on the first ball! Their second-best man came in next and was out for 3 runs, so they now had lost 7 men for a total of 17 runs. Eight men were out for 18 runs; 9 were out for 20 runs; and the whole team was out for 21 runs! In less than a half-hour our opponents were utterly demolished, and yet we learned afterward that they had been winning every game and in the last game had scored 95 with a loss of only 5 men. (1)
     Can it really be that God answers prayers of this kind? I believe He did: although looking at my record of the event at the time, I don't really think I prayed that we might win. I'm not sure what I prayed for at the time. But God is surely a hilarious giver sometimes.
     Here is another illustration of the Lord's faithfulness in a very concrete way. While I was in residence in university, I established a wonderful friendship with a Hebrew Christian, Morris Kaminsky He was a much more mature Christian than I. He used to put his arm on my shoulder when I had misbehaved and say, "Art, I love your soul but I hate your ways!" One Sunday evening we went together to High Park Baptist Church in Toronto and shortly after the service had started, I suddenly realized that I had no collection money. Actually I had a two-dollar bill, but it was the only money I had to my name. This was enough to last me for a week or more of normal expenses in those days. I was also facing the need on Monday to go down to the registrar's office and pay my ten-dollar examination fee for the year. Failing this, I could not write the examinations and would lose my year. I'm afraid that as the service progressed, I was more pre-occupied with this problem than with what was happening in the church; but I did finally come to the conclusion that I ought to trust the Lord and put in the whole two dollars. I would think that, at that time, five cents was all that most people put into the offering. The plate came around, and there went my two-dollar bill.
     The next morning I went over to University College to attend one lecture, since the registrar's office was not open till ten o'clock. On my way over to the college, I met a professor with whom I

1. I hope my English friends will excuse the terminology in this account which I adopted for the sake of many readers to whom the correct terminology would have been almost meaningless.

     pg.3 of  10     

had been talking about the Lord a few days before. He stopped me and with some diffidence gave me an envelope: in it was a ten-dollar bill, the amount I needed to pay my examination fee. He had no idea whatever of my specific needs.
     A couple of years later, on the spur of the moment, I did what seemed a very foolish thing: I gave to a man on the street, who seemed to me such a pitiful sight, a five-dollar bill I had reserved to buy some little extras for Christmas, about a week away. That afternoon I had to go downtown. As I was walking along Adelaide St. West when the street was crowded with Christmas shoppers, I happened to look down at a step leading into a building (in my journal I noted it was No. 33) and there, in full view of people walking in and out of the building and passing it on the sidewalk, was a five-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill -- simply lying there! It was almost unbelievable. Somehow, nobody was noticing these two bills . . . in the very depths of the Depression years!
     I notice in my records many occasions upon which the Lord allowed me to recover things I had lost. Usually they were things which had no "spiritual" value yet were important in their way. They were such small things as a rule. Take the following case as an illustration. This is how I wrote it down:

     A few days ago I lost my fountain pen, a special one, while playing football in an open field. How impossible to find such an item, in long grass well tramped over! Yet as I went back to look for it, I said to the Lord that He could help me to find it if He would. So I walked to the centre of the field, took a dozen steps in one direction, and there it was at my feet -- after 30 seconds of search! Lord, how good Thou art to me -- and why, Lord?

     Sometimes the Lord's goodness was expressed in unsought ways. Now and then these occasions were related to circumstances in which one might perhaps have expected the Lord to act, but in other cases they expressed an element of pure kindness on His part. Let me give a few examples of provision which in some ways might be viewed as "expected," and then one or two examples of unexpected kindness
     In 1933, the very worst year of the Depression in Saskatchewan where its effects were unbelievably severe, we were reduced to living on bread and porridge, occasionally some apples to make into a sauce, and upon even rarer occasions a few potatoes. It is amazing what one can accept as standard fare! Well, just before Christmas we had received a gift of four or five potatoes

     pg.4 of  10    

and a few apples. They did not seem to be the makings of a traditional Christmas dinner, but we were thankful. A morning or two later, I looked out the window and saw a flock of prairie chickens fly over an orchard which was between us and a very near neighbouring farmer, Richard Ellison, with whom we had wonderful times of fellowship. One of these birds for some reason landed in an apple tree while the rest of them flew on.
     We had no means of shooting it, and I'm not much of a shot anyway. Moreover, it was at least two hundred feet away. But it was clearly visible because there were no leaves on the trees. I thought it just possible that I could run across to Dick Ellison's house without disturbing the bird and get him to try to shoot it for us. However, as I opened our door, Dick's hired man, Fred, happened to come out on their back porch at the same moment. I signaled to him and pointed across the orchard to the prairie chicken, still sitting well exposed on a branch. He caught on immediately, disappeared quickly, and returned with a rifle. Though he told me afterward that he too was not a particularly good shot, he succeeded in shooting it straight through the head. It dropped without a movement: when we picked it up, it proved to be one of the biggest prairie chickens I have ever seen. And so we had our Christmas dinner of roast potatoes and prairie chicken and baked apples.
     This was pure goodness on the Lord's part, and it really involved a whole series of events, for I only "happened" to look out the window, and it only "happened" that one bird stayed behind for some reason, and it only "happened" that Fred came out on the back porch at that very moment, and it only "happened" that he shot it in the head and left its body unmarred in any way. Or did it only "happen?"
     Here is another incident which occurred a few years later. I used to ride down to university on a bicycle -- old when I inherited it and certainly nearing the end of its useful life by this time. One morning I rode down to Knox Church in Toronto to visit with Christie Innis, the minister. I parked my bicycle at the curb outside the church office. Curiously, in those days one could safely leave a bicycle unlocked . . . though so many people were desperately in need.
     When I came out about a half-hour later, my bicycle was lying at the curb a total wreck: it had evidently been run over by a car. It was a severe loss in the circumstances. But as I looked at

     pg.5 of  10    

what was left of it, I noticed a little slip of paper had been pushed into one of the open handlebar ends. On it was written the words, "Dis is the nobbin of the car." Clearly the writer was not exactly an educated man, but he must have seen what had happened, and the Lord prompted him to send me this little message. At any rate, a lawyer friend of mine wrote a note to the owner of the car demanding some compensation for me. No doubt the driver was surprised that he had been seen, but there was not much he could do but replace the bicycle: and it turned out he was actually well able to do so. And so I had a new bicycle just when mine was about worn out, and I learned again the truth of the promise that all things work together for good to them who love the Lord (Romans 8:28).
     Both these provisions were not really answers to prayer, since I had not really prayed about them, but they were clear witnesses to the fact that God delights to care for His children. For all this, there was an element of need involved in both cases. Yet the following is a case of rather extraordinary provision in which the aspect of need did not exist at all.
     About thirty years ago, when my son was just a little boy, somebody gave him a picture book with a story about some animals. It was not particularly well printed, but in it was one picture of a mare and her foal which, to my thinking as a lover of horses, was absolutely beautiful. I have it yet and it is still in every way as beautiful. As soon as I saw it, I thought to myself that I would like to take that page out and preserve it. But this, of course, would have spoiled the book, and though it was only a child's book, this somehow seemed an improper thing to do. As the weeks went by I watched the book slowly deteriorate. The covers became torn, the earlier pages curled at the edges, and my son scribbled with gay abandon on every page, both with pencil and crayon. Within a few months, he had lost interest in this book and it was laid aside with other discarded toys. One day I picked it up, regretting that I had not taken the one picture of the horses out of it long before this. But as I quickly went through it, I found to my amazement that not every page had been scribbled on. One single page was unmarked, uncreased, undirtied in any way at all. My two horses were as clean and perfect as the day they came from the printer. It was really an extraordinary thing when one looked at all the other pages in the book. As I said, I still have it; a wonderful testimony, in my mind, to the kindness of God.

     pg.6 of  10    

     Let me give one more example of this kind of provision which is essentially so "unnecessary". During my first university years, I took a study course in fine art and enjoyed it tremendously. The professor used slides extensively. One of his slides was of Constable's painting of Salisbury Cathedral. Gothic architecture has always kind of overwhelmed me by its sheer beauty, and the setting of Salisbury Cathedral in this famous painting only increased this effect. But I had not found in any book that I could afford a good reproduction of Constable's painting until, one day in downtown Toronto, I saw a British travel poster, about 18 inches by 24 inches in size, reproducing this very picture. I went in at once and asked if I could buy it or obtain a copy somehow. The proprietor told me that they were only loaned these posters for display, and they were in short supply and consequently were circulated among the different travel agencies. He felt that the chances of obtaining a copy from England were rather slim. So I abandoned the idea.
     But then about a week later as I was travelling on the streetcar, I spotted another copy of the same poster -- in a Christian bookstore! I got off the streetcar at the next stop and went quickly back to the store and, lo and behold! they were just beginning to clear the window out to re-decorate it. I asked him what he planned to do with this poster, and he said, "Oh, I don't know. Why? Do you want it?" I told him I did indeed. He rolled it up without hesitation, slipped an elastic band over it, and gave it to me. He said he had no idea how it had come into their possession. And, as an example of difference in tastes, he had no particular interest in it. Like the picture of the horses, I have this large poster still: framed, lighted, and displayed to good effect. Had I not seen the picture in this Christian bookstore from the streetcar window, I'm almost certain it would have been thrown away. Such is the Lord's kindness.
     Frequently, perhaps more often than not, answers to prayer involve circumstances which far antedate the specific need that becomes the subject of our prayers. Some twenty-five years ago we decided, as a family, to go down to Lunenberg during the summer, hoping to find a house that could be rented in that historic little place for perhaps six months or so while I came back to Toronto to continue my work. We wrote to various official bodies and to the YMCA and the Salvation Army, asking them if they could give us any leads for procuring such accommodation, only to receive word back from each of them that was entirely negative. The Salvation Army

     pg.7 of  10    

people said, "There is not a chance -- over fifty families are already waiting to re-unite in homes here." I don't remember exactly why this was, except that the war had indeed created this situation all over the country.
     So we went to the Lord about it, and feeling rather sure that we should make the trip anyway, we asked the Lord to give us a house that we could afford to rent already equipped with a radio, a piano, a view of the harbour, and a separate room for Nigel, my son. And then we set out.
     When, in due time, we arrived in the little town, we went straight to the office of the local newspaper. It was down several steps from the sidewalk, the main street having been gradually elevated in its long history by accumulated debris. As I went in, an elderly lady went in immediately ahead of me. She greeted the proprietess by name and then stood to one side, obviously waiting for me to finish my business first. The proprietess said to me, "Can I do something for you?" I told her what I wanted: namely, to put a little advertisement in her paper. But she shook her head and said, "I'm afraid it would be a waste of money."
      But then the elderly lady said, "Well, Mrs. [I didn't write down her name], as a matter of fact I had thought of going to live with my sister for a while and renting the house. I came to put an ad in the
paper. . . ."

     Well, we drove back with her to her house! It had a piano, a radio, a room for Nigel, a very nice little garden, and it overlooked the harbour. It was spotlessly clean and shipshape, her late husband having been a sea captain. It cost us thirty dollars per month for rent. It is doubtful whether the Lord could have more completely and precisely timed everything and prepared the way for us.
     Another rather wonderful case of pre-vision occurred in connection with a book I particularly wanted. During my studies of the Hebrew language, we were naturally introduced to some Hebrew writings which, though not modern, are still actively in use. One of the textbooks we used had to be obtained from the library, being rather difficult to purchase. I don't know why this was, but I tried to get hold of a copy for my own library without success. I tried several sources of Jewish publications, equally without success. The little book was referred to in class as Pirke Aboth, which was usually interpreted into English as "Prayers of the Fathers." It was of particular

     pg.8 of  10    

interest to me because it showed that in one respect at least, the Authorized Version was perfectly justified in rendering the Greek word aion  () as "world," this particular Greek word being the translation used by the Septuagint for the Hebrew word 'olam  (). The word 'olam in many of the prayers which appeared in this little book clearly meant "world" or "society" and was used in such phrases as "in this world" or "in the world to come." The Jewish people themselves so understood it. The importance of this was that, at the time, there was considerable controversy among us about the meaning of these words aion and 'olam in connetcion with the question of eternal punishment. The point of this little introduction is that I was particularly anxious to obtain a copy of this prayer book somehow, and I wrote to many secondhand bookstores during the next year and a half without any success. Then one day a very dear Christian lady phoned me and said, "Arthur, in rummaging around in the attic, I came across a little book that might interest you. I have no idea where it came from, but I think it is in Hebrew."
     I hardly need to say that it was a copy of Pirke Aboth. It was badly battered, yet easily repaired. How many years ago did the Lord arrange for that little book to be buried up there in the attic of a great big old house on Avenue Road in Toronto, only to be re-discovered under these particular circumstances?
     I add one more case of the timing of the Lord's goodness. After the end of World War II, I bought a piece of property in Muskoka and built a summer cottage in a little bay which, at the time, could not be reached with a car. I have always loved an open fireplace, and so I provided the necessary foundations to put one in it. My plan was to install a Heatilator fireplace, a prefabricated, double-walled, heavy sheet metal frame, around which one builds up with stone, or any other material, for decorative and architectural reasons. It is the heart of the system, and in Canada many fireplaces are constructed in this way. Such metal units are quite heavy, and the one we planned to use must have weighed close to two hundred pounds.

     I rented a trailer to convey the unit to the site from Toronto, realizing that it would have to be carried the last one hundred to two hundred yards through the woods in some other way. We had thought that perhaps two of us could roll it over and over between the trees, but when we got there, we soon found this was impossible. It was simply too heavy for us. In the meantime we were about a mile from the nearest source of help, and we were newcomers without acquaintances. It looked as though, having got it off the trailer, we were going to have to leave it beside it at the end of the road until we could come up again with more friends. And in the meantime, it would have been an invitation to anyone who happened to discover it to load it onto his own trailer and make off with it.

     pg.9 of  10    

     In my record I wrote, "Well, we unloaded everything else and carried it into the cottage. We had no sooner done this than we heard voices, and two of our old friends from the Engineering Department Of the University of Toronto stood at the door! They were just on their way up to their own cottage on a motorcycle trip and had dropped by for fun to see how the site was coming along. Of course, the three of us carried the fireplace in and twenty minutes later they were gone! Praise the Lord!!"

     I do not think for one moment that my own experience of the Lord in such ways is at all unique, though I may have made it look that way. I do think, however, that it is a tremendously worthwhile thing to keep a record like this. No matter how vivid an experience is at the time, later events overlie it and the details become merged with other details until one has only a growing impression that the Lord is always there behind the scenes, but one can no longer testify to His faithfulness in this kind of concrete way that inspires others to prove Him for themselves. Yet He invites us to do this (Malachi 3:10). I know there are occasions upon which "we have not because we ask not" (James 4:3): but I also believe that there are occasions when we fail to recognize that we do have, when we receive answers to our prayers but because of the busy-ness of life fail to perceive them for what they are. The result is that we become less and less thankful.
     There is a danger, as I know from experience, of harping on the Lord's constant grace and kindness, of developing a kind of spiritual pride and as a consequence, of becoming critical of others who are not as thankful as we are ourselves. Such is human nature that we are easily capable of turning every blessing into a hindrance. But I think the risk is worth taking. And I believe that the very effort of writing down what the Lord has been doing can help us to perceive more clearly, not only what He has been doing, but the ways in which He acts.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

     It will indeed! 

     pg.10 of 10    

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter

Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us